Category: PRESS

A project so big that my life will forever be that which comes after, and now, that what has come before. Do I define my art or does my art define me? Do I get to designate that what and who I love, or have the energetic, magnetic, attractive forces within this place of my birth and of my life, sculpted me to be the maker of this and the next Field Atlases to come? Am I alone in the endeavor or do I dare think I may be a momentary pulse in a greater becoming? (obi)

Sunset Magazine features Obi Kaufmann

I could actually be not more pleased with the feature on me and my work in the new issue of Sunset Magazine (JUNE 2019) – on shelves now. I am deeply thankful to all those who had a part in helping tell this story: @sunsetmag @sunsetphoto @indigoferajeans @kamenroad @filson1897 @jamcollective @heydaybooks -Obi

Link here to preorder The State of Water by Obi Kaufmann

The unedited text, as submitted regarding WILD GIFTS, by Obi Kaufmann

  1. Ditch the car. “The panoply of nature doesn’t reveal itself at 65 miles per hour. Walking is important, stopping even more so. I backpack at an ambling rate. I’ve been on so many treks with hikers who feel like it is some kind of race. It really isn’t. Stop by the creek and study the birds. Break out the journal and the binoculars often. Record your impression. Allow yourself to be astonished. Enjoy a couple of light lunches and see how many flowers you can count. Try drawing a fern leaf and let the process be more important than the product. With fifteen minutes in a wildflower meadow, I have never not been amazed at what I found. The more you look, the more there is. Nature is magic like that.”
  1. Watch for patterns. “Nature is arranged into apprehendable patterns. Our minds were built by evolution to appreciate and know these patterns. My books aren’t arranged like field guides, I don’t explain what you are looking at. I explain how these larger, living forces work together and coalesce to form nature’s bigger drama. If you want to learn natural history, for example, start with a family of plants or birds, don’t start with an individual species. Widen the lens, investigate larger trends in the ecology around you. The bigger picture will always reveal more that the little picture and is a better path to understanding than memorizing specific details.”
  1. Read a book. “Spend at least as much time reading as doing any other activity. More than walking, more than painting, I read. Books are trails that uncover the nature of thought itself. The unraveling of the contemporary mind away from the ability to concentrate in extended periods of focus. Alive today are some of the best nature writers in history and I hang on their every word like its food. Some of my favorite, working authors on your local bookstore right now are, in no particular order, David Rains Wallace, Gretel Ehrlich, Terry Tempest Williams, Rebecca Solnit, Gary Snyder, Naomi Kline, Barry Lopez, Diane Ackerman, Wendell Berry, Robert Macfarlane, David George Haskell, and Edward O. Wilson.”
  1. Join a Land Trust. “The Land Trust movement is growing at an amazing rate. This apolitical network of good people working to preserve the natural character of millions of acres of land across the west, is direly important to support. Is there a local patch of habitat you are concerned about? chances are that one of several hundred, local land trusts is working to keep it safe. You can support land trusts, not only with dollars, but by volunteering. Getting out and doing some trail work, cleaning up a trashed site, or some other communal work is about as satisfying a day in nature as can be had.”
  1. Don’t Panic. “More and more, when I present my work to the public, I find people who, with wild and yet exhausted eyes, ask me desperately what they can do to help the unraveling world they perceive as falling apart around them. I know this feeling well and I am very sympathetic to it. My first response is to ask the person who asked when the last time they went camping was? The number one thing you can do to help defend the intact, wild spirit of nature is to take care of yourself. So many people spend hours a day in their car and then spend the rest of the day staring at a computer. This is not how to engage in the movement. The movement needs you rested, grounded and connected. Go outside. Go outside for a good long while. Take off your shoes. Feel the grass in your toes. Drink water. Breathe deep. Eat well. Do this every day. Do this several times a day. The days of our existential alienation from nature will end soon enough. The post-carbon economy is on its way. Imagine that day is today. Take a moment to observe the bird, or the flower, or the passing cloud and marvel that you are the eye of the living universe perceiving the thing of the living universe. You, yourself are the natural world.”

Obi Kaufmann’s next book “The State of Water, Understand California’s Most Precious Natural Resource” is available now for preorder through and will be everywhere on June 1st. Obi will be going on an extensive book tour that begins in Truckee on June 2nd at Word after Word books, with a San Francisco launch at FILSON on June 6th. For details, go to For information of the FORESTCITY collaboration, go to and to order the COYOTETHUNDER FIELD BAG, go to Follow Obi on instagram @coyotethunder

Blazing a New Trail

Obi Kaufmann in his Oakland studio, shot by @thisismaiphotography for @clutchmagazinejapan.

