I love art. And even though I am an artist myself, I still consider all my work to be possible waste. Why? Because I love nature. My fascination with nature, life, and the world around me has been with me throughout my childhood. But as I grew up and attended art school at the turn of the 21st century, my love for nature faded to the background. 

Sustainability, climate change, cradle-to-cradle, bio-based, and other now common terms were unheard of then. As the years passed, I searched for beauty in simplicity, concentrating on the little things both in my professional career as an artist and in my personal life. More and more, nature has found its way back into my life and into my work. I have started to dig deeper and broadened my perspective. The relationship between human, nature, and sustainability have become recurring themes in my work. I have found beauty in the rough, pure burlap, the homemade gesso, the pigments. 

I cherish these materials, the craftsmanship, and the cradle-to-cradle way of thinking and working because for me, image and content should strengthen each other, not contradict each other. Art that explores a theme like sustainability but is made with non-sustainable materials is, in my opinion, a contradiction in terms and the height of hypocrisy. 

I believe that the art world should be progressive and innovative. But through years of doing research and forging my own path, I have found that when it comes to sustainability, the art world painfully lags behind. 

There is still so much art being created with non-sustainable materials, even toxic materials, and artists aren’t taught to think about their production process. It is the art/end product that counts. The art world doesn’t allow itself to see work as possible waste. 

While we have seen and continue to see positive change, integration of circular systems, and cradle-to-cradle production in many other fields like design, architecture, manufacturing, and engineering, somehow there is no room for discussion in the arts. Yet we live in a time where there is more art being created than ever before, by professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists. It’s an illusion to believe that all of it will be preserved for future generations. Some of it will be worth hanging on to, but let’s face it—most of it will become waste. 

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Much could be accomplished if the art world was willing to broaden its focus and consider the impact of the art-making process and the afterlife of artworks in addition to worrying about the end product. Only by seeing art as waste and therefore a possible problem can solutions be found. 

And solutions can be found! It may sound strange, but I am very proud of now being at a stage where my work process is completely sustainable, the end result cradle-to-cradle. This means that my paintings are completely biodegradable, yet they can be conserved for centuries as well. 

So after my personal research I am now taking things a step further. Sharing my thoughts, raising awareness, changing perspectives. Exploring possibilities to make real changes in the art material supply business together with interested, engaged businesses. 

Sustainability, climate change, our relationship to the earth we live on and the species we share it with—these are the defining issues of my generation and of the generations to come. The art world should take a stand. It has an important role to play in this changing world.



When it comes to working with nature’s treasures, everything starts with the way you look at things. Once you open your eyes to the potential of stones, layers of soil, plants, and roots, you will see colour everywhere. Wandering will not be the same anymore and you will begin to come home with beautiful treasures after each walk!

Working with natural capital is a learning process. But experimenting with and discovering what works and what doesn't work is part of the fun! With inorganic pigments, I start by roughly grinding the raw material, sifting it, and grinding it again (and again) until the material is as finely ground as possible. I really love this process because it's a way for me to physically work with nature and to truly engage with my materials. Watching it change within my hands is a very humbling and meditative process. 

Organic pigments are a different story as there are not many that can be extracted from plants or flowers although I have learned that both madder and woad can. I especially like to use these pigments to make tempera paint because it is biodegradable. To make this paint, mix the pigments with water to create a paste before stirring in a mixture of egg yolk, linseed oil and water. Mix until smooth. 

The colours that come from nature are beautiful as they are, but when you treat them differently, the possibilities are almost endless. The reaction of each pigment to heat or acid is almost a miracle to see. You might know in theory that soils or stones with a lot of iron oxide will turn more red when exposed to high temperatures or that a pigment will react when you change its pH level— but seeing it happen is still kind of magic to me! 

In the image above, you can see how the same ten pigments transform with temperature. The first row shows the original pigments, the second when the pigments are heated to 850 degrees Celsius, and the third when the pigments are heated to 1150 degrees Celsius. It really is a kind of magic!

