Category Archives: Painting

On Camera with Painter Calvin Grimm


Calvin Grimm’s paintings allow viewers a window into the enduring beauty of the natural world. His work is abstract and biomorphic, striking in its use of color and line. His canvases draw their power from Grimm’s longstanding relationship with the environment. In the 1970’s, Grimm became involved in the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a sea-kayaking and mountaineering expedition leader in Wyoming and Alaska. His experience allowed him to facilitate young people’s understanding and appreciation of the outdoors.

Grimm believes that humans’ firsthand experience with nature is the best defense system against environmental degradation. The premise is simple: people won’t destroy what they know and care about. His work also inspires a deep regret for natural disasters that have already occurred; one painting in particular focuses on the fate of the sea creatures living in Prince William Sound in the wake of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill, a canvas that Grimm revisited 20 years later after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Grimm’s work and his experience stand as testament to the fulfillment offered by a connection with our natural world. He notes that such a connection seems conspicuously absent in many aspects of our modern life. Hopefully, Grimm’s paintings will not only inspire us to understand and appreciate nature, but also to work towards its protection – ensuring our own flourishing in the process.

Published September 19, 2013

Painter Calvin Grimm: an exhibit


Abstract expressionist painter Calvin Grimm pours everything into his paintings—his emotions, his life experiences, and particularly his love and respect for nature. Though there are few recognizable forms in his paintings, it is not just abstract ideas he represents in oils. It can be something so specific as the image of oil-soaked wildlife trying to flee the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills.

Here’s a short tour of three of his works.

Supporting Calvin means supporting an artist who is giving the world more than just wonderful painting. He spent decades of his life working to raise awareness and concern for our natural environment and the damage which we humans do to it. Don’t miss Samantha Pack’s article about Calvin, where he talks about his art and his beliefs about conservation. Or go enjoy the on-camera interview.

Calvin Grimm’s site
the Clearwater
the Woodstock Land Conservancy


Jeremy Scott Olsen sound editor / re-recording mixer
Ingersoll Avelino editor

Paula Minardi producer

Erick Iniguez coordinating producer
Ryan Metcalf supervising producer
Jeremy Scott Olsen executive producer

Shannah White consultant to Calvin Grimm

Calvin Grimm art and photographs used with permission and gratitude

“Twenty One Years: Exxon Valdez to BP Gulf Oil Spills”
oil on canvas

“Clearing Out the Stories”
oil on canvas

“Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean / Deep Space Series”
oil on canvas

Calvin Grimm supports

National Outdoor Leadership School – The Leader in Wilderness Education

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater

Woodstock Land Conservancy

“I’ve Always Known”
written and produced by Nathan Schafer
copyright 2013 by Nathan Schafer

“Lamp Project Theme 2011″
written and produced by Nathan Schafer
copyright 2011 by Nathan Schafer

with great appreciation for our all-volunteer crew for their talent, dedication, professionalism and time

copyright 2013 by The Lamp Project
all rights reserved

Calvin Grimm: Nature’s Power, Captured on Canvas

When you look at Calvin Grimm’s paintings, what do you see? Biomorphic forms and vivid colors? Abstract expressionism – with an organic twist? The melding of line and shape that both haunts us and gives us hope? There’s no right answer; the work of this Woodstock-based artist and environmentalist embodies all of the above. Each of Calvin Grimm’s paintings is a rich and personal expression of our human relationship with the natural world. He articulates that his goal in painting is “to inspire people spiritually through art in a conversation about the beauty of nature and about the sustainability of nature. I feel gifted that I can do that through my art.” There’s another important element to Grimm’s work: optimism. “Very often my paintings are optimistic because nature is constantly fulfilling and revitalizing,” he says. Grimm’s gift with a paintbrush allows him to share the beauty of nature with others, and to engender hope that humans can interact meaningfully with, and protect, our natural world. He calls painting “the unique language that I have to help people feel optimism, so we can sustain the fight, and sustain the involvement [in environmental activism].” Grimm shares this unique language and skill with a number of organizations whose missions center around environmental protection.

Calvin Grimm: "Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series". 2013. Oil on canvas.

Calvin Grimm: “Seeker/Sought: Deep Ocean/Deep Space Series”. 2013. Oil on canvas.