Review By Paul Saffo.

John Muir would have loved “The California Field Atlas,” a compellingly poetic exploration of the living environment of his beloved adopted state. Muir famously observed that, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” The “Field Atlas” is organized around the deep interconnections of life, geography and climate, echoing Muir’s intuition. As author Obi Kaufmann writes in his introduction, “I want to coax this single piece of the universe into opening up its secrets.”

Like Muir, both Kaufmann and his “Field Atlas” defy categorization. Muir was a naturalist, writer, geologist, botanist, inventor, engineer and environmentalist. Kaufman is a painter, poet, topographer, natural historian, activist and one-time tattoo artist who happens to have a love of science and a knack for calculus. Oh, and he’s a clothing designer, too (he’s selling a nifty tweed field coat straight from the 19th century). Like Muir, Kaufmann is a passionate hiker and explorer of California’s back country. “Field Atlas” draws from Kaufmann’s watercolors, maps and writings assembled over 20 years of his explorations.

The result is a book I can’t quite describe — and also can’t put down. And I am not alone; the entire 8,000-copy first printing of “Field Atlas” sold out in a matter of weeks after its November release, no small feat for a book that weighs two pounds and costs $45. A second printing was rushed out even as copies were being resold online for prices ranging from $145 to $1,500.

It is clear what this book is not. It is chockful of critter illustrations, but it most definitely is not a wildlife guide. The maps in the “Field Atlas” put trails front and center, but lack the detail to help a backpacker recover from a missed turn. “Field Atlas” is too heavy to carry on a day hike, much less on a through-hike on the Muir Trail. It is also too general to advise a hiker wondering about the name of a peak on the horizon or how to identify a bird flitting around a campsite. And, by the way, there is not a single road depicted on any map in the “Field Atlas,” so don’t count on it to help you get from home to your favorite trailhead.

This is a book about systems. Its chapters are organized around systems: of water and rivers, of wind and weather, of fire and forests, of deserts and wildlife. Humans are not excluded, but the “Field Atlas” exhibits a certain ambiguity regarding the human presence in California. Kaufmann notes that humans have been present in California for at least 15,000 years and expresses the expectation that they will be present for at least another 15,000 years. An entire chapter of the “Field Atlas” is devoted to a county-level description of California’s natural environment. But one cannot escape the sense that Kaufmann would be happier if everyone who headed toward California after 1530 had turned back.

The “Field Atlas” is a book best read at home while contemplating the subtle interdependencies of California’s wildlands or planning one’s next backpacking trip. It will also fit nicely in a glove compartment, at the ready to reveal the deep story behind the landscape on the other side of the windshield. The “Field Atlas” won’t help the lost find their way home, but it might lead them to realize they were never lost to begin with.

There is one question I can’t shake. Is the “Field Atlas” a one-off, or the first exemplar of a new genre? I suspect that it is the latter, a tome that will inspire others to follow the trail Kaufmann has blazed. California has a proud history of birthing new environmental genres, including the legendary “California Water Atlas” (published in 1979) and the extraordinary series of coffee table books published by the Sierra Club in the late 1960s, which individually led to the creation of new national monuments and collectively helped launch the modern environmental movement. Leafing through Kaufmann’s “Field Atlas,” I can’t help but wonder who it will inspire and what will follow. 

Page 159 of Clutch Magazine Japan, June 2018 – the first inprint mention of the California Lands Trilogy – coming 2019



Obi Kaufmann in the San Francisco Chronicle

by Sophia Markoulakis

On the morning of Oct. 11, Obi Kaufmann was wrapping up the first leg of his book tour en route to the Lost Coast. Days later, he gave the keynote address to the annual fundraising dinner for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildland Center while his beloved Bay Area was burning. The theme of the evening was resiliency. Most would say his new book, “The California Field Atlas” (Heyday; $45), carries a similar ethos.

 When I first spoke with Kaufmann, a month before fire ravaged over 100,000 acres in Northern California, we talked about the state’s ability to heal itself. Today, the landscape is forever changed and he’s steadfast in his views on how to live within the state’s ecosystem, saying that, “The book works best as a manual of conservation, a handbook to the deep, long-term and ancient ecological mechanisms of the state and its themes are not swayed by the events, terrible or otherwise, that play themselves out year after year across California’s rich and vital topography.”


