Inspiration for a painting...

How does a painting begin?

As an artist, I’m often asked how I begin an oil painting. For me, the answer is simple: I go hiking (see some of my favorite Asheville hiking trails). The Blue Ridge mountains are beautiful and full of inspiration to me. There are literally hundreds of trails criss-crossing the woods through the mountains. One of the really great things about living in Asheville (in Western North Carolina) is it’s proximity to some really beautiful natural wilderness. 

There are two types of trails I enjoy — the trails that just meander through the forest and the trails that are “destination” trails. The later end in an amazing vista or waterfall (we have countless waterfalls in the Blue Ridge. So we done our hiking boots and get out of town (usually just 20 minutes will do it) find the “trail of the day” and set out. The trick is to go slow and soak in the details. What I’m really looking for are the surprising moments of unbelievable beauty, when you come around a corner and around a tree and you have to stop, and something hits you: “this place feels different, spiritual, holy”. Maybe it’s the quality of light or the type of trees or the way the trail winds through the woods — I don’t know WHY some places feel special, I just know when I come across one of them. That’s when I take out a sketchbook or my camera and record the place. 

Usually, the mountains of Western North Carolina are very kind to me — I walk away after most hikes with some awesome ideas for a future piece of art, and those ideas give birth to a painting. Hopefully, it will end up being artwork that will not only create pleasure in the viewer — I really want to inspire the viewer. 

This is a day of happiness, sweet peace, 

And heavenly sunshine; upon which conven'd 

In full assembly fair, once more we view, 

And hail with voice expressive of the heart, 

Patrons and sons of this illustrious hall.

This hall more worthy of its rising fame 

Than hall on mountain or romantic hill, 

Where Druid bards sang to the hero's praise, 

While round their woods and barren heaths was heard 

The shrill calm echo of th' enchanting shell.

Than all those halls and lordly palaces 

Where in the days of chivalry, each knight, 

And baron brave in military pride 

Shone in the brass and burning steel of war; 

For in this hall more worthy of a strain 

No envious sound forbidding peace is heard, 

Fierce song of battle kindling martial rage 

And desp'rate purpose in heroic minds: 

But sacred truth fair science and each grace 

Of virtue born; health, elegance and ease 

And temp'rate mirth in social intercourse 

Convey rich pleasure to the mind; and oft 

The sacred muse in heaven-breathing song 

Doth wrap the soul in extasy divine, 

Inspiring joy and sentiment which not 

The tale of war or song of Druids gave.

The song of Druids or the tale of war 

With martial vigour every breast inspir'd, 

With valour fierce and love of deathless fame; 

But here a rich and splendid throng conven'd 

From many a distant city and fair town, 

Or rural seat by shore or mountain-stream, 

Breathe joy and blessing to the human race, 

Give countenance to arts themselves have known, 

Inspire the love of heights themselves have reach'd, 

Of noble science to enlarge the mind, 

Of truth and virtue to adorn the soul, 

And make the human nature grow divine.


—by Hugh Henry Brackenridge