Grimm believes firmly in the importance of experiencing nature’s beauty and power firsthand. This, he says, is our best environmental defense system: if people interact with the natural world, they will come to see its importance, and then will be inspired and motivated to protect it. Beginning in the early 1970’s, Grimm became involved in the National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS, leading five-week-long mountaineering and sea kayaking expeditions in Wyoming and Alaska. (He also transported supplies to the adventurers by horseback). He says that the work allowed him, and the young people on the trip, to “absorb the nuances of the natural world,” and to “experience the wilderness, and the dynamic of forces and people and the changing environment, and all the while, to build a sensitivity in how we relate to that environment.” The genuine interaction between people and the natural world makes up the basis for human respect for nature – and the foundation for working together to protect it.

In addition to his work with NOLS, Grimm has been involved with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a 106-foot long replica vessel of the sloops that sailed the Hudson River in the 18th and 19th centuries, conceptualized by activist and American folk legend Pete Seeger. Since its construction in 1969, the Clearwater has served as the flagship of the environmental movement, its purpose to educate youth about what they can do to protect and preserve the Hudson River.

Don’t miss The Lamp Project’s video exhibit of Calvin Grimm’s work, plus the on-camera interview about his life, art, and causes.

Grimm was a boatswain on the Clearwater throughout the 1970’s, charged with the boat’s maintenance, as well as an educator for students who came aboard. He describes Seeger’s vision and the mission of the Clearwater: “If you get people to fall in love with the river, they can actually appreciate that there are living creatures in it, and that it has a life of its own. Then, it became a love, which became a political force – Seeger wanted to create a groundswell of political activism – taking people’s sense of love and a sense of the crime that was being done and transforming that emotion into action.” Grimm also mentions how powerful it was for children to see that it took serious teamwork to raise the boat’s huge sail, an idea of collective intention that would fuel their efforts as champions of the environment long after they disembarked the Clearwater.

Depicting the devastation – both physical and emotional – of nature’s destruction by humans is also an important element in Grimm’s work. He describes the time he spent in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and the particular memory of how the tide receded to reveal sea urchins and sea anemones clinging, vulnerable, to the rocks. He developed “a deep and personal relationship with those creatures.” When he heard news of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 in Prince William Sound, Grimm was overcome with emotion. What he’d begun in his studio as a hopeful painting about these sea animals became “visceral, slimy, oily, and devastating. The creatures attempted to pull themselves out of the mess, unsuccessfully, and black crows were flying around, but it was all in an abstract representation…It was a real expression of my disappointment, my hurt, and my anger.” Grimm channeled his emotions into his work, and the result was a remarkable canvas that chronicles a disastrous natural and historical event. When he heard news of the BP oil spill in 2010, Grimm knew that he had to revisit the painting. The final canvas, titled Exxon Valdez to BP Gulf Oil Spills (1989-2010), both awes us in its beauty and frightens us in its reality.

In speaking about his work with youth, Grimm also touches on our modern disconnect with nature. He mentions Nature Deficit Disorder, a condition defined by a lack of connection with natural elements that can result in attention and mood disorders, depression, and obesity. He says that children in particular have lost their interest in and respect for nature, and have not “developed their intuition, sensitivity and feeling for it. They can’t have a spiritual experience with it if they can’t actually feel it.” In terms of protecting our environment, the worry is that “these people are not going to be qualified to steward [nature], not being in touch with it, and not knowing what it means to lose it.” Grimm speaks with a palpable sadness, and we can see the potent memory of his experience working with youth on the Clearwater and during NOLS expeditions.

But, ever the optimist, Grimm continues to show us through his work how central and vital our connection with nature can be. And, Grimm maintains his connection to various environmental protection organizations, such as The Woodstock Land Conservancy, by painting pieces to be used as auction centerpieces that attract critical fundraising. Grimm’s home, too, stands as a testament to his passion for protecting our environment. Built out of recycled and repurposed materials and designed to complement the wooded mountainside it rests on, Grimm’s house functions as both an art gallery to display his work, and a work of art to be admired all on its own.

To be sure, it will take more than appreciating works of art imbued with the majesty of our natural world to alter attitudes and environmental policy. And paintings may never be enough to recapture what we have already lost. However, the impact of Calvin Grimm’s art is undeniable: he allows us to understand what, precisely, we are fighting for.

If you are interested in learning more about Calvin Grimm and his art, please visit his website, You can also learn more about the organizations that Calvin Grimm is involved in, including the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), by visiting their websites for more information.

Drawing Powerful Women: graphic novelist Maureen Burdock


Pastel from "Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls." By Maureen Burdock.