Kaufmann, 44, grew up in the shadows of Mount Diablo, where he was more at home with the mountain’s sage and oak than he was with the suburban streets. As the child of an astrophysicist and psychologist, he was accustomed to a certain level of intellectual levitation and spent his formative years juggling both his love of nature and aptitude for academics. A marriage of the two resulted in a degree in fine art. He worked as a gallery artist until 10 years ago, when he recommitted himself to California’s trails and traded his oils for a more portable medium (watercolor). His introspective first book of art, poetry and prose is a result of his circuitous journey through the state’s varied regions.

“It’s my love story to California,” he says of his tome. “I’ve been walking California my whole life, and this book represents years of exploring and painting, organizing it and putting it all down on paper,” he says.

This phase of Kaufmann’s artistic expedition, culminating in a dense state atlas the size of a car’s glove compartment, began when Kaufmann met Heyday’s acquisitions editor, Lindsie Bear, through friends two years ago.

“I was already familiar with his work and admired his tremendous vision and perspective, so when I met him, I casually asked if he ever thought of writing a book,” Bear says of their first conversation.

“He said, very intensely, ‘I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me that, and I’ve had a vision for a book for 20 years. It will be 600 pages, include 300 hand-drawn maps, and if I stop everything I’m doing, I think I can complete it in a year.’ My reaction was, ‘Wow, OK, send me some samples and we’ll see.’” A week later, according to Bear, Kaufmann delivered a polished book proposal that her colleagues described as a “unicorn” title that you see once a decade. “We thought, this is a massive undertaking and he’s the guy to get this done,” she says.

The book, released in early September, has become Heyday’s best-selling first printing of any book in the Berkeley publishing house’s history. Copies of the first printing sold out before its release.

Though Kaufmann describes the book as an indispensable road-trip companion, there are no actual roads in the book. It won’t help you find your way out of the woods, but it will provide you with a greater appreciation for the state’s ecological jewels and landmarks. Kaufmann’s writing offers up hope during this trying time for conservationism and climatic pushback.

The first eight chapters represent Kaufmann’s idea of ecological parallel groupings. Chapter titles like “Of Earth and Mountains” and “Forest and Fires” detail corresponding geography and history, and stress nature’s resourcefulness and responses to its power. “We were looking for a different kind of mapping companion, full of these bridges that connect aesthetics and ecology,” he says. “The redwood tree’s toolbox allows it to live for 2,000 years. What calamities would you encounter if you lived that long? Floods, fire and mudslides … and you need a strategy to survive.”

Chapter nine is dedicated to the state’s counties, illustrated through roadless maps with graphic icons that correspond to geographical landmarks. “These are not Google maps. They’re full of paint, which is an anathema to today’s graphics. Ultimately, the user is rewarded once they are deciphered. They open up like a rose, and the text is sublimated by understanding them,” Kaufmann explains.

In addition to hiking California, his other pursuits — tattoo art, poetry, and being the former chief storyteller for fragrance line Juniper Ridge — hint at a person who is so deeply connected to his purpose here on earth that he’s unabashedly unaware of his effect on others. “My work always gravitates towards synthesis, not analysis,” he says.

Experiencing a commonality with others on his hiking expeditions is a highlight for Kaufmann. When Mats Anderson of the Swedish denim brand Indigofera, whom he met through Juniper Ridge, joined him on a previous backpacking trip, they formed a friendship. When Anderson learned of the book deal, he was inspired to create a capsule collection of clothes called the California Hiking Series in honor of it and its message of conservation.

Anderson describes the collaboration as a merging of the minds. “People like Obi help me paint the picture of Indigofera in a way that I can’t do myself,” he said via email. “We had been on the trail together several times, sharing an interest in nature and wanting to be dressed for the occasion.”

Anderson considered Kaufmann’s penchant for painting en plein air when he designed large pockets on the vest and jacket. Natural fabrics like cotton, linen, hemp and wool were used, reflecting both men’s distaste for synthetic materials that make one stand out instead of blend in with the environment.

“When you look at my Instagram, some might say I look like a mountain man, but I’m actually more town and country,” Kaufmann says of his desire to look properly dressed for a hike or a drink in town after. “I love the idea of owning fewer, better things. These clothes are made for today and are constructed to last.”

