Only North Carolina?

“El Capitan” circa 2013

“El Capitan” circa 2013

A few years ago (before I moved to my current studio on Depot Street, I was in the Wedge Building in Asheville’s River Arts District. At that time, I was painting mostly local Western North Carolina mountain scenes — places that were within an hour or two drive from Asheville. I was beginning to sell well (much better than I’d ever thought I would or could) and I was really excited about what I was doing. I was selling artwork to people from the north as far as Maine and south as far as Florida, and from the east coast to the west coast.

Because my clients were from all over North America, the thought occurred to me that maybe I was unnecessarily limiting myself in my subject matter. My musings at the time went like this… “Since my art buyers are coming from literally all over the country, maybe I shouldn’t JUST paint local Western North Carolina landscapes. Maybe I should I branch out and paint some of the iconic scenes from all over the country.” ???

So I spent several months painting some of the most amazing landscapes this country has to offer. The painting I’m featuring on this blog post “El Capitan” is from that series. What I found though was that my sales shriveled to a small fraction of what they were before. Because I am dependent on making the most people happy as possible with my artwork, I gave up painting anything but generic or local North Carolina landscapes and…my sales went back to where they were before my little theme-based experiment. I learned something from that, although I confess I wish I could make a living painting more than JUST my own backyard. I love this part of the country, but this country is so huge and so beautiful — as an artist, I’d love to be able to paint all of it. But as a homeowner, I need to sell my artwork so I can pay my mortgage. So that has been my quandary.

So I write this blog post to ask for the opinions of anyone out there that might feel inclined to share…

1) Would you like to see at least some paintings that were not “North Carolina themed” and, if you could, would you be more inclined to purchase them than local themed paintings?

2) If you answered yes to question 1…What part of the country would you love to see depicted?

3) Do you have a favorite place in your own state that you would love to have depicted in a painting? Or have you visited somewhere in your travels that would make an awesome piece of art?

If the only artwork I can sell here in Asheville is North Carolina themed and generic landscapes, I’m content with that. I’m just wondering if I chose the wrong photos to work from or if the paintings I did back then just weren’t all that great (I hope I’m a better artist now than I was six years ago!). But I’d love your input. I really do listen. So thank you ahead of time for any opinion you have on the matter!

Rejuvenating Creativity!


As primarily a landscape painter, I'm repeatedly asked how I get inspired. Really? I live in an absolutely gorgeous part of the country! How could I not get inspired? Creative inspiration is all around me. Other artists live here, constantly creating (over 220 of them within a square mile of where I'm sitting). Asheville is full of amazingly creative restaurants, buskers, craft breweries and (last but oh not least)...nature. Quiet, peaceful and restorative nature. So, if you take just a bit of time, inspiration is really easy here. 

Yesterday, I made time. It was my day off (thanks Ruth for keeping the studio open for me!) and I needed to slow down and breathe a little. It being high tourist season, I've been really busy with commissions and paintings for my own studio here in Asheville's River Arts District. I love the pace this time of year but after several weeks of "pedal to the medal" frantic painting, I really needed a breather. And my gosh, I got one yesterday. 

Yesterday morning, I'd read about a trail I'd not tried before "the "Bust your Butt" trail. I couldn't resist it with a name like that.

I packed my lunch into my camelback, put on my hiking shoes and drove 3000 feet up! Nearly to Mt. Mitchell (highest point east of the Rockies), it was a pleasant 71 degrees (compared to 85 degrees back home in Asheville). Yesterday morning, I'd read about a trail I'd not tried before "the "Bust your Butt" trail. I couldn't resist it with a name like that. I soon found out why it got that name. It was a real workout. But here and there, I had to stop walking and just stand still and listen. Nothing. Really -- nothing at all. Silence. Some clouds enveloped the mountaintop and I walked through silence in the woods. Oh my gosh, "this is where good introverts go when they die!" I thought. Awesome. 

I've written before about the concept of "inhaling" in order to be able to create (or exhale). See my blog on that topic if you're interested. Why did it take me so long to slow down? I think I'd actually get more done if I made myself do this more often! 

This was definitely a very pleasant afternoon of "inhaling". I can't wait to get back to painting today. I'm so ready. 

Carving Mountains from Scratch

Mountain and lake landscape painting 1.jpg

Having recently completed a set of six new paintings for the gallery that represents me in Charleston, SC (Mitchell-Hill Gallery), I decided I wanted to search for a gallery somewhere in the Rocky Mountain states. There are several ways to hunt down a gallery to represent you, but most of those ways do not work very well. The most common way is to send them an email and ask. But galleries can get over a hundred emails a month from artists and I would assume they just delete most of those emails as they get them. Some galleries actually state on their website what they ask from an artist that wants representation, and an artist following those requests is respectful, and that's a good way to start a relationship.

There are several ways to hunt down a gallery...but most of those ways do not work VERY well.

The other way though is for an artist to enter their work in regional shows, because gallery owners often go to shows to check out the art and shop for new artists to represent. Because my work is so hard to explain in a photo (they are dimensional and reflective), this last route is the way for me to go I think. So I am looking for key shows out west that I can enter a body of work into that would "fit" into that region. So for instance, I am looking to paint more rugged mountains that our Appalachians and Blue Ridge. These new paintings should like like somewhere out west (think Rocky Mountains) rather than western North Carolina or the Asheville vicinity. And I LOVE that challenge. I love painting new themes because that keeps my work fresh and my brain entertained!

So here is the beginning of a painting of Dream Lake (just southwest of Estes Park, Colorado). This is a quintessential Rocky Mountain lake scene, so it's perfect for my purposes. I just began applying modeling compound with my palette knife yesterday, building and carving the scene on my canvas. This is now about ready for the next step (applying aluminum leaf), then painting.

I'm really excited about painting this new body of work. We'll see where it goes! 

Mountain and lake landscape painting 2.jpg
Mountain and lake landscape painting 3.jpg

The Organ Mountains

"The Organ Mountains" (45" x 49")

"The Organ Mountains" (45" x 49")

This painting epitomizes my very favorite thing about painting a commission: I literally get to paint scenes from all over the world! This just completed piece "The Organ Mountains" is depicting a mountain range just east of Las Cruces, New Mexico. They were named the "organ" mountains because the jagged peaks reminded early settlers of a pipe organ (so the story goes). 

Planning for this painting began last December when a very nice local couple were visiting my art studio in Asheville's River Arts District. They liked my technique and asked if I ever did commission work. I love that question. I explained that "YES!" I do commissions and that they comprise over half of all I paint at this point. So they pulled out their iPhone and showed me photos of these incredible desert mountains and I was totally hooked. After agreeing to the size, they sent me several photos they liked, which I kind of combined together, i.e. I took the composition of the mountain range in one of the photos and sketched my composition based on that photo. But it was dark and the coloring was off, so I used the lighting and coloring of a second painting and vegetation from a third photo. After I completed the sketch, texturized it and applied the metallic leaf, I colorized it with multiple layers of oil paint and called in my clients to take a look. They asked if I could insert a massive cumulus cloud above the mountains, and insert an ocotillo plant and some yucca's (all cacti indigenous to that region). A week later, I completed the painting, applied the gold to the edges  and poured the resin. 

I love the American South West. I've spent a lot of time exploring the area but it's so, SO vast, there's no way anyone could see it all in a lifetime. If you like very wide open spaces and dramatic geology, the west is definitely worth a visit (and definitely worth commissioning a painting I might add).