Western North Carolina

Mountain Top Experiences

Roan-Mountain.jpg

I'd heard of Roan Mountain for a long time. It's one of those "you have to hike this trial!" sort of places you hear about. I feel a bit like I've cheated myself because I've lived in Asheville, North Carolina for almost ten years and Joy and I have hiked countless trails, but we had not tackled Roan Mountain. And it's kind of odd that we waited so long, because as a landscape painter in the River Arts District, I paint local mountain scenes all the time. Every hike we take, I've got my camera ready and when I get back to my art studio, I start composing the next painting based on the best of the best photos. So hiking and photos go hand-in-hand for me, and they are both a very big part of what I end up painting. So, why did it take this long to discover Roan Mountain for myself? I have no excuses.

It turns out Roan Mountain isn't just a peak (i.e. it's not a singular mountain) but a whole range of bald peaks (no trees on the top) morphing into each other as you walk along Appalachian Trail heading north. So with our hiking poles, Camelbak's and lunch sacks in hand, we trekked from Carver's Gap north. The day was unusually clear and comfortable (I guess that's sort of unusual for that location) and we made good time -- even with all my stops to take photos. Finally, we reached the monument at the top of Grassy Ridge Bald and honestly, this afforded the most spectacular view I'd seen in Western North Carolina. Look one way, and you gaze about a hundred miles into North Carolina. Turn your head to the left, and you gaze about a hundred miles into Tennessee. Absolutely spectacular.

That hike gave me ideas for several paintings for the coming year. What kind of awesome job do I have anyway!? I just realized I can take my gas expenses as a tax write-off!

For more info on Roan Mountain, here's a great link.

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!

Catawba Falls

North Carolina waterfall

I love Catawba Falls. It's a really beautiful waterfall at the end of a (sometimes steep) trail just down the mountain from us in Old Fort, North Carolina. The trail winds along the river and ends at a cliff and this really beautiful waterfall and pool (great for swimming in summer by the way). 

Joy and I discovered Catawba Falls with the help of my daughter Camden. She had hiked here before and told us about the trail so...we had to discover it ourselves. This is one of countless waterfalls within an hour of our home here in Asheville. What an amazing thing it is to be a landscape painter in the River Arts District, so close to so much...uh...landscape! We try to get out and hike every day off (weather and house chores permitting). 

This painting was commissioned by some very nice folks (Asheville locals) who came into my art studio and asked a question I LOVE to get asked: "Do you do commissions? We have a specific photo of a very special place to us". I love that. Of course, I was excited to talk to them about the project (about half of what I sell are commissions). I love commissions for many reasons. They are a pre-paid painting so uh, that's nice. But it's also a great way to not only get a nice piece of art (I'll keep painting it until it IS a nice piece of art) but it's also the opportunity to create something sentimental to the client. I've painted photos from honeymoons and vacations all over the world. 

So...Catawba Falls is done and is to be picked up this week. If you want directions to the trail, just email me or swing by my Asheville studio. Cheers!

"Cullasaja Falls" Completion photo

North Carolina Landscape - Cullasaja Falls

Well here it is. Done. After just over 13 months, it's now hanging on my wall, and it's hard for me to get used to. It's actually shocking every time I pass by. "OMG! Okay yes, there you are!"  It's like someone belting out a strain from a Wagnerian opera every time you walk by it (it's very hard to ignore).

I learned a whole lot from this project. I hadn't really don't much with the "waterfall theme" before, but now that I've gotten my feet wet so to speak (pardon the pun), I've got two other waterfall paintings nearly done (though much smaller in scale). 

No other painting has been so challenging and really, no other has given me so much joy in it's creation. 

"Under The Waterfall" by Thomas Hardy

'Whenever I plunge my arm, like this, 
In a basin of water, I never miss
The sweet sharp sense of a fugitive day
Fetched back from its thickening shroud of gray. 
Hence the only prime
And real love-rhyme
That I know by heart, 
And that leaves no smart, 
Is the purl of a little valley fall
About three spans wide and two spans tall
Over a table of solid rock, 
And into a scoop of the self-same block; 
The purl of a runlet that never ceases
In stir of kingdoms, in wars, in peaces; 
With a hollow boiling voice it speaks
And has spoken since hills were turfless peaks.'

'And why gives this the only prime
Idea to you of a real love-rhyme? 
And why does plunging your arm in a bowl
Full of spring water, bring throbs to your soul?'

'Well, under the fall, in a crease of the stone, 
Though precisely where none ever has known, 
Jammed darkly, nothing to show how prized, 
And by now with its smoothness opalized, 
Is a grinking glass: 
For, down that pass
My lover and I
Walked under a sky
Of blue with a leaf-wove awning of green, 
In the burn of August, to paint the scene, 
And we placed our basket of fruit and wine
By the runlet's rim, where we sat to dine; 
And when we had drunk from the glass together, 
Arched by the oak-copse from the weather, 
I held the vessel to rinse in the fall, 
Where it slipped, and it sank, and was past recall, 
Though we stooped and plumbed the little abyss
With long bared arms. There the glass still is. 
And, as said, if I thrust my arm below
Cold water in a basin or bowl, a throe
From the past awakens a sense of that time, 
And the glass we used, and the cascade's rhyme. 
The basin seems the pool, and its edge
The hard smooth face of the brook-side ledge, 
And the leafy pattern of china-ware
The hanging plants that were bathing there.

'By night, by day, when it shines or lours, 
There lies intact that chalice of ours, 
And its presence adds to the rhyme of love
Persistently sung by the fall above. 
No lip has touched it since his and mine
In turns therefrom sipped lovers' wine.'

Winter in the Summer!

"Top of the Mountain" (18" x 22")

"Top of the Mountain" (18" x 22")

I have the tendency of being plagued with constant restlessness..."I'm too cold. I can't wait for summer"..."I'm too hot. I can't wait for winter". I have to remind myself to fully enjoy and appreciate where I am in the year, you know? I mean, each season has incredible beauty. I have learned two things living in a part of the country that gets four bonafide seasons:

1) Each season is a delight.

2) As an artist, winter always sells. 

I have no idea why my second point is true. I would have thought a winter themed painting would be a "slow mover" when it comes to sales but my winter paintings are still selling in the summer so...being the keen entrepreneur that I am, I will continue to paint winter themes as longs as they sell. This painting in particular gives me great joy. It is called "Top of the Mountain" and features a stand of balsam trees heavily laden will snow. And as in most winter paintings, it is almost monochromatic. I think reducing a composition to nearly black and white (as you do in a winter scene) is really challenging and if pulled off right (hopefully!) is really dramatic. 

So this summer, as you're about to enjoy a long weekend of inhaling bar-b-qued hot dogs, hamburgers and enjoying home made ice cream, remember...there are less than six months till Christmas. 

Woods in Winter
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When winter winds are piercing chill, 
And through the hawthorn blows the gale, 
With solemn feet I tread the hill, 
That overbrows the lonely vale. 

O'er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods, 
The embracing sunbeams chastely play, 
And gladden these deep solitudes. 

Where, twisted round the barren oak, 
The summer vine in beauty clung, 
And summer winds the stillness broke, 
The crystal icicle is hung. 

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river's gradual tide, 
Shrilly the skater's iron rings, 
And voices fill the woodland side. 

Alas! how changed from the fair scene, 
When birds sang out their mellow lay, 
And winds were soft, and woods were green, 
And the song ceased not with the day! 

But still wild music is abroad, 
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd; 
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord, 
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud. 

Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song; 
I hear it in the opening year, 
I listen, and it cheers me long.