The capsule includes a banded, long-sleeve shirt, a field vest and a heavy linen jacket. There’s also a graphic Norwegian-sourced lambswool blanket with Kaufmann’s Coyote and Thunder logo. The pieces, available exclusively at Oakland’s Standard & Strange, render a John Muir-like image of 19th century gentlemen’s attire. “Nature refuels our battery, resets our clock — so why not be dressed for it,” he says.

Kaufmann’s cautious optimism and appeal is undeniable as people search for authenticity — in nature, in fashion, in literature and art. His commitment to California makes us all want to tread lighter on a place that gives us so much. “We have to look at nature as living networks, systems that play out despite the 21st century’s urban veneer that humanity has successfully imposed across the West. The ultimate goal of the book is one full of hope, course and vision — a welcome antidote in these days of endless political miasma on a national scale,” he says.

Sophia Markoulakis is a Peninsula freelance writer. Email:

“The California Field Atlas” is available at, and via

Kaufmann’s next reading is 6-8 p.m. Nov. 24 at Oakland Yard Wine Shop, 420 40th St., Oakland.

all photos of Obi by Paul Collins @paulnemirahcollins

The Ghostdancer Interview

Interview with Obi Kaufmann by @theghostdancer Rhiannon Griego

Wilderness preservationist, illustrator, poet and artist Obi Kaufmann is this week’s maker. Obi and I have been circulating one another’s work for 4 years. When I first began exploring the realm of connection through the web of instagram, I happened across his profile. His illustrations and poetic kissings really struck a chord and the further I dove into his world, the more my appreciation grew for Obi. He’s the real deal and I value individuals who walk what they preach in the world. Immersing himself in the backcountry by sunrises and campfire, he thoughtfully draws the mirrors of the natural world around him. He’s been a driving force behind the harvest and cultivation of the brand, Juniper Ridge and his voice is being echoed through his call for our generations to wake up to the toxic damage upon Mother Earth. A few days ago, his recent book titled ” California Field Atlas ” was released for pre-order and the first wave of orders has been thundering in. I’m convinced every school should have this gentlemen educating young minds on the awareness of the living world around and his book should be required reading to facilitate a visual experience of the Californian landscape. Do yourselves a favor, pre-order and follow the trail of Obi below.

What is your brand/name:

I started the website as a hub for all my art, and my land-conservation efforts in 2010. It feels like a million years ago. A few years later I joined instagram as @coyotethunder, which has become a bit of a moniker for me, as if my first name is Coyote and my last, Thunder. I’ve found a really enjoyable groove with instagram, where I can connect with my clients and my collectors and speak my poetic voice and those who get it, get it strongly – I think social media works best on that level. I suppose the brand and the man have merged on some level: for the most part I don’t post about my personal life at all.

What is your heritage:

I am Californian. My parents were both scientists: my father, an astrophysicist and my mother, a psychologist. I was doomed to be an artist. I spent my childhood mapping Mount Diablo, a 3,500 peak, twenty five miles east of San Francisco. Covered in Oaks and patrolled by a healthy population of mountain lions, I found my invisible family there – between the spider webs and the sage flowers – a frequency that dispelled all my youthful loneliness and opened me up to the great mysteries of the natural world.

 What are 3 reference points of inspiration for your work: (philosophy/culture):

For the past year and a half I’ve been pouring all my heart into the creation of the CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS – a book that is being published by HEYDAY out of Berkeley. I’ve been so inspired lately by that team that runs and creates for the publishing house and the support they’ve offered me. John Muir Laws creates the most beautiful field guides to exploring the California back country and his work and way of truly seeing nature for both its scientific and its artistic quality is super inspiring. Tom Killion (@thomaskillion) is another HEYDAY artist who has been making woodblock landscape prints for decades and whose recent work with the poet-of-poets Gary Snyder forever sings to my heart. HEYDAY was started by Malcolm Margolin – look him up, he wrote THE OHLONE WAY – who has become a good friend and whose generosity of spirit is constantly humbling is a man I’ve learned to look to as an ambassador of all that is good and worthy in this world.

I would like to also point out the work of tattoo artist Matt Decker (@deckro) of Premium tattoo in Oakland. As a disclaimer, it should be noted that Matt Decker is also my best friend. Recently, Matt has invited me into his shop as a working ink slinger, and our art and friendship has only profited by the collaboration. The man is an art-making machine, and everyday we bounce a galaxy of creative possibilities off one another, and I just can’t imagine my career right now without him as part of it.

