Art, Nature, and Spirit by Judith Shaw

judith Shaw photoThe beauty and the power of the Earth are all around us.  Even in the poorest and most blighted urban environments trees, hollyhocks, sunflowers and other sturdy plants grow up through the concrete.  We are children of the Earth, of the Goddess, who in Her many forms, is the manifest symbol of the sacred Earth.

Most of us love the space we find ourselves in when spending time with nature –  hiking, walking, camping, birdwatching, swimming in the sea, riding a bike, working in our gardens – all activities that help us feel connected to this Earth we walk upon; that help us find an inner peaceful place.

Sonoma Trees

Sonoma Trees

As a child growing up in New Orleans I remember vividly my desire to lie on the grass under the majestic oak trees of City Park, longing to merge with the land.  Now an adult and an artist, I have found that pleine-aire painting and drawing allow that feeling of merging to occur, bringing me to an inner space of connectivity with the land which in turn creates a connection to spirit and our cosmic source.

It has been part of my art practice for many years to spend time outdoors painting and drawing.  During these sessions I feel a strong connection to the land.

Sunser Bar Molivos, drawing by Judith Shaw

Sunser Bar, Molivos

In addition when traveling one of my favorite activities is to spend time out and about drawing and painting not only nature but also the local architecture.

As the pace of change has accelerated, I find that some of my old drawings capture a reality that no longer exists.  This small drawing is from my time on the island of Lesvos in the late 1980’s.  The Sunset Bar was a favorite spot to sip a coffee and watch the sunset.  It no longer exists as depicted in this drawing.  What was somewhat rustic and natural feeling has been replaced with urban chic.

With pleine-aire painting, I find an unfathomable connection to the natural world and the spirit of a place. The worries of the world melt away as I drop into a space connecting eyes, hands and nature.  Finally after several hours of this work my body calls out to me to stop.  I stand and stretch and view my recently observed segment of reality.  Now eyes and hands stop their back and forth between paper and view.  Now my whole being resonates with my view.  Once again I am reminded of why I paint; of how art gives me moments of clarity concerning the spiritual nature of the manifest world – of the indescribable nature of reality.

A Tangle of Cottonwoods, drawing by Judith Shaw

A Tangle of Cottonwoods

A Faery Circle, painting by Judith Shaw

A Faery Circle


And Cottonwoods Dance, painting by Judith Shaw

And Cottonwoods Dance

Three Olive Trees, drawing by Judith Shaw

Three Olive Trees

In recent years I have begun using some of my old pleine-aire drawings as the point of departure for oil paintings.  When working outside I usually try my best to recreate what I see, either with a quick sketch or with a more detailed approach. A couple of years ago I found this small quick drawing I did, another one from my years living in Greece. It became the source of inspiration for four subsequent paintings.

Dance of the Olive Grove, painting by Judith Shaw

Dance of the Olive Grove

But once I have a paint brush loaded up with oil paint in my hands all thoughts and desires of reproducing reality disappear. I strive for the true spirit of that place to be transmitted from my drawing to my continuing and more symbolic exploration of the subject on canvas.

Sheep and Cyprus Trees, drawing by Judith Shaw

Sheep and Cyprus Trees

Molivos Before, painting by Judith Shaw

Molivos Before

In our fast-paced, information laden, constantly changing high-tech world it is easy to feel disconnected from the natural world.  The very basis of modernity is built on the concept of nature as something out there and separate from each of us. This disconnect can lead to dis-ease both on the individual and the community level.  For me, art helps to heal that disconnect.  May each of you also find your practice that helps you feel connected to the natural world, to our Mother Earth.

Judith’s deck of Celtic Goddess Oracle Cards is available now.  Celtic-Goddess-Oracle-cards-by-judith-shawYou can order your deck on Judith’s website. Experience the wisdom of the Celtic Goddesses!

Judith Shaw, a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute, has been interested in myth, culture and mystical studies all her life.  Not long after graduating from SFAI, while living in Greece, Judith began exploring the Goddess in her artwork.  She continues to be inspired by the Divine Feminine in all of Her manifestations. Originally from New Orleans, Judith now makes her home in New Mexico where she paints and teaches part-time.  She is currently hard at work on a deck of Goddess cards. Her work, which expresses her belief in the interconnectedness of all life, can be seen on her website at

Categories: Art, Earth-based spirituality, General, Mother Earth, Nature, Spiritual Journey

Tags: , , , , , ,

13 replies

  1. A very fine essay. Thanks Judith for your delightful tree visions. Love that dance of the Olive Grove. But when you say all thoughts of reality disappear, which is reality then, when we seek the true spirit?


    • Very good point Sarah – what is reality? Is it the 3-d world we see around us in which we all agree that blue is blue and a rock is a rock or is it the deep, inner essence of spirit manifesting around us? Perhaps both – just different views. Though in the art world there are always lines drawn between objective and non-objective……


  2. So lovely to have been “there” with you in the 1980s even though for many but not all of our days we were unhappy girls then.

    It is sad that the places we loved and that became part of us are have become modernized without love for the simple beauty of nature. Sigghhh….

    Still, we re-member.


  3. So beautiful! Thank you!


  4. Judith! I am exploring exactly the same thing–using art to help reconnect people to nature. In fact I just started a Facebook group to try to find others who were interested in the idea or practice. I was hoping to attract artists, theologians, ecologists, and others who might explore this idea. I am working on designing a “program” using watercolor en plein air toward this end. The title of the group is very similar to your heading for this article: Art, Spirit, Earth.


  5. Yes, beautifully written, drawn, and painted. I love trees, and I’m always conflicted about cutting a tree down. Yes, we need paper and the wood to build houses and make furniture and stuff, but living trees are such beautiful living beings that they deserve to grow and live in peace. Like everybody else.

    At the same time, while I love nature, I’m not interested in being out in it. The wilderness does not need my footprints in it. And I don’t like to get the outdoors on me.

    Am I inconsistent, or what??


  6. You “got” me with the very first picture, Judith, and a feeling of dancing, twirling, bowing, branches. Then touched me even more with the images that followed – especially the “dancing” ones! Even when we have flat feet and stiff joints, the heart can still dance!


  7. Barbara, oh yes… Dance!!!- any way you can. As Emma Goldman once said, “Ladies,if there is no dancing at the revolution then I’m not coming.”


  8. Reblogged this on Jessica A Bruno (waybeyondfedup).



  1. Art, Nature and Spirit | Judith Shaw - Life on the Edge

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