landscapes

SURVEY: GLOSSY OR SATIN

Even before I became a full-time oil painter in Asheville's River Arts District, I was developing a unique way to create a painting using dimension, both in the build-up of the composition and in the finish (which has mostly been using a thick, high-gloss, solar-resistant resin). In fact at this point, I think I'm probably known for that "shiny" resin finish. I like it a lot. It allows me to embed flecks of gold that are essentially "floating" above the surface of the actual painting.

That said, my largest commissions over the last couple of years have been with a satin varnish finish, which leaves all the texture visible (and touchable) and is not nearly as reflective as the high gloss resin. And I'm really liking the results of that finish as well.

Lately, I have more and more people asking about the satin finish and so I'm thinking I need to listen.

And so I'm asking for your brutally honest opinion:

Would you suggest I continue to produce paintings with a high gloss resin finish or would you honestly prefer a softer finish that leaves more of the texture showing and is much less reflective? You won't hurt my feelings either way and on the contrary, you'll really help me decide what direction I need to go now.  (SEE PHOTOS BELOW FOR EXAMPLES OF BOTH)

HIGH GLOSS FINISH USING RESIN

HIGH GLOSS FINISH USING RESIN

SATIN FINISH USING SYNTHETIC (NON-YELLOWING) VARNISH

SATIN FINISH USING SYNTHETIC (NON-YELLOWING) VARNISH

So, what do you think? One or the other, some of both? Mostly one, some of the other? I'm really open to listening. If you could leave your opinion below (so they're all consolidated in one place), that would really be appreciated! Thank you!

The Art of Dinner (with the Dallas Cowboys)

Summer Path Through the Birch Trees_edited-1.jpg

On Tuesday, June 5, Omni's Grove Park Inn asked me to be involved in an event called "The Art of Dinner". The way it works is that for a select group of people (the DALLAS COWBOYS actually), the chef from The Grove Park Inn is going to create a five course dinner which is their take gastronomic "interpretation" of my painting (below) entitled "Summer Walks Remembered", a painting inspired by teenage memories of one of the most amazing summers I had as a teenager. 

Back in the day, my parents piled three kids and our dog (a Saint Bernard) into our station wagon and headed up the California coast from Los Angeles. We stopped and camped along the Oregon coast, visited family in the Seattle area and then headed north into Canada. Our eventual goal was Francois Lake, British Columbia to pick up my younger brother who was staying at a friends family cabin on the north shore of this incredible lake. This was true wilderness at the time. I remember one afternoon I went walking by myself up a pathway that led eventually to an upper wheat field that used to be used for livestock when the homestead was a working farm. The pathway was lined with aspen trees and wildflowers. It was one of those places you randomly visit and think "wait, stop. Stop and breathe. Remember this." And I did. The painting I'm bringing with me is based upon that very memory of a beautiful warm summer day in northern British Columbia. 

I have no idea what a gourmet, edible version of my painting will be, but talk about creative! I love it. I'll be there with my painting, explain it, meet the chef and of course the players. What an incredible thing it is to live in Asheville!

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.

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.'

Finishing up "My Marathon"

Pouring the resin (FINALLY!)

Pouring the resin (FINALLY!)

I have been waiting for this resin pour for over a year now. This painting, my depiction of Cullasaja Falls, (pronounced Kull-uh-say-ja) was begun a year ago now, and at 6' x 8', it is the largest single panel painting I've ever done. It also is the most detailed piece I've worked on. Over this past year, I've had multiple visitors to my River Arts District art studio ask "Oh, when are you finishing THAT one!?" My answer has usually been "I have no idea. I'll just keep working on it until it says it's done".

The Journey

My first post about this piece was back on July 18th of last year. That post shows where this all started (a blank wood panel). A month later, my panel was prepped and I was beginning to apply my texture sketch. By November, my texture was applied and I was ready to seal the painting, preparing it for the application of the aluminum leaf. Eleven months later, I was in the "home stretch, starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

It's been really nice working on the painting this way. My original idea was that it would probably take six months to complete. Considering the fact that the rest of my oil paintings take about a month, I thought I was being generous with my six month time schedule. But six months came and went, uh, six months ago and I didn't care. The goal I had was to produce something that would (at least for this day in 2017) represent the very best I could possibly do, and to do that took a lot of time.