When thinking about other great, creative forces in my life, I need to shout out Mats Andersson, the genius behind INDIGOFERA (@indigoferajeans). For the past year, Mats and I have been collaborating on a capsule line of men’s apparel called THE CALIFORNIA HIKING SERIES; this line brings calls to mind an extinct era of the gentlemen hiker, the naturalist who would rather be identifying wildflowers than being into extreme outdoor sports, for example. Mats’ eye for detail, his knowledge of what makes a thing of quality at all, and the kindness of his spirit are all qualities that I feel so lucky to have gotten a chance to glean from at all.

What are 3 skills you’ve learned in representing yourself as an artist:

I learn something everyday, and when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, that works out to a lot of lessons. The old adage of art being only partially inspiration and mostly perspiration works for me. I like to get up before dawn and I like to work all day and into the night. I am not exactly sure where the energy comes from, but I like to joke that I am a father and I am a farmer, but I have no children and I have no land, so I’m working on a surplus of budgeted energy. Art has never been a hobby to me, but a serious endeavour that has always demanded all of my guts, every last one of them. That is step one: an unquestioning desire and determination to hold that living fire every damn day. If you don’t have that, you are sunk from the beginning. If you do have that, you can move onto step two: riding the surf. Waves of success come and are inevitably followed by troughs of doubt, questioning and wasteland visions. Riding that bronco takes decades to acclimate to. The third step, I would say is to trust the surrender: your voice will change over your career and I’ve learned to welcome the evolution. I revel now in the incremental progress through the seasons of my skill, my style and my voice. What happens on this trail next as we travel through this forest only time will tell.

What are 3 skills you believe are a necessity to be an independent artist/designer?

On the rote-businessy end of things, I’ve found that all my success has come from being available. That means that 1. You’ve got to go to things and meet people face to face. You need a community, a support group, a network of resources that extends more deeply than a  social media platform and that also means fostering relationships – relationships are your greatest resource. Keep those emails going out and coming in. Engage. 2. Deliver. Procrastination is the doom of the hired artist – get to work immediately and approach it with as honest a heart as you can muster. Let the sun be your battery & take care of your health. Your body is the best tool you’ve got. 3. Protect yourself. Establish boundaries and expectations along all points on your delivery chain – from commission, to dealer, to supplier, to collector. Trust your gut in all relations: if you are working too hard to making something happen with someone – I mean working hard on making a creative deal happen at all – it probably isn’t right. Learn to cut your losses and let your rolling stone gather no moss.

What moved you to make with your hands:

I think all artists are called to chase the study of aesthetics, whether consciously or not. The idea of atonement with larger concepts of beauty through  the process of arrest: the chase of the arresting moment, when we are held in stasis – no desire, no loss, no suffering – the eye of the universe perceives the thing of the universe and are one. Beautiful art affords our better minds this ability. It is actually quite common, and as satisfying as any sensation I know. To make great art takes a lifetime. A lifetime based on surrender to a fleeting thing that breaks us for just a moment to make us more whole for the rest of the journey.

If you could travel anywhere today, where would you travel and why?

I live in Oakland, California. I consider it my hometown although I was born in Los Angeles. Oakland is the most beautiful city in the world. The sky is an uncracked Sapphire and the gardens are in bloom all year. Tonight I walked around the lake in the heart of the city where dozens of double-crested cormorants are making their yearly nests in the tall elm trees, just off Grand Avenue. Tomorrow I am headed to Lake Tahoe to wonder at how beautifully the water can mirror the heavens, and then next week I am headed to Mount Shasta, to the father mountain – there I will crawl around the creeks that feed Lake Siskiyou, searching for the low-hanging lilies that shyly show their bright colors from under shaded, seeping stones this time of year. The whole place that is this Golden State is a garden and I couldn’t imagine a more perfect home. That is where I would most like to travel – where I am always trying to travel: home.

3 Favorite songs at the moment?

Funny you should ask; Matt and I spend most days at the tattoo shop listening to a lot of loud music. In fact, we’ve been debating rock’s top 50 albums of all time for a couple of months now.  We have the results posted on the wall of the shop. It is an ongoing process. I live by loud music: real, heavy, raw, beautiful, ugly, I don’t care. I am going to sidestep your question and answer with the three albums from this year that are in heavy rotation: 1. Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression – makes me laugh, keeps me calm and levels me out. 2. King Woman’s Created in the Image of Suffering – an Oakland band making the most innovative heavy music anywhere: transcendent, haunting and resonant. 3. Graves at Sea’s The Curse that is – hurts me in all the right ways – super heavy and moody, classical and ferocious.

