What’s in a name?

This painting was my final project for scene painting in 2017. It’s 4′ tall x 5′ wide.

I deliberated over my shop and studio name pretty heavily for several days (after weeks of casual consideration once I decided to undertake this endeavor). I wanted something that fit my aesthetic, that had some meaning or ties to me beyond just being a pretty title. I skimmed through my favorite books looking for a catchy phrase; I asked Facebook for ideas; I even arranged the letters of my name to see what interesting words I could put together (I came up with quite a list — “owl,” “jewel,” “crow,” and “whale” can all be spelled using letters of my name, among dozens of other words). Nothing felt quite right, and a couple of the catchier ideas I came up with had actually already been taken anyway.

I was lying on my bed, looking at a giant painting I did in my scene painting class a couple years ago of a big, full tree in the middle of a field of yellow flowers (yes, the very painting pictured here). I remembered a story I’d heard in Ireland about special sorts of trees called fairy trees. They stand alone, like this one, in farm fields or meadows, and typically even the most pragmatic of people refuse to damage or cut down such trees for fear of bringing bad luck on themselves. The trees look like any other tree, but are believed to be inhabited by fairies. They’re thought to be places of magic, or markers to portals between realms. I wouldn’t say equivocally that I believe in fairies, though I did have a fascination with them as a kid. But I love the possibility, and I love the idea that even people who aren’t sure they believe still choose to leave these trees alone, to give them the benefit of the doubt. And as for my own creative work, I strive to blur the lines a little between the real and the fantastical, to invite color and imagination into otherwise realistic scenes. It’s a boundary that I hope to keep pushing. As one of my favorite quotes (attributed to Roald Dahl) goes, “those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

So, the name isn’t meant to refer to fairies themselves, but to the trees that they may or may not inhabit. (Also, I’m not a hippie, but I do love trees of any kind. After living in downtown Baltimore for a few years and being surrounded by concrete instead of forest, I realized just how much I missed being around them.)

Even better, no one else had taken the name yet.

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