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!

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")

"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

My Largest Painting to Date...

Last August, I was hiking with my wife Joy around the mountains of western North Carolina and my mind was relaxing. I could feel it. And when that happens, when my soul "breathes deeply"...that is when I come up with crazy ideas. I can't help it. I'm convinced Joy was brought into my life to consistently bring me back to reality when I start a conversation with "Hey, I have an idea!"

But this time, she just listened and said, "I think you should try it." The idea I had shared was to create the largest painting I've ever done by far. Most of my paintings take about one month to complete. What my mind was questioning whilst hiking that day was "what would a six month painting even look like?" I had no idea. Hmmm.

I still have no idea. This baby is going on nine months now, but it is 90% complete thanks to yesterday. See, yesterday was the last day of studio stroll and it was pouring rain most of the day which was perfect weather to get going on the final stretch of my "big mamma" painting, since no one was exploring the River Arts District in such horrid weather. And because I needed to be there all day, I painted through the downpours and now I'm nearly done.

"Is this a commission?" people ask. "No," I explain. "This is the most impractical art related idea I've ever had." But I had to do it. I am so incredibly thankful that my wife Joy blew on the spark and didn't douse it. Will this ever sell? Is it actually worth the time and effort I put into it? I have no idea and for this one, it doesn't matter.  I want this to be the absolute best oil painting I am capable of creating to date. That is what it is for.

Most of what I do is for very practical reasons, but now and then, I am convinced people need to be okay with doing something simply and only for the joy of doing it. This monster painting is giving me great joy. And when I complete it and it's hanging on the wall in my studio, I will have a party and celebrate. And you'll be invited.

My Marathon

Future "Cullasaja Falls"

Future "Cullasaja Falls"

Bigger is Better

Have you ever decided to do something and then wonder, "Oh my gosh. What was I thinking?"

A few days ago, I ordered a 6' x 8' panel for a new project I want to undertake. I knew it would be big. Then today it was delivered.

Oh my gosh. What was I thinking? 

This thing is truly huge.  At 6' x 8', this monster is the largest painting I've ever done. Most paintings take between 3-4 weeks. This one will take six months. I wanted something larger, more intricate and more challenging than anything I've ever done before. I'll take you along step by step until it's complete.

"Is this a commission?" you ask. No. I'm just doing it. It will hang in my Asheville studio until someone adopts it.
"WHY are you doing this?" you ask. "Are you crazy?" Yeah well...

You know how some people get into running and they end up running a marathon? If you ask them WHY the HECK they'd do that, a lot of them will simply answer "to see if I could do it".

So that's my answer. I want to see if I can do it.

This is what I am painting...Cullasaja Falls, North Carolina.

This is what I am painting...Cullasaja Falls, North Carolina.