Pastel from “Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls.” By Maureen Burdock.

When one thinks about comic books, images of muscle-bound heroes, supernatural villains and busty damsels-in-distress are among the expected visual tropes that come to mind. In the graphic novels of artist Maureen Burdock, however, battles between men bent on destroying the world and the adventures of those who fight to defend it are replaced with stories of women who overcome real-life issues of sexual violence, domestic abuse and murder, among others. In the brightly colored world of comics, themes drawn so directly from the world around us are a rare encounter and, most certainly, those of gendered violence have yet to find their way into the hyper-masculine spaces of the graphic novel. Burdock has created a compelling alternative, however, in her series of comic books entitled The F Word Project: Five Feminist Fables for the 21st Century. These women are both victims and their own heroes in their encounters with various forms of gender-based violence.

Born in Germany in 1970, Burdock emigrated to the U.S. with her mother at the age of seven. The two fled to escape domestic violence but Maureen continued to endure various forms of abuse and, from an early age, used art as a way to navigate these painful experiences. While she was working in New Mexico, Burdock was introduced to the world of comic books by members of Seis Cinco Seis Comics Collective. When asked why she turned to this particular medium, Burdock replied that she wanted to “make work that is accessible to a broad public and can be disseminated in venues including-but also beyond-galleries and museums. … The juxtaposition between images and text,” she continues, “can also be particularly potent and evocative.”

Burdock began work on The F Word Project in 2006 and, thus far, three of the five books have been completed: Maisa and the Bad Muslim Girls, Marta and the Missing, and Mona and the Little Smile. Each tells the story of a woman facing the threat of violence who, through bravery, intellect, and the use of a bit of magic, is able to defeat the evil characters and dark forces perpetrating that violence. Burdock has described her superheroines as “extraordinary/ordinary women” whose “bodies are not idealized or sexualized.” It is important to the artist that these women defy the usual stereotypes not only of comic book lore but within society more broadly. They manage this by refusing to be victims and, instead, they take control over their own bodies and destinies. They also provide a much needed forum in which the difficult issues of the femicides in Juarez, child molestation and honor killings can each be grappled with. “Far from depicting victims or people being defined by their unfortunate circumstances,” Burdock explains, “my stories are snapshots of powerful women in motion. Real women and men who I collaborate with to create these stories are my inspiration.”

Artwork from "Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls." By Maureen Burdock.

Artwork from “Maisa & the Bad Muslim Girls.” By Maureen Burdock.

This mission to create dialogue, community building, and awareness constitute the “F” in The F Word Project as, according to the artist, being a feminist simply means believing in equality and in creating coalitions that help to ”combat inequality, colonialism, the military industrial complex, et cetera.” Creating the possibility for healing and collectivity, according to Burdock, takes both recognizing that men are also affected by gendered violence and that “galvanizing communities to act in solidarity means overcoming gender binaries as well as other phobias and generalizations.” So far, Burdock’s goal to reach as diverse an audience as possible seems to be within reach as the novellas have already been exhibited in thirteen cities internationally and the books themselves have been used in several universities as part of gender studies classes. Although it would seem that the art world is far from accepting comic books as a form of “high art,” Burdock makes it clear that she “cares more about making work that LIVES, moves, affects people than making work that tickles reviewer’s fancies or looks mysteriously and compellingly incomprehensible in the fetishized white cube environment.”

Burdock is currently working on the final two books of the series, the next of which will address the subject of female genital mutilation. Although the topics Burdock chooses to address are dark and at times very difficult to face, her beautiful illustrations and courageous narratives manage to bring hope and even humor to these terrible realities. As she describes, “None of the women in my fables are ‘fixed’ within the context of the problems they face. Instead, they galvanize their families and communities to collaboratively create change. These stories are hopeful and the heroines actively shape and reform their communities with their intelligence, humor, kindness, and with a bit of magical realism.”

Oil from "Mona & the Little Smile." By Maureen Burdock.

Oil from “Mona & the Little Smile.” By Maureen Burdock.

Maureen Burdock currently resides in Berkeley, California where she is a student at California College of the Arts in San Francisco working on completing MA degrees in visual and critical studies as well as studio art. She is also the founding director of the first US/San Francisco chapter of the London-based comics forum Laydeez do Comics, the first women-led graphic novel forum in the UK. Burdock also continues an independent freelance illustration practice and can be contacted via her website. Her her work is also included in the feminist art database of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

If you want to make a difference on these issues, follow the links below to purchase Maureen’s art and support her career, or to donate time or money to three organizations that are engaged in combatting violence against women.