With so many different treasures, so many shades and hues, it is not difficult to make art that shows the beauty of nature! Art that is and always will be part of nature. Art that leaves me humbled and in awe...

THE ART OF WASTE: Reflections on the Biodegradable Research Project


At the moment I am working on a research project about the biodegradability of my work. This raises a lot of eyebrows. Some people ask me: Why should you want to destroy your artwork?! Others state that it is a waste of capital. A waste of art, really!

But is it? Considering art as capital in a world where everything is translated into monetary value doesn't ring true for me. My work is inspired by nature, and I have spent the last two years doing research into sustainable alternatives for regular painting materials. My work process is now completely cradle-to-cradle so that everything that I create will eventually biodegrade if wanted or needed. That's why I wanted to watch the process of biodegrading firsthand. 

As I will be writing about more in the coming weeks, my materials come from the earth. In that sense, nature is my capital. I have spent a great deal of time observing and reading about processes in nature. And what I have learned is that there is no beginning and no end—nature is a circle. There really is no waste in nature and everything has a purpose after its lifespan.

This project is about giving back. If nature is my capital—and I believe nature is the only real capital we humans have because if we destroy nature, we are bankrupt—how can watching my work biodegrade be a waste of art? I give my art back to nature so that it can once again be part of the circle of life. I have come to see art as potential waste, and have changed my work process to make sure that, like in nature, there is no waste, only a circle.


What I stand for is what I stand on"  /2017 /tempera made from natural homemade pigments / burlap / 120cm x 80cm

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I was preparing for my Artist-in-Residency at Loam, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my journey toward sustainable art. Ever since I have started work as a cradle-to-cradle artist, many people have asked me about when I became an environmental artist. As I searched through my work and my life for the answer, I struggled to find a clear starting point. Because in reality, everything that I have done so far, every experience I have lived, every work that I have made, every step along the way, has brought me to where I am now.

When you work the way that I do, everything is connected. There is no on/off modus. My home, my personal life, my work as teacher, my children, my food—it's all connected. So it is not like I woke up one day and decided to “do” cradle-to-cradle art. It's always been part of my evolving journey. 

When I graduated art school many years ago, I felt lost. The path that lay ahead of me was clear, but I wasn’t sure whether I liked where it would lead me. I followed for some years anyway, making art, going to galleries, networking. It felt all wrong, trying to be something I knew I wasn’t and worse, someone that I didn’t even aspire to be. I believe this happens to a lot of us. We tend to tag along, doing what is expected of us, following the path that so many have tread before.

So I paused and watched others go by and chose to steer in another direction. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I had to find another way. It's scary sometimes, finding my own way, putting myself out there. It's vulnerable. But I am my art and my art is me and I hope to inspire you to join me on my journey. Pause, stop, look around, think, feel, reflect and make your own path, remembering that every choice will change your journey and that of many others, because it will leave new trails for those who are looking for different ways. 

if you want to know more about Dorieke's journey, visit



Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott


My father always liked a crisp display of left brain achievement, preferably with a title attached, so he was disappointed when I told him I wanted to return to school and be a full time artist. It’s not a profession that skips off the tongue like engineer, lawyer, magazine editor, doctor or banker. Telling people that your daughter is an artist sounds fuzzy, like she is dodging a commitment to a world that runs by a 9-5 clock to malinger and sleep in. Nor was he thrilled by no guarantee of income and accolades. Far from it.

But my father did come around, and he asked me for copies of my portfolio to send to gallery dealer friends with a personalized note. I protested. He insisted. And all of these portfolios were wordlessly returned to me except for one. With a message. On the back of the manila envelope that held my slides (yes, that is how old I am) there was a note, scrawled in hasty cursive in big sharpie: “Does she really think she can run with the Big Boys? Seriously?”  Some assistant forgot to remove this detail and I was devastated. I was very tender back then, not very seasoned and not really any good yet. I asked my father for a networking cease and desist. He was mortified by his friend’s fumble, and gave up being my agent. I have no doubt that he confronted his friend’s protocol lapse, but I was relieved to be off the hook and forged my way without his help.