 What advice would your 65 year old self give to you today?

Relish these moments. The days pulse by like a raven’s wing – be sure to move slowly. My book is about to be published and it seems to me that from here on my life will be defined by all that was before the CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS and all that came after; like a birth, or a death. I suppose life would be as sweet as it ever could be were to be more aware of this as a daily occurrence, really.

What change would you most like to see in the world?

I think that stagnation is an illusion. I see nothing but change in the world. This dynamic ball. This frenetic creature. This furious angel. I work for land conservation – I consider myself an activist, because I don’t have a world view that gives the world and all its resources to us unconditionally. I see all natural systems as living systems and am anxious for the coming paradigm-shift when this perspective may have its time in the sun. I spend a lot of time lamenting the passing of the Holocene into the Anthropocene age of the Earth, simply because I find great beauty and wonder in optimized bio-diversity across all ecosystems and right now we are seeing levels of species diversity fall across the board.

Any additional thoughts on the importance of artisanal/handmade goods in a fast pace Western World?

The CALIFORNIA FIELD ATLAS is a book of over 250 hand-painted maps that describe California by the shaping forces of earth, air, fire and water. Map making, as all art making can be, is an exercise in power. This is the core idea behind the agenda of my art these days: you have the power to shape the world with your art, influence it to be a more holistic place. Take that power and use that power for good.


Drawing Inspiration From Nature

Drawing Inspiration from Nature

Obi Kaufmann’s illustrations and poetry reflect the full spectrum of California’s wilderness and is dedicated to its preservation.

by Daniel Crockett

for Wildside, The Enchanted Life of Hunters and Gatherers

published by Gestalten Books, 2016


Obi Kaufmann is a man of many layers and rhythms, closely responding to his surroundings in the natural world. His love of the Californian wild emerges in a passionate series of paintings, illustrations, maps, and poems. A wilderness advocate, Obi has been walking and painting California for his entire life, the songs of the road emerging through his hands. Under the handle Coyote and Thunder, this is now translating into larger projects such as the forthcoming California Field Atlas, Coyote and Thunder (words that Obi has tattooed on his left hand) is his creative outlet.

When asked whether he feels that nature is magic, Obi responds by saying, “I hesitate at all the clumsy words that try to describe the world of phenomena as a world that is in its nature beyond our power to intuit. Words like magic, divinity, and spirit feel like sloppy language. In my art I express how I believe this world is more beautiful, deep, and profound than I could possibly know and the pursuit thereby is endless and infinitely joyful.” This strength of emotion shines brightly in his work through its simplicity and warmth.


Based out of Oakland, California (“the grittiest and most beautiful little city in America,” according to Obi), he was born in Hollywood and raised in San Francisco’s East Bay. It is California as a whole that moves his heart. “My inspiration was born in all things California, and there it will forever live.” Obi says. “I’ve logged thousands of walking miles across this rolling paradise and can hear its song in every painting, poem, and map I will make.”

Over time, he has become a “willing subject to a lifelong parade of massive, heady doses of all the beauty that the Californian wilderness has to offer.” Now, he is ready to give it all back. This intention is being woven together in a much bigger project called the California Field Atlas, which will be published by Heyday Books in 2017. In Obi’s own words, the project will “transmit this love for the larger story of these spiraling landscapes, my once and future home. I am retreading all those steps: hundreds perhaps thousands of foot miles rendered, mapped, and painted.” In its totality, this labor of love translates into “a compendium of hundreds of hand-painted maps and trail paintings. My mission is to compose what is a love letter to the land of gold, oak, condor and granite.”


The California Field Atlas is an exhaustive, lyrical ultimate road trip guide. Every inch of the state is detailed and every page drips with soul and color. Like everything Obi does, there is an underlying purpose to uncover an ancient Californian ecology. The project describes his “journey towards understanding California as a single breathing, moving, living system that holds one epic narrative: a thread of natural history bright, poetic, and undeniable.” The considered intensity and lyrical flair with which Obi describes his work reminds us how moved he is by the natural world, in a way that many people no longer comprehend.


