"The Trail That Never Ends"

Appalachian Trail.jpg

About a month ago, I had some really nice visitors to my studio in Asheville’s River Arts District. They spent some time looking at all my landscape oil paintings and approached me as I was painting at my work station up front. They asked me if I ever did commissions (I LOVE COMMISSIONS!) and after talking them through the process, they gave me a photo of theirs which was taken somewhere along the Appalachian Trail. I was excited to be able to honestly say I’ve now tackled the A.T. 

“it just kept going and going and going...”

This trail is infamous and wonderful. One friend of mine tried to hike it a few years ago and the main complaint was “it just kept going and going and going”. Yes. It goes on forever. 

The Appalachian Trail is a 2,180+ mile long public footpath that traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens, and completed in 1937, it criss-crosses through twelve states along the eastern seaboard.

Completing the entire 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in one trip is a mammoth undertaking. Each year, thousands of hikers attempt a thru-hike; only about one in four makes it all the way. A typical thru-hiker takes 5 to 7 months to hike the entire A.T.

I’ve not actually hiked much of the A.T. but some of my very favorite vistas are on the trial: Max Patch and Roan Mountain. If you’re in North Carolina (or…Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine), it’s definitely worth exploring. And in the meantime, enjoy the painting!

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!

Mystic Summer Morning

Mystic Summer Morning (oil painting)

"Mystic Summer Morning" (30" x 24") is a summer version of an autumn scene I've done before, and it's reminiscent of most summer mornings here in Asheville. Oftentimes because of thunderstorms the afternoon before, mornings can be rather foggy. That fog burns off usually by 10:00 or shortly thereafter, and then it's clear for just a bit. That fog then gathers into cumulous clouds and then becomes an another afternoon thunderstorm. But in the morning, that fog softens everything and dampens all sound.

I make it a habit of walking the 3 miles to my art studio in Asheville's River Arts District every morning (and then back again at night) but on foggy, cooler summer mornings, there's a longer route I can take that eventually leads right along the French Broad River. It's a very quite walk and when I need some extra rejuvenating and the weather is right, I walk the extra miles. It's so worth it. Before that trail gets to the river, it goes through quite woods and on foggy mornings, it's mystical. It's really beautiful that time of day. I love Asheville!

"Summer Path Thru the Birch Trees"

Already Longing for Summer

Introducing...."Summer Path Thru the Birch Trees" (18" x 24") This was a revisiting of an older oil painting I did a couple years ago. This time, I went smaller and added more texture and trees. And rather than finished with a thick glossy coat of resin, I finished it with a softer, more subtle finish (satin varnish) which seals it all but still leaves all the texture visible. This composition reminds me of an awesome summer back when I was a young teenager. My brother had a best friend who had a family cabin and many, many acres of property on the north shore of Francois Lake in northern British Columbia, Canada. The deal was that he would spend a couple months there on the lake, and then we (my mom, dad and sister) would come visit for several days and pick him up. We meandered up the Pacific Coast Highway, visited my uncle on Bainbridge Island just off the coast from Seattle, crossed into Canada at Vancouver and drove north up the Fraser River Valley toward Francois Lake.

Francois Lake was a remote and awesome finger lake, very deep and very clear. The water was so pure that the locals had to ADD minerals to it so they could drink it and still get the minerals they needed to be healthy. Crazy. And the old farm (complete with rustic log house and cool old barns) was amazing. I'd never seen a place like it before. The old dirt roads and fields were mostly overgrown (it had been a while since it was a real working farm) but I clearly remember exploring along the road to the upper field, birch trees and wild flowers surrounding me everywhere. The sound of birch trees in the wind is unforgettable. 

Anyway, I can't paint a landscape featuring birch trees and not remember that spectacular summer holiday. We've since visited Canada many times (from coast to coast) and never tire of the spectacular beauty of that place.



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")

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.