Song of Autumn

Song of Autumn.jpg

"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!

Autumn River Song

Autumn River Song.jpg

"Autumn River Song". This was a fun one. A while back, I had a gentleman visit my art studio in Asheville's River Arts District and he spent a good deal of time wandering around studying my artwork. We had a really nice conversation and then he left, taking a card.  This was not that unusual. Visitors to the art studio take a LOT of business cards and that's cool. That's what they're there for. But this guy called back a few days later and said he wanted to surprise his girlfriend with a painting of mine. That made my day. I love commissions!

He got on my website and found an older painting of mine that he liked, but wanted a few things changed. Here's the original painting:

Appalachian Stream.jpg

He asked that some of the rocks be removed from the right side and replace the foreground rocks with new moss-covered rocks. And he wanted autumn colors rather than summer greens. I love commissions! And I love it when a client feels the freedom to get involved (he actually spent a good deal of time hunting for the foreground rocks he wanted).

I love revisting a painting I enjoyed the first time, and tweaking it, creating a brand new and unique piece of art. It's like taking leftovers of a great leg of lamb and potato dinner and making stew out of it,  you know? It's like and unlike the original "go-round". I once heard that there really is nothing unique, just unique ways of re-combining preexisting elements, and I think that's right. How many ways can just four elements (ADTP for instance) be combined and recombined to create over 7,000,000 unique individual people? I think this really does apply to art. How many times did Monet paint waterlilies or St.Paul's cathedral? Countless. But each one is unique and he obviously revisted the idea because it gave him joy. That's how creativity works.

And when I see this new piece that combined old and new ideas, it gives me a great deal of joy. That's why I paint. So if you're considering commissioning a unique oil painting, let's talk! It's a blast.



Waterfalls Everywhere!

There are a lot of things I learned from my grand experiment of painting a 6' x 8' painting of Cullasaja Falls. One of the things I learned is how to paint a waterfall! I was so happy with the way my giant painting went, I decided to work on a couple of smaller paintings featuring iconic waterfalls of western North Carolina. This first piece (below) depicts Dry Falls, a truly beautiful and majestic waterfall on Hwy. 64 north of Highlands, NC. Actually, Dry Falls is one of six waterfalls on the same river that eventually plunges over Cullasaja Falls. 

If you're in western North Carolina and want an absolutely beautiful drive, head west from Asheville to the town of Highlands. From there, you'll want to head north on a very narrow, windy and wonderful road (Highway 64), you get to the first of six waterfalls, Sequoyah Falls. These falls tumble out of Lake Sequoyah and into the Cullasaja River. A few miles north is Bridalveil Falls followed by Dry Creek Falls, Dry Falls, Bust Your Butt Falls (apparently aptly named) and finally Cullasaja Falls (the subject of the largest single panel painting I've ever completed). 

"Dry Falls" (24" x 32")

"Dry Falls" (24" x 32")

Sacred Space

Benefits of Hiking the Hills of North Carolina

"Sacred Space" (18" x 24") Sometimes when I'm walking in the hills of western North Carolina, far from the hustle and bustle... just me, trees and God...I come across a space that feels like it's holy. Sorry if that sounds metaphysical. I don't know if it's the angle of the light or the placement of trees or what -- it just feels like a place where the veil between me and heaven is very thin. This painting depicts such a place and when I saw it, I had to paint it.

"Sacred Space" (18" x 24")

"Sacred Space" (18" x 24")

Transformation of an idea...

Old Idea, New Painting

A year or so ago, I did a painting that was sent to the gallery in Charleston that represents me (Mitchell-Hill Gallery). It's title was "Through Gates of Splendor". The painting was inspired by a photo I had of a road through coastal pines (originally taken on a road on the central California coast). Living now in the south, I tweaked the pines and transformed them into gnarled old oak trees. Now it's reminiscent of a road to any number antebellum plantations (pretty tricky, eh?)

Well, I recently had some clients from California and they loved the original painting, but asked if I would be offended if the color scheme was changed to a more "autumnal" feel. I explained that I am NEVER offended when I client gets involved. That's really the fun of a commission -- people can have a hand in their artwork and then it's not just "my" painting -- they have ownership of it as well.

There is this prevailing idea that artists are super-sensitive about their creations (because by and large, people are very reluctant to ask me to change this or that in their painting). The opinion seems to be that since I am an artist, I am probably temperamental (hence the term 'temperamental artist'). "You are the professional, and you painted coastal evergreens and maybe it would insult you to ask for autumn colors (since pines do not turn orange and red, hence the term 'evergreen')." But as an artist, I can look at a beautiful road through Monterey coastal pines and see southern oak trees. Why couldn't we bring autumn's mantle to the trees? That's really the joy of being an can create.

So NO, I'm not temperamental about taking an idea and tweaking it. I do that myself all the time, and at least in this case...I am extremely please with the result.

"Through Gates of Splendor"

"Through Gates of Splendor"

"Autumnal Arms Enfolding"

"Autumnal Arms Enfolding"



Hyatt Ridge (26" x 16")

Hyatt Ridge

Hyatt Ridge

Last October, my kids were visiting Asheville and one of the days, we ran over to the Bryson City area to go hiking. As we entered Smoky Mountains National Park (on the "Road to Nowhere"), we got to the end of the road (in the middle of...nowhere) and parked the car. After walking through an old abandoned auto tunnel (they ran out of money in the Depression and simply stopped the road project) we started on the trail. The place was silent except for the sound of the wind in the trees and the "crunch" of leaves underfoot. Talk about a source of inspiration. How could I not paint this? This was a perfect day. This painting is my attempt to capture that day last autumn.