"The Trail That Never Ends"

Appalachian Trail.jpg

About a month ago, I had some really nice visitors to my studio in Asheville’s River Arts District. They spent some time looking at all my landscape oil paintings and approached me as I was painting at my work station up front. They asked me if I ever did commissions (I LOVE COMMISSIONS!) and after talking them through the process, they gave me a photo of theirs which was taken somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. I was excited to be able to honestly say I’ve now tackled the A.T. 

“it just kept going and going and going...”

This trail is infamous and wonderful. One friend of mine tried to hike it a few years ago and the main complaint was “it just kept going and going and going”. Yes. It goes on forever. 

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180+ mile long public footpath that traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens, and completed in 1937, it criss-crosses through twelve states along the eastern seaboard.

Completing the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike; only about one in four makes it all the way. A typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T.

I’ve not actually hiked much of the A.T. but some of my very favorite vistas are on the trial: Max Patch and Roan Mountain. If you’re in North Carolina (or…Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine), it’s definitely worth exploring. And in the meantime, enjoy the painting!

The Biltmore Estate

"Autumn Afternoon at the Biltmore" 

"Autumn Afternoon at the Biltmore" 

"Autumn Afternoon at the Biltmore" began with a request from a local couple back in December. They were visiting my Asheville art studio and gallery and it turns out they have season passes to the Biltmore Estate and were describing a scene which featured the narrow road between the reflection pond and the French Broad River. After agreeing on the size and price, they went back to the Biltmore and took photos which became the basis for this piece.

This was a challenging piece in that the composition is not just based on one photo but five. For instance, the boat in the foreground was in a separate photo and the sun burst in the trees was in another photo. The actual roadway has vegetation on the side of the river that pretty much blocks the view of the water so...for this painting, we did a bit of judicious weeding. At the very last minute, Canada geese were added into the reflection pond at the request of my clients and since I have a soft spot in my heart for ducks and geese, I added them happily. Honestly, what I am describing is one of the most important aspects of a commission: I'm not just painting a scene, but assembling a composition based on five photos which encapsulated all the warm memories this couple has of days of wandering and hiking around the Biltmore Estate. The result (I hope) is not just a nice painting but something sentimental. I painted memories in this one and had a great time doing it and the fact that the Biltmore Estate is the subject matter made it even better. 

The first year Joy and I moved to Asheville, we purchased season passes to the Biltmore as well. It's a great way to really enjoy not just the amazing house but the grounds as well. There are literally miles of trails to hike and several gardens to explore such as the formal and informal gardens designed by the amazing landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. If you have the chance to visit Asheville, North Carolina, it's definitely worth saving your pennies to visit. And...if you end up taking an awesome photo during your visit, send it my way! 



Song of Autumn

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"Song of Autumn" is inspired by a drive Joy and I took on the Blue Ridge Parkway last month. This was one of those "WAIT! Stop the car and drink this in!!" moments. Magical. It was mid-afternoon on a wonderful, crisp October day and we drove through one of those "tunnels" of tree branches stretching out overhead. Up ahead was a clearing and a scenic viewpoint (we have many of those on the parkway). I didn't really notice it then, but when I got back to my Asheville art studio, I looked through the photos I took and one of them in particular really struck me --  I loved the blue dot at the end of the tunnel created by the clearing. Since blue is the complimentary color of orange, it worked! I geeked out and thought this would make an awesome painting. So I got busy creating. I am very happy with the results of that photo.

To Autumn
by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain'd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

"The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Forest of Autumn Gold

Forest of Autumn Gold.jpg

Living in Asheville, North Carolina as an artist in the River Arts District, I don't see many birch trees in the woods around here. Western North Carolina has river birches and they're nice and all, but we do not have proper "paper birch" trees. Thankfully, I don't have to just paint local scenes (though I do end up celebrating the mountains and trees of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains more than anything else). This painting, "Forest of Autumn Gold" is based on my memories of a certain October thirty four years ago when Joy and I visited the state of Maine on our honeymoon. Birch trees (proper paper birch!!) were everywhere. I remember the sound of the leaves in the wind roared like a waterfall. So beautiful.

Birch and aspen trees are magnificent in art. I lump them together simply because with my somewhat impressionistic style, I paint both birch and aspen trees in a similar manor. They are graphically perfect! Black on white. What a great design!! And they stand out against the foliage perfectly in any season. Seriously, in winter, spring, summer or (especially autumn), the tree trunks of the birch or aspen trees always stands out against the color of the leaves. Think about it...what other tree trunk steals the thunder of it's leafy canopy like birch or aspen? Okay, the Sequoia Gigantia in California probably wins but that's the only other tree that does. 

So I celebrate the beauty of autumn in Maine (or Colorado, depending on whether you see these as paper birch or aspens). Either answer is correct. Cheers!