That dealer was right. The Big Boy art world isn’t mine. I worked hard and carved out a tiny niche, taught watercolor, and grew content with my place in things. I enjoy following art shows and Big Boy friends who seamlessly navigate the blue chip art world. I watch the steady parade of new and old cause célèbres and the vanities from the sidelines. Some of the art is dazzling, some not so much. My nose is no longer pressed to the glass.

I do regret the energy I spent trying to prove that I had something to offer. It made me vulnerable to sabotage - either through my own anxiety, or by crazymakers. I didn’t listen nearly enough to instinct. All of this was swept away with the arrival of children, a great deal of personal loss, wobbly health, an increased interest in writing and garden design, and different forms of advocacy. I lost my longing for a  certain kind of approbation and gained perspective. It took years, as it always does, to realize everything contributes to creative process and there isn't always a tidy transactional exchange. Raising a family, tending to mundane household commitments, gardening at a fevered pitch, walking my dogs, scouring hills for flowers and watching the light move, are unquantifiable. And yes all of it, even the random discussions with the pest control guy about the vole population explosion, are part of my creative collective.



“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.”
— Mary Oliver

Every weekday morning I read our son awake with a poem. The idea was not mine, but the renowned poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s. In an interview with Krista Tippett, Nye referred to a ritual of hers -- she read a poem to her son every morning when he was still living at home. I pounced on that idea and decided to incorporate it into our own household. I started with our daughter. "How would you like it if I read you awake with a poem every morning?”  She is a teenager and her expression was B horror film perfect. I might as well have had tarantulas emerging from my ears. What was I thinking? She takes my dorkiness in stride, however, and when I must have looked a bit crestfallen she swiftly added, "It’s OK Mom, the dogs already do a good job of getting me out of bed.” Our son is not interested in being cool, not just yet, and was ten at the time. He didn’t flinch. “Sure, that sounds like fun.” 

And so it began. I like to think I'm exposing our son to great poetry as he transitions into his conscious form, and that it all is seeping in and will propel him into a life of creativity, inspiration and imagination. But I know I gain the most from this discipline. It forces me to read a poem a day, to study poets that I haven't yet met, and reacquaint  myself with old favorites.

Poetry is part of my family fabric. My sister was a published poet, my mother, a closet one. My aunt was a Yeats scholar. They read poetry all the time. My mother’s poetry books were vigorously underlined and annotated. My sister, mother and I would share poems, and my journals are filled with them; but none of us could recite them verbatim the way my father could. He believed memorizing a poem a week was not only a sign of moral character but also helped to fight dementia. He was convinced that our country began its descent into darkness when memorizing poetry and prose fell out of curricular fashion. 

Percy Blythe Shelley’s Ozymandias was taped to his mirror when he died:

“I met a traveller from an antique land, 
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, 
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, 
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, 
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, 
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; 
And on the pedestal, these words appear: 
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; 
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! 
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

The other day I explained to our son why I am such a poetry junkie. I told him a good poem could blanch a bit of darkness or make me feel more connected to this vast network of ours. And that a great line will cast something familiar into a different relief and make me look again. But, most of all, poetry gives me the next clue. "Like in a treasure hunt you mean,” he said. Exactly. 

A few favorites..

