“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread. A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself.”
― Edward Abbey
When I started oil painting, portraits intimidated me. The idea of capturing someones spirit on a 2-D canvas was a daunting thought - but once I started I knew I had hit my creative groove. The only problem then and now is grappling with the ever present question of "who do I paint?"
My portraits usually fit into three categories: iconic images, inspirational people, and people that I know personally. Ed Abbey fits into the first two - iconic and also inspirational.
Ed Abbey was many things but most notably an author and wilderness advocate. His most popular works are The Monkey Wrench Gang - a work of fiction that has inspired "monkeywrenchers" - non violent sabotage/vandalism as form of environmental protest - since it's publication and his non-fiction work Desert Solitaire (super recommended) about his time as a seasonal park ranger at Arches National Park.
Sidenote: I reread Desert Solitaire before my trip to Arches last summer and pretended to be Ed Abbey the whole time. (see below) :)
Abbey was (and still is) controversial and polarizing in almost every aspect of his life. He was married five times, spent nearly his entire life on the FBI watch list due to his anarchist and anti-war views, and was vocal about his critique of public land policies.
Controversy aside, I feel a kinship with Abbey mostly due to his love of the four-corners area and the passion with which he lived out his convictions.
I also love a good inspirational quote - and Abbey is up there with John Muir in the prolific inspirational nature quote category. Here are some of my favorites:
“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.”
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
“A man could be a lover and defender of the wilderness without ever in his lifetime leaving the boundaries of asphalt, powerlines, and right-angled surfaces. We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to set foot in it. We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it the life of the cities would drive all men into crime or drugs or psychoanalysis.”
“Freedom begins between the ears.”
“There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere.”
“Most of my wandering in the desert i've done alone. not so much from choice as from necessity - I generally prefer to go into places where no one else wants to go. I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.”
“I now find the most marvelous things in the everyday, the ordinary, the common, the simple and tangible.”
“If it's knowledge and wisdom you want, then seek out the company of those who do real work for an honest purpose.”
"You can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you'll see something, maybe.”