A Surfer’s Perspective: artist Erik Abel


Artist Erik Abel


“Having my life revolve around the ocean seems to have a comfortable rhythm,” says surf artist Erik Abel.

Based in Ventura, California, Erik surfs, makes art and travels. He comes from a coastline rich in the history of melding surfing and art, of surfers drawing inspiration from the ocean to tell their story through visual expression. But, how does surf art differ from other art forms?

Erik explains: “Surf art has waves and surfers in it and is usually painted by somebody who loves riding waves. Maybe that’s the only difference; only a surfer can really make surf art. I kinda like that.”

Visual exploration is a key theme in the artist’s highly stylized and graphic, ocean-related art, which is created on wood with acrylic, markers, colored pencils and other media.

“My art is mostly simple and direct. The color, shape and composition take charge over meaning or content. I’m a very visual person,” he says.

“My eyes need to be stimulated when I look at something not my brain. My brain gets enough exercise when I close my eyes at night…I need art to calm me down and keep me sane with nice pretty colors and big shapes.”

Erik’s work is found enlivening not only the walls of surfers but the advertising and products of creatively inspired surf and skate companies, including the promotional artwork for this month’s world surfing tour event, the Reef Hawaiian Pro, which features the newly crowned 11-times world champion, Kelly Slater.

A line of skateboard graphics for a new US company are in the pipeline and Erik is the next artist to feature in a new t-shirt line for Ventura’s Coastal Classics.

And, stretching the traditional concept of the canvas, Erik is fresh from a live art showcase at the Sacred Craft Surfboard Expo in Del Mar, in which he live-painted a surfboard as part of The Board Art Benefit – A Surfer’s Perspective.

Surf Art by Erik Abel

The Board Art Benefit, was held in aid of the charity, SurfAid International, and brought together 26 of the world’s leading surf artists and surfboard shapers, including the legendary surfer and shaper, Gerry Lopes. The collaboration saw artist and shaper partner to create live art on 13 surfboards, all of which will now be auctioned in coming months.

Erik teamed up with local Ventura surfboard shaper, Robert Weiner of Roberts Surfboards, for the event. Together they helped to raise much-needed funding so SurfAid can continue to deliver its community-based health and emergency response programs to isolated communities in the Mentawai, Nias, Telo and Banyak islands. Many of these communities have been devastated by numerous natural disasters, including the Boxing Day Tsunami (December 2004), Nias Earthquake (March 2005), Mentawai Earthquakes (September 2007), Padang Earthquake (September 2009) and Mentawai Tsunami (October 2010).

Of the Board Art Benefit Randal Schober, Executive Director of SurfAid International USA said: “We were honored to have Erik and other prominent surf artists be a part of the recent Board Art Benefit. The unique collaboration of board shaper and artist attracted thousands of interested attendees and brought awareness to our mission. We are very appreciative to Erik and the other artists for generously donating their time and talent to support SurfAid.“

The not-for-profit organization was founded by physcian and surfer, Dr Dave Jenkins in 1999 after an eye-opening surf trip to the Mentawais when he found he was the first doctor to ever step foot in an isolated local village and found women and children dying from malaria, malnutrition and inadequate living standards – things that he knew were treatable and preventable.

Photo by Michael Lawrence for Surfaid

While Erik is inspired by the natural world, he says that it is also inspiring to think about the effect art can have on modern culture and beyond, which is why it’s important for him to support the work of SurfAid.

“It takes honesty, compassion, and integrity to start an organization that goes into isolated areas to help with basic needs, especially after big natural disasters. It is respectful and inspiring to know that there are companies and people out there who actually give a damn,” he says.

In line with his philosophy of the potential for art to positively impact the world he has also launched the Fish Outta Water Project, in which he leaves free artwork in public places, encouraging strangers to take them.

In between his busy professional schedule and community projects, however, there will always be time for his biggest inspiration, surfing, Erik says.

“The surfing lifestyle will always be the biggest influence in my life until I am unable to surf anymore. There is nothing more exciting than going to a different country and culture to hunt waves.”

As they say, only a surfer knows the feeling.

Erik Abel’s public art project | Fish Outta Water Project

Roberts Surfboards |

Board Art Benefit |