Obi takes his inspiration from a rich tradition of frontier naturalists, David Douglas to John Muir, Wallace Stegner to Gary Snyder, and finally Joan Didion. “I respond to writers and naturalists who endeavor to see things as they are,” Obi says, “and it may be unexpected that I find more inspiration there than I so often do in my fellow painters.” Obi draws from a deep wellspring of sources to inform his work, the common thread of zeal for the California he loves so much. “I find there, a battery inside myself that needs a regular refueling of wilderness and solitude to maintain the me-of-this-world,” he says. “I adore cities and all they offer, but give me those mountains! Let them climb over me as much as I climb over them and I will be an easier man on my return. I need the wide open, diverse forests of the Sierra Nevada, empty with light and shining in granite.”

Obi’s techniques themselves start with his choice of paintbrush: “I get asked a lot what kind of paint I use,” he says, “my response is that it is not about the paint at all. I often use wine, beer, coffee, and lake water. I think about the brush. A quality brush can make smeared dirt look fantastic.” There is no doubt that patience drives him to perfect his art. “I am not a religious man. In fact I don’t do very much with any discipline at all. I have too much Coyote in me. But I do paint every day. I often work even as I am hiking, trying not to trip.” Obi describes his painting as a conversation with himself that never gets tired. But it does not always come easy. He is worried that if he stopes, he will forget how. “It is like I am holding a very long rope,” he says, “and trying to find the end of it, while holding on to it as a life-line, an anchor.” Echoing the fears of artists the world over, he concludes: “The calling is a mixed bag, to be sure.”005

Obi is passionate about wilderness conservation. As he says: “Save the land, save the habitat, and the wild will hold.” He is also excited about the potential for rewilding to restore Californian wildlife: “California, the wilderness state, is the perfect testing ground for this evolving philosophy of how best to maintain the wilderness area we’ve already protected.”

This love of California permeates everything Obi does: “What we have here is a wholly unique place on this earth, and whatever may come, my fate is gladly bound to it. I will always be a wilderness advocate and will work on adding my voice to the collective struggle for its survival, but I’ve found the beauty of it all speaks loud enough for itself to crack even the hardest of hearts.” Thus his direction is confirmed: through the creativity he is gifted with, Obi Kaufmann will inspire others to recognize the California of his dreams.


The near future will see Obi working with the Human Collective Group in New York City, with Tuleyome in Northern California on a poetry project on the newly designated Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. He is also planning on mapping condors in the mountains of behind Santa Barbara, with long-range plans to watch the flowers emerge in spring in the Joshua Tree National Park with the National Park Service.

He has come to view the state of California as a circle. “I see these sprawling ladscapes as a single, epic narrative that has invented its own way of being a place at all,” he says, “an isolated network that attends to its own sphere with continuing invention regardless of any blueprint that might be given to other, sorrowful places bereft of deserts, mountains, coasts, rivers, glaciers, volcanoes, redwoods, salmon, and condor.” Obi himself is also creating reality, fitting snugly into the wild lands he loves, delighted at never having to stop.


photography: Heidi Zumbrum, Colin McCarthy

Illustrations: Obi Kaufmann, texts: Elias Carlson

2015 gift guide

When thinking about what the first Gift Guide from Coyote and Thunder might look like, I knew right off, I would need some rules. Number one, was that I don’t work for the company, so Juniper Ridge is out, although I happen to believe that @juniperridge makes some of the best gift-type things on the planet. I’ve been employed by Juniper Ridge for nearly ten years, so I just can’t offer an unbiased opinion there. The second rule is that I really want to support small artists and craftspeople; tiny companies that are held together by vision and deep (even crazy) creativity. Third, I want to run a really broad gambit of art-types: cooking, jewelry, apparel, useful, beautiful, domestic, international. I want it all. Fourth, perhaps with some dynamic tension against rule one, I want to mix-in and acknowledge brands I have worked with, and hope to work with again, but also shout out brands whom I’ve never even met. Rule five, you’ve got to be on instagram {the links below}; I don’t care if you only have ten followers, but I do care that you are building a portfolio there. Instagram is my favorite social media, in fact I see it more as a game than a thing itself; a game of communication and profound creativity. And I suppose the profound creativity bit is the bit that means the most: a rock & roll x-factor that compromises for nothing. I’ve narrowed the whole list down to twenty and I’m not going to rank them; the fruit is too different: an apple and an orange are two, completely different, covetable cravings. Enjoy. >> Obi. >> @coyotethunder on instagram


a.001. QUITOKEETO @quitokeeto

all things elegant, handmade, and warmly loved throughout your kitchen. The magic factor is high with these precious tools.


b.002. 18 WAITS @18waits

A new definition of sophistication; an under-served yet vitally important voice in men’s apparel and accessory design.


