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From the Artist’s Perspective: Understanding Oaks

The Climate Science Alliance, in partnership with the Connecting Wildlands & Communities (CWC) Team at San Diego State University, is excited to host Kim Reasor as our 2020 Climate Art Fellow. Kim has been working with the team since June to visualize the major take homes of this project for a public audience. In this edition of “From the Artist’s Perspective,” hear from Kim directly on how the process is going and what she has completed so far!

A few weeks ago, I went on a quest to see an oak riparian area near Warner Springs. As I’ve gotten deeper into both my diptych project and the climate refugia Venn diagram cabinet (yes I know that’s a mouthful), oak trees have become a recurring theme.

We hiked down a steep powerline trail to reach a creek at Sky Oaks Field Station (SDSU). It was a hot day and because I am heat intolerant, I deployed both my UV-blocking umbrella and a cooling vest. They worked like a charm, despite the umbrella getting into a couple of disagreements with the shrubs on the way down!

Even though the creek bed was dry, the air was noticeably cooler in the shade of oaks and willows.

Quick watercolor sketch and my view from the creek bed.

I found a rock to sit on and made a quick watercolor sketch of an oak tree perched above some boulders, with some deergrass in the foreground. My field sketches are often very abstract, and this one was no exception. For me the act of drawing or painting from life helps me to be present in the moment, and it deeply embeds the memory of being in a particular spot. In other words, my sketch is like a time machine that takes me back to that experience when I look at it. This augments the photographs I take for reference with a bit of lived reality.

After thinking so hard about climate refugia all summer, it was interesting to experience what it felt like to be in one, or what I imagine one to be like. Getting out of the heat was a relief.

On the way back, we saw a scrub jay! My new favorite bird! I had no idea they ate acorns.

“Each jay caches up to five thousand acorns during the fall months, eventually digging up and consuming most of them during succeeding seasons. The forgotten ones, which are protected from drying out by leaf litter and dirt, have a good chance of germinating. According to University of California scientists, `An industrious group of jays can mount an acorn airlift that is nothing short of incredible, moving a forest worth of trees every autumn. Often the acorns are planted in the ideal spot for growing an oak.’ Biologists believe California scrub-jays, who carry acorns much farther than squirrels, play a key role in the distribution and germination of California’s oaks.”

-- Secrets of the Oak Woodlands: Plants and Animals among California’s Oaks by Kate Marianchild, 2014

Images of oaks, acorns and scrub-jays have been incorporated into the final art pieces for the CWC Project. I look forward to sharing them.

- Kim Reasor, 2020


To learn more about Kim Reasor and her work please visit: or connect with her on Instagram @kim_reasor

For updates on the Connecting Wildlands and Communities Project, please visit:


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