coyotethunder coyotethunder

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Obi Kaufmann  Author of the California Field Atlas. Tracking thunderbirds across the California Wilderness.

If my cosmos has a center, Tahoe is it. The most genuine pieces of me were born here and it is here that I’ve most acutely encountered all the potential beauty this world otherwise might conceal. Every three steps in perfect elation, followed by the trembling fourth tinged with inevitable cloudy melancholy. A truth drawn in how all landscapes are temporary and even the most strident efforts towards conservation are spiders kissing glaciers. So today we feast and tomorrow we head back to the war.

These days, my deadlines are a pile of autumn leaves. I'm building books like I'm tying cats cradles - webs woven of the beautiful themes that focus my fingers. My process is often more deconstructive than anything else; I work to unfold patterns, untie knots and iron wrinkles. The works that I am producing now are more complex than what I have produced before and yet the solutions are more simple, the matrices are more elegant, the practice is more exacting. I find myself triangulating between existing coordinates more than outright inventing anything out of nothing. It is opening up like a iris lens in front of a bright light in these climatic weeks when the formatting/design stage of a year's worth of study and labor becomes finally, a beautiful product. I can't wait to share it all with you. #californiafieldatlas

I am thrilled to announce that my note card sets, as published by @heydaybooks are now available at I've got two sets: MAMMALS and RAPTORS. These note cards (4.25” x 5.5”) reproduce my watercolor illustrations from the #californiafieldatlas. Each box contains contains twelve white envelopes and twelve blank cards; in the MAMMALS set are three each of four designs: Coyote, Mountain Lion, Wild Boar & Wild Horses; in the RAPTORS set are three each of four designs: Bald Eagle, Burrowing Owl, Peregrine Falcon & Red Tail Hawk. Every note card purchase will include an exclusive, limited-edition print of either the condor or the coyote (7” x 10.5"). Wholesale available. Thank you.

What a precious and unique ability it is for the adult, human mind to travel by abstraction. Before dawn, as I get to work writing and painting at my desk and reach out over the mountains and forests, it is by this projection that my subject is remembered and revealed. Liquid meaning precipitates from art into the psyche forming apprehendable conception and discernible truth. The romance of distance comes close and into sharp focus and space becomes inconsequential. The effect is so complete that the process becomes tinged with both joy and melancholy because what is true and what is mere-description can be swapped in this perfect conveyance and the experience of the imminent simulacrum satisfies our hungry memory of place. This mapped diagram depicts Holdridge's Life Zone Classification Scheme and applies it to California ecology. It will appear in the THE FORESTS OF CALIFORNIA, my next book. #ecology #californiafieldatlas

What we truly want is always transformative. Grace. Truth. Insight. Wisdom. The elixir that promises from this point onward our life will be defined by that which has come before and what now we are on the trail forward. When we have lost or have become lost to our former selves and merge with the greater forces of the world, we are found as an extension of those forces. Our left hand becomes our west hand and our right hand becomes our east hand. The world becomes us and confusion becomes water that can boil and evaporate.

This is a love story. This is a family album. My singular source and my final expression. My well from which all creativity is drawn in circles on the dirt. I’m a root, I am a flower; I identify the original dream of this seeping wetland and its arid counterpart as my own. All moments along this province converge behind my eye. #californiafieldatlas photo by @abbotspassage #sonoma

Writing, mapping and painting are all the same to me and my process; dramatic systems and topographies that describe the struggle of artistic participation with its sublime subject. Under the hunter's moon, the pack winds in calligraphic spirals under toothy stars, drawing rivers and silver wine in shapely-shifted medicine, ever confident that they can be what ever the song of the night needs them to be in the genius of the forest. A hundred paintings, a hundred shields, a hundred songs for you, for your struggle with peace because it is mine too.

I'm obssessed with painting the most elegant solution to graphically describe the forests of California. I need a brush broad enough to touch every piece, yet delicate enough to render the detail accurately. This process is interdiscplinary, and I call it the practice of ecography. Ecography is the study and measurement of spatial ecology. This map depicts 112 distinct ecographic units across 16 physiographic cells, which coincide with 45 habitat types, as it will be presented in my next book THE FORESTS OF CALIFORNIA (HEYDAY, 2019). This academic and creative exercise is based on my elemental analysis of the physical geography, elevation, hydrologic patterns, geologic composition, climatographic influence, botanical province, zoologic habitat and ecology-processes of each unit and its relation to its adjacent units, vis a vis the ecotone, the overlapping boundary between two ecosystems. Each discreet, ecographic unit provides a piece of the puzzle: disparate land-types unique in character that make up the living landscape of California. In some instances, these ecographic units interact with ecotone belts that are as large as the units themselves. Some of these ecographic units may essentially be border-zones themselves between larger provinces, transitional areas too subtle in difference to be effectively different from one another at this scale. The interlacing dynamics of the rapidly changing, delicate and yet resilient natural world are the course of my passion and present an ethical agenda in demonstrating how biodiversity works on connectivity, not isolation or sequestration.

Testimony of the sweet creek, my best work opened after the miles are spent. My lovely exhaustion, the heart of the world. These summer-drunk senses are too small and the tiny ecstasies I thrash about to catch are dust shed from the mountain of pure gold. My face, now a mask of old oak leaves, dried butterfly wings and last spring’s poppy petals in the nutrient mud.

One of those mornings when infinity races out in all directions from one spot. The honey lace on the ocean mist traces glimpses on the sun that taste as strong as my good coffee. The dune-side city of lilies and slugs is packed with more life in a spoon than most, less green corners of this world. A hundred million years of forest breathing through this gate and in my happy lung, the most elegant cabin on the coast, I breath it all in and we call it love. #californiafieldatlas #theforestsofcalifornia

Tracking the oldest trees and they me. Ponderosa, Red Fir & Pinyon - words like sap - names 200 million years coming. Their skin and form, descriptions of the ages of the world before the mountains dreamt themselves to rise. California, held together in the harshest poetry of fire where as a tree you either reproduce by way of it or have systems to defend yourselves against centuries of it. Our local and ancient variety of paradise it turns out, is for all living systems, a balance between the most terrible aridity, periods of catastrophic deluge and bookended by seasons of inferno. The dialogue between the place, this mountainous west, and these, our eldest trees is far more sublime than the artist and the artifact. The trees are more than the forest and the forest is more than the trees. Stories topple and stratify over and on themselves, ready to tell my own story as much as any other natural history.

I am delighted and so very honored that the Spring 2019 catalog from @heydaybooks has my next offering front and center. Text from the catalog: "Obi Kaufmann, author of the best-selling CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS, turns his artful yet analytical attention to the Golden State's single most complex and controversial resource: water. In this new book, full-color maps unravel this braided knot of California's water infrastructure and ecosystems, exposing a history of unlimited growth in spite of finite natural resources - ahistory that has led to its current precarious circumstances. But this built world depends upon the biosphere, and in THE STATE OF WATER Kaufmann argues that environmental conservation and restoration efforts are necessary not only for ethical reasons but also as a matter of human survival. Offering nine perspectives to illustrate the most pressing challenges facing California's water infrastructure, from dams to species revitalization, Kaufmann reveals prgamatic yet inspiring solutions to how water in the West can continue to support agriculture, municipalities and the environment. Interspersed throughout with trail paintings of animals that might survive under a caring and careful water ethic, Kaufmann shows how California can usher in a new era of responsible water conservation, and - perhaps most importantly - how we may do so together." Coming June 2019 (cover not finalized.)

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