Two Book Reflections

About nature and its Artist


  • Two Book Reflections

    Two Book Reflections

    This title REFLECTS a few changes in our lives. We have moved to La Crosse, WI to be closer to family. This means a change from prairie and lakes to rivers and bluffs. Also, I want to explore two things on this site. These two things are inspired by a sentence found in the Belgic Confession –

    “…the universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures great and small are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God…”

    I am now retired from pastoral work, where I spent a lot of time in the Word, reading, observing closely and teaching it to others. For over a decade I’ve been exploring various art forms – woodcarving and painting in particular. This involves is also a kind of reading and observing the second book, the book of nature.

    Some of the articles will be reflections on the Word and others on the World.

    This kind of reflecting requires pulling off the road of daily activity and turning aside to a book or to a place to look at the world. It is a kind of visual meditation. It is rewarding for your mind and body to take this time. and to find ways, by any art form or any word form you like to enter into this place and reflect on it.

    Join me.

    Cloud over the Capitol – photo by David E. Carlson

  • Working towards Abstraction

    Working towards Abstraction
    Bleeding Heart
    A neighbor
    First try,
    Second try
    Garden rock

    It helped to think of subtraction. Subtract detail, scale and color. Notice shapes. A pallet knife helped by forcing details out.

  • Exploring Downtown La Crosse

    Exploring Downtown La Crosse

    We have gone a few walking tours of Downtown La Crosse, which are provided by the library. It will be interesting to explore what brought first the Ho Chunk to this area and then later Eurpoean settlers. The most obvious is the confuence of several waterways.

    The downtown areas has some intersting late 19th century examples of Italianate and Chicago buisiness style. Later in the earth 20th century there were some Moderne and Art Deco buildings added to what was supposed to imitate New York’s Fifth Avenue – so much so that Fifth “street” is named an avenue.

    Cass Street was were some of the weathy set up their homes. It reminded me of birds and their pumage, but perhaps not to attact a mate, but to enjoy and show off their success. There are examples of Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Prairie and Craftsman homes.

    Queen Anne, Italianate and Prairie

    As you travel from the homes of the owners, you find the smaller homes of their management class, and them the next levels of houses as you get further away. Our house is not far from a castle scale mansion, but we are among the working class.

  • Dare to Paint Abstracts

    Dare to Paint Abstracts

    I’ve been looking for a way to loosen up my watercolor style. The current effort to do that is by taking a class through La Crosse Parks and Recreation entitled “Dare to Paint Abstracts”. This class meets weekly and we work in acrylics.

    I’ve used acrylic paints for woodcarvings, usually thinning them down to make washes that can be layered. Now I am exploring actually painting with acrylics.

    One disussion has to do with levels of abstraction – using shapes such as circles, or using free form open shapes. I am exploring how to abstract from natural forms. We have been workng on our yard and garden. There are raised beds for vegetables on the southern and sunny end of the yard. On the shadier northern end, we have ended the lawn with an oval, past which we are plaicing herbs for the kitchen and native perennials. These are to feed and house the pollinators.

    I will be working on using a bleeding heart plant as inspiriation for my next effort. There is a mulched ground laywer, a black metal fence and then the greens, red and pink of the plant. Here is a hint.


  • Farley Center’s EARTH CONNECTIONS first thoughts

    Farley Center’s EARTH CONNECTIONS first thoughts

    The Farley Center will hold a land art event again this year. The theme is Earth Connections, and again the idea is to use temporary and degradable elements from the Sanctuary

    Today I selected my site and picked up branches and lumber that was milled on site. I plan to install either a tumble of leaves or possibly a mobile. The location is on an arched oak tree along the path between the Sanctuary and the adjoining field. My initial sketch shows some ideas.

    This plan, with the working title of “Fall, Leaves, Fall” will develop according to the discoveries of materials, natural colors and change in the location through the seasons.

  • Two Book Icons

    Two Book Icons

    The two books are Nature and the written Word. I have come to see that not only are they two voices, but they help to interpret each other.

    If I wrote, “She threw a baseball.” or “He drove a chariot.” The reader would have to know or find a way to discover the meaning of “baseball” and “chariot.”

    The scriptures begin in Genesis with things like light and darkness, evening and morning, sun and moon. The definitions of those things are known to us because we live in the world.

    A Christian will be informed by the scriptures, and their reading of the scriptures will be informed by the world. People with other ways of looking at the world, or of believing, might come away with different reflections.

    For example, the cycle of life and death. Is that hopeful, like the Disney musical suggests? Is that a heavy burden as the writer of Ecclesiastes implies?

    I have made logos to help identify which posts are book centered and which are nature centered.

    A to Z represents the written word. Every topic resides somewhere between A and Z. The tree suggests nature, whether you think of the tree in your yard, or the Tree of Life, an idea in the Scriptures and in international Wisdom literature, both ancient and modern.

  • La Crosse Sketchbook #2

    La Crosse Sketchbook #2

    Doodling in church? I’ve found the sketching notes at a sermon or lecture is as productive for me as regular note taking. Maybe an idea will stand out to me as worth pursuing.

    The church we attend for now have a number of windows. Some have words, such as the beatitudes (Matthew 5:1ff) and symbols.


    The top image is about peacemaking. “They will beat their swords into plowshares.” The lower is an open door. That could be “behold I stand at the door and knock ..” or “I am the door.”

    Oh the sermon, it was about keeping the received message of Christ.

  • La Crosse sketchbook #1

    La Crosse sketchbook #1

    At an urban orientation to Chicago in the 80s, the guide said something I still remember. “In a city, everything you see was put there for a purpose.”

    The world we live in is largely shaped by human activity. Bridges cross rivers, which are regulated by locks, and impacted by runoff from streets and farms. Streets and roads follow old trails which follow natural contours.

    I’ve started a La Crosse journal, to help learn this new home. Everything from the bluffs to the Mississippi River, the plants and birds who live here and historic buildings that tell our history are all in view.

    I was intrigued by the stained glass window at the West end of the first Presbyterian church. The main figure is Christ, not on the cross or ascending, but apparently directing the action below.

    Stained glass and watercolor are dependent on light and transparency, so the one is suitable to represent the other.

    One of the subjects to explore are the churches of the city. This is the first.

  • Tiny Art Show

    Tiny Art Show

    The LaCrosse Public Library had an open invitation to people of all ages to submit tiny paintings. They supplied us with a 3-inch square canvas and a basic set of acrylic paints – black, white and primary colors. This exhibit is on display in the main branch as of February 8, 2023.

    “On the Fence” – David E Carlson

    This scene is from a house near mine on a snowy morning. I was struck by the monochrome colors of the house, fence and snow on a grey day. Yet there was a kind of symmetry in how the fence captured the fallen snow.