Elm Tree Animation

My favorite trees are ones that have been around for so long that they tower above the ground with branches that resemble an incredible natural cathedral. Being around a tree like this simply calms my nervous system. Last year, I did a drawing of a huge elm tree that lives on Wesleyan University’s campus. I documented the drawing in progress with animation software. My dear friend, Michael Pestel, then provided musical improvisations that I organized into a soundtrack. I am happy to be sharing the results with the rest of the world now, and I hope it gives viewers a portal into my process, and maybe a moment of peace. Having long felt that trees are my church, I recently heard this passage while listening to the great spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and I had to transcribe it. Since it illustrates the essence of my motivation to draw trees, I thought I would include it here.

From “The Art of Mindful Living” dharma talk
Thich Nhat Hanh

Look at a tree, it is a wonderful thing, a tree. A Tree is very beautiful. A tree to me is as beautiful as a cathedral, even more beautiful. I look into the tree and I saw the whole cosmos in it. I see the sunshine in a tree. Can you see the sunshine in a tree? Yes, because without the sunshine no tree can grow. I see a cloud in a tree. Can you see, without a cloud there can be no rain, no tree. I see the earth in the tree, I see everything in the tree. So the tree is where everything in the cosmos comes into, and the cosmos reveals itself to me through a tree. Therefore, a tree to me is a cathedral. And I can take refuge in the tree, and I can get nourished by the tree. The tree belongs to the kingdom of God, the tree belongs to the Pure Land, and I can get in touch with the present moment. Because the tree can only be found in the present moment.

Collaborative Comics

Sometimes you need to get creative to get something going artistically. The period immediately following the release of my animation “Firebird” I was feeling drained, but wanted to still be doing something in my studio. One antidote to my slump was this collaboration between me and my friend Dave Kopperman. It was designed to create a low pressure, fun project for both of us. The idea was to make a six panel comic where one of us would draw a panel and then mail it, and the other one would draw the next panel. But there would be no instructions or preconceived plot. Each panel would simply be a reaction to what came before. While initially the idea was each of us would have one week to draw and mail, well life interfered. But we eventually DID finish it, and it was in fact very fun. While I had in mind more of a medical/sociological direction (casomorphins are opiod peptides created from the digestion of dairy producte) Dave took it straight to science fiction. So I followed. Hope you enjoy!

David Schorr

On June 16th 2018, my friend and colleague David Schorr passed away from complications following an aortic rupture. He was 71 years old and had been teaching printmaking and graphic design at Wesleyan University for 47 years. I have been processing the loss of this mentor and friend for months now, and it still doesn’t quite seem real that I will never see him again. He was a dedicated and prolific artist, who also LOVED to teach. He was a story teller, entertainer, and he was in his element throwing parties. But the thing I loved and appreciated the most about David, was the way he cared for me. As a “thank you” for the work I did for him in the printshop he would treat me once a year to dinner and the opera in New York. He knew just by looking at me if something was wrong, and always made time to talk if I needed to. Once, when introducing me to a group of students, he said, “and this is the beloved Kate Ten Eyck.” I still smile when I think of how endearing and somewhat inappropriate that introduction was. He was, in fact, both endearing and inappropriate most of the time.

David lost his brother to cancer in January of 2017, and it affected him deeply. I could tell that besides the loss of this person that he loved, there were issues surrounding his own mortality. As someone who loved life and lived intensely, he did not really have an “exit plan.” He was not at all interested in retiring, or making plans for becoming older. Because of the rupture in his aorta, he never did have to face retirement and the life changes that are inevitable if you live long enough. He got to live life to it’s fullest right up to the end.

I will always remember David, and the many lessons that he taught me. What are the most important of these lessons? Live life to the fullest, every day, and be a caring friend.


I have always enjoyed collaborative projects. Years ago, when I first met artist/performer/musician Michael Pestel and saw some of his work, I knew that we should collaborate, but was not entirely sure how. We share many of the same visually esthetic interests, but also a love for sound and movement. I had some complicated sculptural ideas, but none of them felt right. Through the process of drawing using movement as the basis, which I have been pursuing now for several years, I found myself wondering what the absolute most direct way would be to get to the liberating feeling of freely making marks, feeling the marks come through my body in a way that feels like dancing or singing. Working with Michael, I came up with a performance concept which involves responding directly to sound through drawing, and influencing a musician to make sound through the action of observing my act of drawing.

I tried out my concept in the form of a public workshop that happened in conjunction with an event held at Wesleyan University called “The Big Draw.” This now annual event involves an afternoon where several drawing activities are set up, and participants show up and go from workshop to workshop. In mine, called “movement and drawing,” I covered the wall and floor of the room with paper, invited student musicians, and handed large chunks of graphite to the participants. The resulting activity was fascinating to watch, and fun to participate in. I decided to develop the idea into a performance event where I would interact individually with different materials and different musicians, and see what type of drawings might come out of the process.

This performance event, called DUETS, will take place Sunday, May 19th 2013, at 64 Prout Hill Rd. in Middletown. The location is PHARM (Prout Hill Arts and Recreation Monastery) the fabulous and ever-evolving art space/converted chicken barn that Michael Pestel has been developing. A work in process, it is a wonderful space where many fascinating events have already taken place. Michael will be one of the musicians I will be interacting with. He will be playing various wind instruments while I create a 30 foot long drawing using paint brushes dipped in India ink on poles attached to both of my arms.  In another drawing, my husband, jazz pianist Noah Baerman, will play prepared pianos while I draw using sharpies attached to all eight of my fingers. In yet another drawing, I will be responding to artist and musician Dave Kopperman on electric keyboards and guitar. At the end, audience members will be invited to create a movement based, music inspired drawing of their own.

Over time, it seems I go through cycles of being involved in the communal nature of live performance and retreating to the solitary privacy of my studio. When I work in a solitary way, I tend to miss the beauty of live performance, where the shared experience creates a special bond between the performers and the audience. I am very excited to see where this particular line of performance leads.

And the Show Goes On…

Voids, Portals and Passageways continues to be on view at the Paul Mellon Arts Center through October 28th. Gallery hours are 9 am to 9 pm every day, and the address is 333 Christian St. Wallingford, CT. The show spans two adjacent buildings, so if you visit make sure you don’t miss half the show! I had a great time at the opening talking with friends old and new, and meeting Choate students who had a lot of great questions about my work. Most of my immediate family was present, and it was great to share my work with Wesleyan students and colleagues. The evening was topped off with the Choate faculty concert, where my husband, jazz pianist Noah Baerman, premiered a wonderful new composition.

Now that much of my work from the last two years is out of my studio hanging at the PMAC, I am inspired to create new work. I am following a similar process, but experimenting with color. Since January 2012, I have been working with black India ink. Starting this week, I am working with India ink, but in vibrant color. I have been thinking about color for some time now, but have been unsure how to get there through my current process. After some experimentation, I think I have found my new direction and look forward to exploring. As the days get shorter and the colors grayer outside the window, I look forward to the colors in my studio blooming over the coming months.