Well this painting is done now and last night, I poured the resin. And this time, rather than achieving a thick glassy smooth surface, I wanted to apply just one layer of resin. This left a lot of the texture quite visible. I spent weeks and weeks of texture application and didn't want to cover it all up, and with just one layer, the painting will sparkle.

Today (Tuesday) is my day off (THANK YOU RUTH VANN FOR WATCHING MY STUDIO ON TUESDAYS!) and I'm making myself wait until tomorrow morning to go in and inspect the piece. As long as I didn't have any gnats or flies dive-bombing into the resin while it was still curing, I'll be fine.  And tomorrow is party time! By the end of the day, the largest painting I've ever painted will be hanging on my studio wall!

 

resin application
art process

Giverny: My Homage to the Man

water lilies oil painting

A few weeks ago, Joy and I were up in Pittsburgh visiting our oldest daughter Camden, her husband Joseph and our baby grandson Elisha (who is amazingly cute). Well, one of the days we were there, we went to the Carnegie Museum of Art(which was truly amazing). After snaking our way through corridors of modern art and the medieval art, we (finally) got to my personal favorite: the impressionists. And oh my gosh -- Actually being able to get up close and personal with a Van Gogh was almost a holy moment! And then...and then I saw it: water lilies. Claude Monet. My favorite of all my favorites. I was transfixed on this massive panel of water lilies. I could see the brush strokes and understand the mixing of paint. It was beyond incredible. And Camden said, "you know, when you get back to your studio, you should create a water lilies painting as an homage to your man here." 

So I did. When I got back to my studio in Asheville, I began building water lilies on my canvas. 

This piece is entitled "Giverny", named after the home of Claude Monet, who lived at Giverny, France for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926. I think one of the big reasons I love Monet was that he was seemingly fascinated by the play of light and reflections on the water. He worked on many paintings executed on a floating studio (in Argenteuil or on the Dutch canals). He was obviously taken with the inverted reflections you find in these "liquid mirrors". In 1893, he purchased a piece of land situated at the end of a narrow arm of the River Epte (side note: this is the same river where the St.Claire's originally settled down after a life of being Vikings, but that's another story). And this piece of land became his home. The water lilies and painted and re-painted and re-painted nearly ad infinitum were all done here (in his back yard). I really want his back yard!

So this piece is my way of "taking my hat off to the master". It is my take (with my own technique and materials) on a well familiar theme. Thank you Claude.

oil painting close up
oil painting close up 2

Sunrise, Sunset...

Recently, some visitors to my Asheville art studio commissioned a couple of paintings from me, one of which featured a sunrise over Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island (just off the coast of Georgia) and the other is sunset through Spanish moss hanging on oak trees in Florida. I think probably no matter where you are in the world, this time of day is the best, but the intensity of the colors and the length of the shadows are awesomely amplified when the sun is rising or setting over a body of water.

I have always loved twilight or daybreak.  This time of day has be poetically referred to as the "time in between times".  It is then the fairies (or fireflies), dipping and rising in their hypnotic evening dance.

Up to this point in my painting career, most of the oil paintings that I work on "daytime" themed paintings. Honestly, the technique I use to paint has proven to be a rather difficult technique to use in portraying dawn or dusk. But over this past year, I've learned that if I work much slower and apply layers of paint in much thinner layers, applying just one color family at a time, I have much more control over what's going on with the color and light in the piece. The results are something that I've been really, really excited about. 

So...after finishing these two commissions, feeling rather confident in my new found abilities, I started four more sunset-themed paintings, this time featuring long distance views from the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photos to come shortly! 

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star, 
And one clear call for me! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar, 
When I put out to sea, 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep, 
Too full for sound and foam, 
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home. 

Twilight and evening bell, 
And after that the dark! 
And may there be no sadness of farewell, 
When I embark; 

For through from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far, 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

sunrise oil painting
Evening on the Water.jpg

"No Boundaries"

The Great Smoky Mountains

Becoming a national park was not easy for the Great Smokies. Joining the National Park System took a lot of money and the hard work of thousands of people. Establishing most of the older parks located in the western United States, such as Yellowstone, was fairly easy. Congress merely carved them out of lands already owned by the government—often places where no one wanted to live anyway. But getting park land in this area was a different story. The land that became Great Smoky Mountains National Park was owned by hundreds of small farmers and a handful of large timber and paper companies.