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”
Naomi Shihab Nye


“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —” Emily Dickinson


“The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. 
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart. 
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, 
peel your own image from the mirror. 
Sit. Feast on your life.” Derek Walcott



Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
….Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry

For some time now I have struggled with finding intersections in all the pockets of my life as a mother, wife, painter, advocate, blogger, writer’s residency host, and fanatic gardener, to name a few. We live in a world that likes stamped achievement, not process, and it is easy to step into a loop where I am defined by a particular identity. It’s tidier by the standards of society to be a sum, not an array of parts. Boundaries and categories have their place, but I now understand that I am trying to force a relationship between all the seemingly disparate parts of my life that is already there. Gardening, walking the hills of my Colorado, peering at wildflowers or celebrating  artistic community is all part of my creative practice, one that automatically flows into another. I don’t need to be so rigid about distinctions. Digging in the soil feeds my writing life while maintaining a steady supply of wonder. Identifying wildflowers finds its way into a brush stroke, and makes me more patient as a mother and wife. Welcoming an artist to our small farm feeds my creativity and my family’s. These are all tributaries, some visible, some less so, but all part of the whole.

Isa will use her residency at LOAM to explore these intersections using images and prose. Follow her journey on Instagram or explore her work online



The feeling of ascension washes over. I have reached the top of the mountain. It is the edge of starkness, cold and damp. There may still be sleeping bears in these hills, nestled neath gnarled ash roots. Herein lies the secret to all delicate woes and worries. This very mountaintop. Sun blaring and angels singing through the tendrils of the wind cracking, her soft hair. I have fallen in love again — “Oh and springtime would know it— there’s nowhere that wouldn’t carry the sound of that annunciation. First those small, querying up-notes that a pure affirming day from afar hushes all around in mounting stillness. Then up steps, up call-steps, to the dreamed-of temple of the future—; and then the trill, fountain whose urgent jet bursts up through its own falling in this contest of promises . . . and soon to come, the summer.” Rilke.

I’ll give you all I have, summer. All the glistening salty oceandrops & teardrops that cull the deep knowing of contentedness. Here I come, summer. I live for you, summer. In all your warmth and fiddle tunes and bonfires and echoes of forrest laughter. These snapshots of life form moments that contribute to feelings of eras. I refuse to let the era of this confusing time taint my summer days. Because what else is left but to experience you in your most physically demanding yet serene trailways. I’ve known you for a long time, summer, and each time I sing your praises, joyously drenched in sweat at the end of a long evening of dancing. The early promises in March, the sweet sounds of June cicadas in your fullness, rushing creeks, quiet drips of perspiring beads in the dark hallways between bands playing. Salty kisses. If I were a witch (witch, I may be) I would concoct a medicine that would pull all the energies of the earth in summertime and infuse it into bottles of elderflower nectar and pass it out to all the sweet lovers out there who seek solace in this time of grieving, unraveling, deportations, and war. How can I better support you, summer? So that your endless days of light do not go unnoticed or passed by in the slightest sin of dullness. I’ll pledge to attune myself to your sensory delights, visions of bunnies hopping past an outdoor shower, groundhogs shuffling about atop windswept balds, and finally the magnificent graces of fireflies illuminating your mountain hollers. You cannot go back to ignorance, but you can fill the new space with joyous occasion, and you can let go of what has grown stale.

I’ll be there waiting for you, summer. Waiting for the Buddha toad that sits nostrils flaring under the porch steps in the twilight. I’ll come have a beer next to you, toad, and tell you of my worries. And you, summer toad, will so graciously possess the patience to listen into the unending hours of the night. Time stands still and waits for your heart to catch up, in the summer. Last summer all I had to do was build a house, listen to radio shows of Appalachian ballads, dunk my flushed face each night in the Laurel River, and walk the property barefoot next to the bespeckled pup of my dreams, my wildman. Tiny chairs of my cousin’s sweet babes sat in Bear Creek behind the new house being built with wood, clay, straw. It was this most recent summer that stirred in me something new yet familiar, from childhood perhaps, indicative of deeper troves that may lie dormant for the other three seasons, yet delight in being drawn out in lengthy chapters during the one true season of light. There is no sweeter time to be alive than summer. It is the time to love what you’ve got while you’ve got it.

Would you like to take a magic rabbit carpet ride with me, this summer?