Upcoming Art Shows!


SVOS_D2A_May2018SVOS_D2A_May20182Chosen Family Art Show

Life has been full – ups and downs – but feeling strong and focused as of late.

While wrapping up my first phase of student teaching high school art, and working towards a masters in art education, I’ve been pursuing my own creative interests. I’m participating in Silicon Valley Open Studios during the first 2 weekends of May and will be selling some of my paintings, pottery, and prints at the art studio I substitute teach at – Drawn2Art in Los Altos.

Facebook Event  SVOS Artist Page – Renae McCollum

Also, during the month of May, one of my latest paintings will be part of Social Policy‘s art show “Chosen Family” in downtown San José. That spot has some great coffee/tea and food if you’re in the area. Opening reception is May 4th, 7PM-10PM.

LandEscapes12_SanJoasis_backyard sunset_web

Title: LandEscapes 12 – My San Joasis

Dimensions: 16″ X 20″
Artist Statement
Relocating to San José was challenging at first because of the drastic change in lifestyle I had to make from living abroad in the Netherlands and elsewhere in California before that. I felt like I couldn’t connect and did not plan on staying for more than one year. However, things change – I changed. The resistance to putting down roots was softened after I found love and a community.
After almost 4 years of living in the area, I can genuinely say I’ve made this place my home – My San Joasis. This painting is a vibrant portrayal of my backyard view. I think it captures the essence of how I’ve made a little oasis with my partner and exhibits the gratitude I have for our space and the family we created.
It’s part of a series of acrylic landscape paintings I call LandEscapes. Ultimately, these works of art were created to remember a connection I had with the earth and to escape into the beauty that I know won’t be around forever.

Weeping Land, revisited

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I recreated my Weeping Land piece and donated it to local nonprofit gallery Works/San José‘s for their annual auction fundraiser. The last day to bid is this Saturday, Dec. 2 by 6PM. If you’re in the area, please check it out – there are so many great artists who have something showing in the gallery.


My artist statement from the show:

Being a curious individual, I often ask myself questions about the intricate designs of the world, observing and appreciating the detailed environment around me. In the past four years, I have been turning these explorations into my own creative interpretations.

The acrylic painting series I’ve been developing lately is called “LandEscapes”; in it I focus on natural landforms, utilizing bright colors, contrasting values, and line. Through these paintings, I hope to bring to light environmental elements that are around us, allowing space for viewers to feel a familiar connection to the earth.

The flagship of the LandEscape series was the inspiration for this artwork you see today – a new reincarnation of the original piece “Weeping Land”. I wanted to express how nature is greatly affected by human development and exploitation. As I was creating this, people everywhere were feeling the results of some awful natural disasters: hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. I weep for them, I weep with them.

But I also challenge us all to face the realities of climate change and to get involved to make a needed difference in our communities.

80% of proceeds from this piece will go to support the great things Works/San José is doing; 20% will be sent to help with California wildfire relief to the Community Foundation of Sonoma County.


Here’s the original I did back in 2012:



Words from the Tao te Ching



I appreciate the Tao te Ching and reading through the wisdom it holds. I think this passage below is especially poignant right now and is what I wish would take shape in the minds & actions of our political leaders. If only…

When a country obtains great power,

it becomes like the sea;

all streams run downward into it.

The more powerful it grows,

the greater the need for humility.

Humility means trusting the Tao,

thus never needing to be defensive.

A great nation is like a great man:

When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.

Having realized it, he admits it.

Having admitted it, he corrects it.

He considers those who point out his faults

as his most benevolent teachers.

He thinks of his enemy

as the shadow that he himself casts.

If a nation is centered in the Tao,

if it nourishes its own people

and doesn’t meddle in the affairs of others,

it will be a light to all nations in the world.

Reflecting on a Saturday afternoon, I thought I’d share these thoughts of mine with you:

I’ve been working through some personal things in the past month of this new year and as January comes to an end, I’m feeling better and trying my best to get rid of things and thoughts that don’t serve me. Daily I’ve been setting aside time to: pay attention and be fully aware of my body (through yoga & meditation); shut off the mind from tangential wandering; breathe intentionally and focus on mindfulness. There is no need to worry about the future and the uncertainty it brings, instead enjoy the now and hold on to the gratitude and wholesome thoughts. Patience, remember, for this too shall pass.

Trying to remain above the cynicism.



Movin’ On Up

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Yin and Birds – Digital Artwork by Renae McCollum 2016

This artwork represents how I’m trying to see the world. My world, and all of yours. A place full of balance, freedom, peace and justice. It’s hard to imagine it though, and even harder to believe in it. I realize it’s just a dream, but perhaps a dream we all have in common? I can only hope.