A New Idea

The idea to create a national park in these mountains started in the late 1890s. A few farsighted people began to talk about a public land preserve in the cool, healthful air of the southern Appalachians. A bill even entered the North Carolina Legislature to this effect, but failed. By the early 20th century, many more people in the North and South were pressuring Washington for some kind of public preserve.

Efforts to create a national park became successful in the mid-1920s, with most of the hard-working supporters based in Knoxville, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. Surprisingly, motorists had the biggest role in the push for a national park. The newly formed auto clubs, mostly branches of the AAA, were interested in good roads through beautiful scenery on which they could drive their shiny new cars.

In May, 1926, a bill was signed by President Calvin Coolidge that provided for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park. This allowed the Department of the Interior to assume responsibility for administration and protection of a park in the Smokies as soon as 150,000 acres of land had been purchased.

Since the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use, the former political boosters became fund raisers. In the late 1920s, the Legislatures of Tennessee and North Carolina appropriated $2 million each for land purchases. Additional money was raised by individuals, private groups, and even school children who pledged their pennies. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been raised. The Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund matched what had been raised and donated $5 million, assuring the purchase of the remaining land.

But buying the land was difficult, even with the money in hand. There were thousands of small farms, large tracts, and other miscellaneous parcels that had to be surveyed and appraised. The timber and paper companies had valuable equipment and standing inventory which required compensation. Worse, in some ways, were the emotional losses to people who had to walk away from their homes. Lifetime leases allowed some people to stay temporarily, particularly if they were too old or too sick to move. Others could be granted leases on a short-term basis. However, they could not cut timber, hunt and trap at will, or otherwise live as they always had.

The facts about this place (to me anyway) are interesting, but the real interest is the nitty-gritty history of this place. People lived out their lives here. They composed their music here, wrote their stories here and crafted their poems here. And walking the trails, you can still make out the presence of the past if you listen...

There’s an old weather bettion house
That stands near a wood
With an orchard near by it
For almost one hundred years it has stood

It was my home in infency
It sheltered me in youth
When I tell you I love it
I tell you the truth

For years it has sheltered
By day and night
From the summer’s sun heat
And the cold winter blight

But now the park commisioner
Comes all dressed up so gay
Saying this old house of yours
We must now take away

They coax they wheedle
They fret they bark
Saying we have to have this place
For a National Park

For us poor mountain people
They don’t have a care
But must a home for
The wolf the lion and the bear

But many of us have a tltle
That is sure and will hold
To the City of Peace
Where the streets are pure gold

There no lion in its fury
Those pathes ever trod
It is the home of the soul
In the presence of God

When we reach the portles
of glory so fair
The Wolf cannot enter
Neither the lion or bear

And no park Commissioner
Will ever dar
To desturbe or molest
Or take our home from us there

-By Louisa Walker

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is the longest "hiking only" footpath in the world, and extends from Georgia to Maine. Some of our favorite places to hike in North Carolina cross-cross the AT here and there. This painting is from one of my favorite balds near the border of Tennessee.

Living as an artist in Western North Carolina, the Appalachian Trail is never far, and is always an inspiration for my oil paintings. I simply never run out of creative fodder! In thinking about this awesome trail, and the amazing adventures found upon it, the landscapes, the trees, the rivers and the mountains, it seemed like I needed a poem to really do it justice.  (See some of my favorite hikes in the area)

Endless Ranges

The month of February I will begin

a trek through woods as wide as the seas,

from the foothills of Georgia 

to rock altars in the mountains of Maine,

a pilgrimage of whole hearted discovery.

 

I shall walk on this Appalachian trail,

following the blazes of white,

beneath the wide open sky,

gazing north, always north 

across wide rivers, rocky ridges, and green meadows.

 

Twenty-two hundred miles it is,

twenty-two hundred miles to reach the end.

From this point on I now must find the will

to go onward every day until Autumn’s chill,

with the last days my youth has left to lend me.

 

And in these lonely months of walking,

when I’m lost amidst fog draped mountain peaks

timeless truths I hope to find as I am quiet and just listen --

to the whisper of branches, the gurgling of the stream,

the roaring wind -- listen for The Voice. He is here.

 

This trail I trek not because I’m bold or brave,

but from fear of that days when I've grown old,

I will with regret, I’ll only quietly sigh

because of the unlived life that has passed me.

This is an adventure is not one I can ignore.

 

While I do not know if I shall succeed,

I do ask the reader -- listen!

Live your one-time Life. Really live!

And should you find your path twine across my own,

Welcome home.