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Imagination ~ Childhood Revelations from Nature

Updated: Jul 23

All my life I have looked for unseen spirits and hidden images in aspects of nature. Even as a child, my creative imagination and my artistic expressions sought to reveal the other layers of what I perceived and believed was beneath my perceptions.

I grew up in Long Beach, California. The weather was usually a sunny constant, and the occasional rain only smelled of wet pavement. The beach was a calm breakwater beach bereft of shells, seasonally invaded by sunbathers and the smell of coconut tanning lotion. The only sea life experience was fishing with my dad, or digging clams in the mud by concrete piers.

When I was nine, my parents bought vacation property on the Hood Canal in Washington State. In contrast, Washington was a lush wilderness that filled me with fascination. I loved the dense, mysterious woods, miles of oyster beaches, tide pools, rivers, and waterfalls. The gentle rain smelled of fresh trees, and the sky was as complex a world as the woods, with its dark cloud formations in layers of light and shadow. The sunsets lit the clouds over snow-capped mountains and reflected on the brilliant water. I witnessed salmon spawning in the creek, eagles and osprey fishing in the Puget Sound, and gentle deer migrating to the beach at low tide to lick the salt off the rocks.

I often found driftwood on the beach and I could see the shapes of dragons and other mysterious creatures within it. My skill at carving the driftwood wasn’t satisfying enough, so I began to draw the creatures in the wood. My desire to draw was to reveal what I could perceive to myself and others.

sketches of dragons in driftwood by Kim McElroy
Kim's high school sketches of dragons in driftwood

The love of nature and what I could see and feel in her presence was the true beginning of the inspiration for my Horses in the Elements Series. In these works of art, I reveal images of horses that are present in the elements of earth, air, fire and water.

A pastel painting of a wave in Kauai featuring Mare's Heads formation as horses in the wave
Detail of horses in "Daybreak"

When I muse upon the years I spent combing northwest beaches and rivers. I am so grateful I had those first experiences and access to nature. It made an indelible imprint on my spirit. I still live in the Northwest, and am thankful I live in such a beautiful part of the world. Every day the beauty that surrounds me inspires me to create.

I think nature gives us a sense of belonging. It is inspiring to notice what aspects of nature are personal to us. Horses are one of the ways I receive my inner guidance, so I see them everywhere in nature, and usually when their appearance has meaning for me. Nature reflects message of wisdom. What do you perceive?

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