c.003. Crawford Denim & Vintage Co. @crawforddenimandvintage

An army of soul that you just can’t beat. Everything is beautiful and this, next-level apparel is here to pound you silly until you acknowledge it.


d.004. COOPERHILL @cooperhill

In a world of posers, there are some guys you can trust. I don’t need or want a tool designed by a designer, give me a hatchet I know was made by a guy who really works trails.


e.005. ANCESTRY QUARTERLY @ancestryquarterly

Probably my favorite magazine of all time. Consider the brilliant tagline: between day job and day dream. Between the scholar and the junkie, and yet both.


f.006. BRASS ARROW @brass_arrow

Anything and everything Noel Bennetto touches shines with a deep mysticism and style that this world has never seen. She seems to transmit her designs from somewhere so familiar yet entirely original, patient, ancient and beautiful.


g.007. THE BAD WEATHER @thebadweather

I will never get enough of Nick Potash; groovy, rugged, unapologetic, contemporary, covetous, metal-as-fuck… I could go on, and do.


h.008. HOMESTEAD APOTHECARY @homesteadapothecary

Oakland local heroes, reviving ancient traditions to modern relevancy. Stop by the shop and learn something about living a healthy, meaningful life without all the pretense that normally comes with such things. photo by sfherbalist – link here.


i.009. OAKLAND SURF CLUB @oaklandsurfclub

What was until recently, a mecca for cutting edge apparel & excellent, with a next-level vibe in the heart of downtown Oakland, has evolved to become a line of clothing, equally authentic in feel, cut and vision. The only sweatshirt I’m gonna wear ever again.


j.010. WINTER SESSION @winter_session 

Winter Session is a little team with a giant vision; a vision vast enough to take on the world, but tempered with enough attention to original design and quality to actually be able to win.


k.011. KIMBERLIN CO. @kimberlinco

You probably know him from his other feed @erickimberlin; dig into this man’s talents and you will find a rich, fathomless depth of talent and execution, one of the greats.


l.011. THIRD EYE HEADLAMPS @thirdeyeheadlamps

My one, true-gear entry into the list: Third Eye Headlamps got it right. They took the dorkiest piece of equipment and made it stylish and interesting; the lamp works fantastic and the tool is indispensable. A must for the mountain-person in your life. photo by @camptrend


m.012. RANCHO GORDO @rancho_gordo

My “desert island” food; Rancho Gordo beans – ultimate nutrition and sustainability in a dizzying array of styles, colors and flavors. Local, diverse, responsible, simple… everything I want in my food.


n.013. REVISIT PRODUCTS @revisitproducts

Finely crafted, everyday objects, rich with story, texture and color. Revisit products carry a proud, detailed quality rarely found these days.


o.014. EARTH TU FACE @earthtuface

Some may think that organic, synthetic-free, plant-based skin care is just for girls. they’d be wrong: it is the future. Earth Tu Face cleanse is the new normal for all people.


p.015. BULLDOGGE BOOKS @bulldoggebooks

Innovation in something as mundane as a sketchbooks is a rarity indeed, but when found, often accompanies quality and am acknowledgement of tradition and the talent to look past it. The handmade leather sketchbooks by Bulldogge illustrate this point like few others.


q.016. FAIR ENDS @fairends

Simple design and the absence of any kind of preciousness defines the look and feel of the Fair Ends line of apparel. The hats are super fresh but maintain a classic line and could be from anytime in the past or the future.


r.017. BOLT & ARROW @boltandarrow

Hard goods for the wild at heart… New to the world, this brand from the coastal mountains of Southern California sings soul and freshness, new designs for a new age of adventure; proud westerners making proud work.


s.018. TYSA DESIGNS @tysadesigns

The designs of Tysa Wright are transcendent. Appreciable as something new, full of beautiful vibes and clearly made, full of love; these genre-crossing designs lay somewhere between road trip and red carpet; and quench the thirst of those of us who yearn for such things.


t.019. COMMUNITY GRAINS @community_grains

Who doesn’t like the best bread in the world? Although, some of us are braver than others when it comes to making it. If you do choose to go do the path of the bread-maker, use Community Grains. The secret to good bread is good, fresh ingredients.


u.020. STRONG MEDICINE STUDIO @strongmedicinestudio

Jenna Knight, jewelry designer, is hanging out, most of the time, on Melrose Ave at American River Mining co. an amazing shop full of wonderous and oh-so-stylish collections of turquoise and leather. Each piece she produces is full of California magic of the most potent kind.