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Exploring Art & Nature: Visions to Reconnect to the Land

My name is Derek Schultz. As a fine artist on the coast of California, I paint connections between people and the land which sustains us. Join me as I explore the fine arts both ancient and modern, and our ongoing relationships with plants, animals, and the landscape.

California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz

I studied oil painting at UC Santa Cruz from 2004 to 2008. But my journey into art began long before that time, and has been growing ever since.

Growing up on the shores of the Morro Bay estuary brought nature into my consciousness from a young age. The drifting summer fog – the thick, warm estuary mud rich with life. Mysteries surrounded me in the branches of every wind-blown cypress tree and over the crest of every sand dune.

I carried my love of nature and mystery through a tumultuous adolescence. While I struggled with my mental health, addiction, and my ability to fit into the world, I found that exploring nature and making art was an avenue to peace and harmonious self-expression.

I became interested in world cultures as I studied for my bachelor's degree. I was drawn to expressions and design styles which represented our relationships with nature: Japanese and Chinese landscape painting; calligraphic brushwork with roots in magic and animal divination; African masks and textile arts which inspired the modernists; South Pacific tattoo traditions; Nordic runes and spells.

Raccoon sketch by California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.

My paintings evolved from chaotic abstract portraits and settled gradually into more recognizable forms: owls peering out from the dark, the glowing eyes of raccoons, animal friends who had guided me out of my own darkness and into something more settled, more meaningful, more restful and respectful.

I found a path of sobriety and meditation, and through this peace I was able to produce work which I truly felt positive about.

California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz with his painting of a barn owl and sky lupines
Barn owl & sky lupine.

Images Born of Connection

My work is about paying respect to the nonhuman beings who surround us, who enrich our lives, and who we depend upon for our existence.

Rabbit skull with hawk feathers.  Tattoo design by California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.
Rabbit skull & hawk feather tattoo design.

As I explored nature up and down the coast of California, I found myself amazed by the beauty and unique adaptations of animals and plants who make this landscape so special. I found myself wanting to pay homage to these animals and plants through my art.

Soon, I was designing tattoos for friends who felt the same way about their relationship to nature. This connected with my fine art training, and helped me to develop my own style, a fusion of ancient art traditions and modernism, focused on flora and fauna of the California bioregion. Trying to find a way to describe it, I started calling this style bioregional neoprimitive art.

Commissioned Paintings & Designs

I believe that art can be a deep personal expression of our connections to our loved ones. These loved ones don't necessarily have to be human; for thousands of years our identity as humans was built on relationships to the rest of nature – animals and plants. These relationships still exist today, and shape who we are.

Red-shouldered hawk with post oak and snake.  Original painting commission by nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.

To learn more about how I create fully personalized custom paintings, click the button below.

A Journal of Visions

California Grizzly & San Joaquin Kit Fox.  Tattoo design painting by California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.
California Grizzly & San Joaquin Kit Fox.

Symbolism in art offers an infinite variety of ways to layer meaning into images. The images themselves become visions, alive with meaning – stories told through picture-making. Over time, I realized that so much of my work is about telling stories, and about using this storytelling to honor and center our connections to the living world around us.

In this ongoing journal of visions I hope to share some of my own stories. Moments of connection which have brought me the range of emotions: awe, wonder, fear, melancholy, joy, reflection, peace, and ultimately an ever-deepening love of the natural world.

I would be honored to share these stories and connections with you, and to hear your own stories which add to the tapestry we all share.


California poppy.  Painting by California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.
California poppy.

Art is a powerful force for good in our lives. It can bring us personal healing, and it can serve as a celebration of the people and places we love. It has been a central part of what makes us human for thousands of years; it's at the very core of our being.

My never-ending quest is not only to continue to learn from the great masters of art all around the world, both now and from ancient times immemorial; but to use my craft to create visions which help connect us all. We are all bound together with all life on this world, shapeshifting over time and sharing in the beauty of every moment on Earth.

It is my hope to bring forth a bit more celebration of this beauty, a bit more connection between relatives as we remember our unity. I hope that my visions of reconnection speak to you, and that you see your own stories of connection with the land reflected in my paintings. They are for you, and for all humans on this Earth.

Thanks for spending a bit of your time with me. If you'd like to stay in touch, I'd love to send you occasional e-mail updates about my work. You can subscribe here.

California nature & wildlife artist Derek Schultz.


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