Deep down I have to trust that all of humanity is rooted in the same desire to live in harmony with one another. We are all just a bunch of living, breathing organisms sharing the same resources and creating systems to “deal” with our surroundings. My hope one day is that we collectively can find a way to live respectfully and peacefully with each other AND with our own planet – to stop exploiting and abusing each other and our natural resources. It’s more than tolerance, more than acceptance, but real support, understanding, and unity. We have so much more in common than we realize…but I know it’s hard at the moment.

As for now, I can only keep the hope alive through art and music and kindness.

Perhaps Curtis Mayfield’s song “Move On Up” is the best thing for everyone to listen to right now. Such a gem 🙂 We’ll Move On Up…Enjoy!

Hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, toward your destination
You may find from time to time

Bight your lip, and take a trip
Though there may be wet road ahead
And you cannot slip
So move on up for peace will find
Into the steeple of beautiful people
Where there’s only one kind

So hush now child, and don’t you cry
Your folks might understand you, by and by
Move on up, and keep on wishing
Remember your dream is your only scheme
So keep on pushing

Take nothing less, than the second best
Do not obey, you must keep your say
You can past the test
Just move on up, to a greater day
With just a little faith
If you put your mind to it you can surely do it


On Becoming a Naturalist


The Master has mastered Nature, not in the sense of conquering it, but of becoming it. In surrendering to the Tao, in giving up all concepts, judgements, and desires, her mind has grown naturally compassionate” -Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

I have found a new balance and blend, or maybe more like a bridge between my most beloved worlds of nature + art. I’ve learned new methods of thinking and ways of how I can contribute positively to society. I’m embracing not knowing it all, but instead staying curious about everything. I’m developing shapes, forms – bigger ideas- before bogging the conceptualizations with details. It’s all happening…

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. – John Muir

In late June, I went through a week long immersion course at Sagehen Creek Research Station (just north of Lake Tahoe) to become a California Naturalist. To answer your questions of why, what, and wait what?, please read below. 🙂


Well, the reasons varied, but I initially went due to my sense of adventure and wonder. I wanted to learn more and gain skills to become an educator; I wanted to get away, to rejuvenate and reflect on how beautiful life is. I also wanted to connect deeper to this place I call home. I ended up meeting some of the most genuine, interesting, experienced, curious, kind, and amazing group of people – including my cohort of 15 + the teachers and leaders of the course. They all collectively made this experience a worth while professional (and personal) development week off.

What is a naturalist?

During that week, we were trained on how to share knowledge and interpret science on an empathetic level in order to inspire the blooming of more environmental stewards. We were given tools to essentially pull apart and deconstruct ecosystems, in order to build them back up again with our words and stories for better understanding. I like to think of it as a training on connecting people to place.

Naturalists also observe nature by drawing or photographing and journaling about their observations. I doubt my nature journals will lead to breakthrough discoveries and they might not be published like the great John Muir, but it’s a useful tool to really pay attention to a place.

Yes, there really are classes for this. Check out the UC website if you’re interested and want to learn more: calnat.ucanr.edu/

What did you do?

I stayed at a the research station for 7 days, 6 nights. This lively, serene, secluded place is about a 20 minute drive north of Truckee, CA and is owned by UC Berkeley. I had class most days from 9AM-9PM with breaks and deliciously catered meals in between. It was like adult summer camp. 🙂

We had a terrific professor of hydrology lead us through the entire course with brilliant guest speakers occasionally dropping by in our outdoor classroom. Some classes occurred while on nature walks, including geology, botany, and the search for beaver dams along the creek. We visited other places two of the days, including UC Davis’ research center (TERC) at Sierra Nevada College and learned about the natural history of Lake Tahoe. We also learned a great deal about the research that’s going on around the lake and around Sagehen’s experimental forest.

I recommend picking up the California Naturalist Handbook. It provides great overviews on geography and biology of CA, and highlights some challenges we are facing now with global warming.

We were also introduced to a cool app called iNaturalist. It’s a community for nature observations and has some great information on it. I also recommend checking this out if you take a lot of pictures of nature and are sometimes curious about what something’s name. I still have some observations to post for Sagehen Creek station, but my username is “renae” if you want to find me on it.

What now?

It was sad seeing the week end. It’s truly incredible how quickly I connected with a group of strangers from different walks of life. I’m very grateful I met everyone I did and learned all of the information that I could grasp in such a short amount of time. I was very inspired by my classmates’ passion for the environment. On the last day, we all presented what we will be doing for capstone projects upon the completion of the course. All 14 projects I heard about were quite impressive and I know these individuals will make positive differences in their communities. I hope to carry my own project out within the next few months and to begin volunteering with some local parks.

