The Arbutus Tree and an Ordinary Life

I am about to share how discovering the arbutus tree is a great metaphor for living an ordinary life in a series of photographs from a recent walk. But before I do, I have an update for us on “The Moon Is No Longer There” series of work.

My extended leave to travel is drawing to a close. My purpose has been to bring you “the moon” in a way you will remember and notice for all time. In order to do this, I am living my best life. I am traveling deeper and even more focused than ever before. My intention remains clarified. My inner compass set. My resources and research materials are in full use. I continue my journey to capture something unforgettable, rare and valuable – our ordinary, everyday, natural world.  When I started in January, I didn’t know if this new series of work “The Moon Is No Longer There” would take a year or a life time. Only one thing was absolutely clear – my spiritual, emotional and physical bags were packed. I was ready.

The Moon Is No Longer There” series has led me to some of my best work like the “Storytelling Arbutus Tree Bennett Bay Mayne Island BC.”

In addition, this intention has also set me on a path that has allowed me to share paintings from as far back as 2012 in my brand new Terrill Welch Gallery. In just two weekends, for 5 hours each day, I have confirmed a most compelling personal discovery.

The moon is always visible in my work and most viewers can see it even if they wish not to do so – like the “Last View Chesterman Beach Tofino Tsunami” painting.

What has changed since last January you might ask? Well, since the international art fair in Vancouver in late May and opening the gallery on Mayne Island a couple of weeks ago, I have had the pleasure of watching viewers respond to my work before they can edit their body language or even realize I have seen them. These observations are not just at a brief opening that is hectic and I occupied with hosting. These observations have taken place over several hours on a specific day. It is a fascinating, almost voyeuristic, observation practice I do not get from sharing my work online. I know, you do tell me how you experience my work. This is true but it is not the same as seeing your unedited responses for my own self. This has given me confidence, not just in the work but also in the viewer. The essence of the moon is always there for those that are present and to my profound delight – you are all, for the most, part present! A deep relishing pleasure in an ordinary day in nature is a common desire and a treasured experience. Painter and viewer are most often one and the same in front of the finished work. We understand each other’s language as presented on the canvas. Oh, I will always keep striving to go deeper, to refine the engagement to its purest most intense form but I shall never again doubt my ability to render its significance – nor the viewer’s ability to receive its strength. I have discovered that moon is always there for those that wish to see it and we do!

Now, my latest engagement with arbutus trees.

At first, there is just a massive tangle of branches that confront the sensory apparatus with its confusion.

Eventually, a branch comes into focus but it is not clear yet what is of importance.

I walk on and sink close to the ground observing a whole arbutus tree beside the path.

I look way up at another, naked to the waist, in the cool August evening shadows.

Another juts out into a swiftly moving patch of sun. By now my brain can quickly categories and name even a partial branch of an arbutus tree. The unorganized tangle and variation of each tree is recognizable.

Then I come upon the perfect specimen!

My search is complete. I continue along the path in the fading light, knowing I will never be finished with these special trees… but it is enough for today.


How do you learn a subject that gets under your skin and refuses to let go of your attention?


© 2017 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Creative Potager – Visit with painter and photographer Terrill Welch

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

For gallery and purchase information about Terrill’s photographs and paintings go to

10 thoughts on “The Arbutus Tree and an Ordinary Life

  1. How does one not learn from observation, conscious attentive observation of the world around us. The camera helped me “see” what I hadn’t really seen, going for walks everyday, several times a day in the woods-forest, I learned through practice and habit to observe the light, the shadows, the wind, the angles of branches, as well as the woodland creatures the made sounds in silence.
    Terrill, your recent journey to inhabit your creative journey has offered you and the rest of us who observe from a far and now the fortunate that can walk into your gallery to view your world for them to experience has been a journey of sharing your passion to paint along with your passion for the beauty that is present when seen.

    • Thank you Jeff and I know you walk with the same kind of keen presence of being in the natural world as I do for I see it in your photographs. I can stroll those same paths with you in your posts. And what a pleasure that is for two people who live far apart and have never met in person! 🙂 You are right I do love to paint too. It is a tool that becomes more articulate than either words or photographs for me, though I use these as well of course.

  2. Terrill — I love that you’re getting the opportunity to see people see your work before they have a chance to edit their response. The artist’s emotion associated with that has got to be an amazing feeling (probably all encompassing—from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head)!

    You asked, “How do you learn a subject that gets under your skin and refuses to let go of your attention?” I read (voraciously) to learn to write.

  3. I do not have an answer to your question….I enjoyed your moon journey post and your arbutus/madrona observations. How nice to see people respond to your work in person. Inspiring

    • It is Patricia. There is an argument that it should not matter to an artist how a viewer responds to a work. However, this seems a rather isolationist approach to developing a painting language that surely is meant to communicate something to someone. Just like any conversation, a painter doesn’t want to be a pushover or slipping along repeating other people’s ideas with nothing fresh and interesting to contributed to the discussion. That is when it becomes harder to “see the moon” so to speak. What I feel I have is confirmation to the fresh excitement of my paintings. This is what every artist searches for within their own artistic vision. That said, even then, the real work is really just beginning. It is like a toehold at the bottom of a cliff that I about to scale with only my brush, paints a canvas and every cell in my body. But I know I am at the bottom of a worthy mountain. I have been training, developing my skills and I am psychological prepared. It is time to begin.

  4. I love reading about your artistic journey and vision. So wonderful to have our own gallery where you can read the faces of people who are moved by your paintings. Your series of arbutrus photos and your observations about them are so interesting. Can’t wait to see your painterly interpretation of them. Most of my intimate explorations have been through the written word, dipping into the unconscious. But also through immersing myself in nature and art and music. Most recently through painting. Drawing too helps you to see things in a clearer light. I want to do more drawing too..

    • I have been enjoying your recent painting adventures Deborah and always have your writing and musing. Sometimes to change up tools definitely helps to peel the layers of “seeing” away. Glad you dropped in 🙂

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