Although I slightly dreaded driving back to San Jose and returning to work, this week gave me the creative and inspiring boost I needed. Thanks to all of my fellow naturalists and our fearless leader for making these memories!

Stay curious 🙂



LandEscapes updates and t-shirt graphics

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There has been a delay in this series, but it will continue soon, hopefully next week if time allows. I’ve been busy working on a few portrait drawings for a good friend, some sweet graphics for work and a few designs for a friend’s wedding this weekend (I’ll be updating my portfolio in the next few days, so stay tuned).

I finished this 4th painting over a month ago, by adding more lines and texture to the ground… about time I show it off 🙂


I have a few sketches worked out for the next two paintings; they’ll be smaller then these last two featuring the red rocks of Utah, but hopefully just as intriguing.


In March I designed a t-shirt for the non-profit organization I work for; here’s the sketch I based it off of. The leaf at the top is part of the logo and is shown asymmetrically in the final design to give those astute viewers something to find.



Breathe easy 🙂




The sound of crashing waves

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The sound of crashing

waves engulfs my entire

being; beams of light.


Just finished developing the second painting to my new series: LandEscapes.

This was inspired after a magical evening spent just south of Big Sur, CA. We were just sitting there, totally engulfed by the waves crashing before our very eyes. There was no need to worry about anything, all of it was before us, washing out with the ebb of the ocean’s breaths. The sunlight was a spectacular site, creating a dramatic skyline from a storm that was creeping into the evening. It was hard to look away from the glowing halos the crashing waves carried as they threw themselves against the sea rocks.

You rock rocks. Thanks for the Escape.



Rethinking our waste


One challenge I’ve had for myself in the past year was to reduce my food waste. This forced me to pay attention to what I had in the fridge, eat leftovers quicker and eat what I buy and only buy what I know I’ll eat. Yes, this is still a work in progress and I’m no where close to being perfect about it. Yet, I think it’s a good challenge for everyone in California and in the US, especially with statistics mentioned in this NPR article:

It’s Time To Get Serious About Reducing Food Waste, Feds Say

1/3 of all food produced in the US ends up not even consumed! I wonder how much water that wastes in the end, California. Things to consider.

I think more cities need to collect food waste and turn it into a renewable nutrient-dense soil amendment, aka COMPOST! We might need more infrastructure and facilities to support this, but I think it’s worth paying tax dollars to reduce methane and turn our waste into something productive. Recology‬ is doing great things with the 3-bin system (ie. in SF, Marin county). The green bin shouldn’t be just for yard waste, like it is in San Jose, there are more items that can be composted. The 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) need one more friend: Let’s Rethink our wasteful ways.

If more cities mandate waste management to be on our minds, like how they do in San Francisco’s homes and restaurants, then our culture will shift and we might be able to reduce that ridiculous statistic mentioned above. Composting, giving to Food Banks, being mindful of what you’re buying when shopping – these are a few things we can all work on individually until all garbage services provide that 3rd “Compostables” bin. As for public gatherings/events, how can we reduce such large amounts of waste? I am amazed at the efforts of Green Mary; she is an amazing female with a great attitude and passion for zero waste at events. I was able to work a few shifts for her greening team this past year and really enjoyed the mission and message that the company was all about. It was a super dirty job, involving sorting waste at public events in SF, but really gave me perspective on how our society has such wasteful habits. “Out of sight out of mind”, eh? It’s easy to fall back on that idea, but I challenge any one reading this to look at the contents of your waste before you throw away and stop to think: Can I recycle this? Can I compost this? Can I reuse this? Did I need to get this in the first place? Let’s all rethink our wasteful habits and make a solid effort to reduce our collective contributions to the landfills.

That being said, I’d like to share something I’ve been learning about: how great worms are! I’ve been really interested in vermicompost this past year, and although it’s slimy and grimy, waste can be pretty beautiful. The castings (or poo) they produce from indulging in my food scraps create nutrient-dense soil amendments. I intend to harvest the rich compost for the first time this weekend. Hope it goes well and all my worms don’t wiggle away.

Here are a few signs I painted earlier in the summer for Our City Forest’s Community Nursery during my term as an AmeriCorps member. I was trying to get the compost area in shape and turn it productive, but it can be challenging (and exhausting) for many reasons that I won’t digress into. Enjoy my artwork and I hope it inspires someone to do their own research into different ways you can compost at home or work.