Above an image of “Barn and Mist,” which I submitted to this year’s LandMark competition at Arts of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City. Gimlet-eyed readers will recognize a detail of the same as the main image of this blog. It took first prize.
Many thanks to Darlene Tighe and Keli Hindenach, the gallery manager and excutive director who put on the event during the approach of the tropical storm and sometime-hurricane Hilene. Likwise to Munroe Bell who beat the storm in time to judge the work.
I have painted this region for almost a decade and have loved it even longer. It was a delight to be in a room full of people who love it.
The picture is for sale at Arts of the Albemarle. Call them at 252-338-6455. Armed with this and a few books by Bland Simpson, you’d be all set. Or as they say in Northeastern North Carolina, you’d be right, I reckon.
I’m putting a Roman numeral after the title because I hope we can do it again next year. Good times and lots of money raised for the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. Bye the way, if anyone has 10 acres or so to donate for their wildlife rehab facility, look them up: you can write it off: http://www.appalachianwild.org/donate.html.
From the after-event press release:
Asheville, North Carolina – The inaugural Wild Art event held Saturday August 6, 2016 raised funds and friends to help native wildlife thanks to support from regional artists, Addison Farms Vineyard, dedicated volunteers and the community. Guests enjoyed meeting with artists to learn about their work created at the vineyard and other pieces inspired by nature. Artist Tony Corbitt was set up next to the Animal Ambassador tent during the event and painted the visiting Eastern Screech Owl from the May Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Banner Elk.
The event was a fundraiser and outreach opportunity for the nonprofit Appalachian Wildlife Refuge working to open a facility to help injured and orphaned wildlife. “We are so thankful to John Mac Kah, Paul Blankinship and all the other artists that attended and donated a portion of the art sales to Appalachian Wild,” shared President and Co-Founder Kimberly Brewster. The nonprofit also held a raffle and had items available for purchase that raised over $1,500.
Nb, the baby robin spotted on the ground by gimlet-eyed fellow Saint of Paint, Dana Irwin. As he was too young to fly, he was returned to his nest instantly.
I asked how common it was for robins to breed this late in the year and was told by a show attendee, “if it required permission, wouldn’t none of us be here.”
These are rows of grapes at the Addison Farms vineyard, whose owner, Jeff Frisbee has been kind enough to host Wild Art 2016: the Art Show to Benefit Appalachian Wildlife Refuge on August 6 from 12noon to 5pm. It all happens at 4005 New Leicester Highway, 15 minutes and a whole world northwest of Asheville, NC
For some annual crops, at least, we shall see the row system, maybe even tillage itself, vanish in our lifetimes. And good riddance, too.
Perennial crops, though, are another matter. Since the earliest gardens in the Near East, rows and compass points have predominated. There is something intrinsically reverent and hopeful about the conjunction of geometry, next year and fruit.
Where these things intersect, you can have a culture, because culture demands that someone see life on the side of order and not chaos.
Agriculture, culture, cult: these three perdure.
I’ll be contributing a handful of pictures to a show for the Asheville Humane Society, whose title, if you remember your 12th-grade English Literature class, comes from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal. –from Canto iv.
The show’s page on Alchemy’s site features images of animals and landscape: some quadrupeds, a skull, found objects put into still lives, as well as tilled fields. I’m thinking of adding some dog and wolf studies, and a painting of some chickens.
The show’s title got me thinking. It’s hard to gain access to really wild things. Human influence is everywhere. Even the wolf shown here is as incapable of survival in the wild as a typical laying hen. That’s a basic problem with Romanticism: whether or not you love the wilderness, you can’t get there from here, as Byron, on the run from industrial England, knew all too well. There is an unintended human presence in what we hairless bipeds regard as “pathless.”
Even if you could escape civilization and dwell in unspoiled wilderness, you’d have some explaining to do. Byron’s words might help: “I love not man the less but Nature more.” Somehow, Nature–whatever that is–is supposed to be more capable of love than human beings. For Americans, whose history is a series of overcoming wilderness, that is problematic; if we are busily spoiling nature, where is our love supposed to go?
Without an appropriate receptacle for our love, we find it easy as well as common to heap love on anything that is “natural,” as our buying habits disclose. It is easier to fetishize unkempt things than to admit the absence of wild things. As the biography of any teenager will show you, love out of proportion is a growth pain, not growth.
For that reason alone, honesty in landscape painting matters, especially when it is honest enough to treat small things, like individual animals, trees and structures. Painting and collecting their images are acts of stewardship and devotion, and they give wholesome enjoyment. They are worth doing because they remind us that culture begins in path-making and that, however we may dream of trackless places, to enter them is to blaze a trail
The show had a happy and buzzing opening night at the Chowan Arts Council, whose volunteers pulled long hours hanging art and laying out a spread of refreshments. People from four counties, two states and three generations enjoyed themselves, which pleased me. Two people told me how the scene below resembled places they know. Then they told me about the people, alive as well as dead and buried, in their own places.
The last time I counted, Gates County, NC has five stop lights. It might have six now, but I wouldn’t know because I’m happy with that number.
This scene is not far from the Dismal Swamp, featured in my last post and offers a different sense of lush potential. This is a field resting between crops when the trees are green. The ground is not finished–just taking a breather. Look at those leaves, and you can hear the earth boast, “see what I can do.”
Civilization depends upon this sort of readiness. How we meet it is important. When I was a child, fields like this were visited every week or so by the poor, who were paid at the end of the day to tend them. Even then, their jobs were losing out to machines.
Currently, there is a conspicuous absence of people outdoors here. I painted this scene in July, and drove by it again just this November. There were more people visible in November. Even the autumnal head count is down as deer hunting with packs of dogs–a social activity-has given way to sitting alone in a tree stand and waiting for the quarry to walk by. I don’t know what that means, but it merits reflection.
This is The Great Dismal Swamp.
Built in 1755.
I was fortunate to approach this scene in the spring when the new greens offer such contrast with the old house.
Thanks to Emmett and Bobby Winborne who allowed me to paint their birthplace.
This painting grew from a sketch, a study and a rendered drawing. I felt like a gardener before spring, transplanting little seedlings from pot to pot as I drew, measured, enlarged, and painted. Each time, I trusted the image to materials I made myself.
It is satisfying to brew one’s own ink, cut panels, dissolve rabbit-skin glue and dust for gesso. Taking handmade materials outdoors makes one look more acutely. One of my teachers, Nathan Bertling, used to tell me, “If you love your paper, you’ll love your drawing.” He meant that time spent in preparation makes for good execution.
Much is made these days of “plein air” painting, and often I’m asked, “Did you do that all plein air?” To which I say “Harumph. I was working before I went outside.”
Below is the 24 x 36″ large study I did for Harmony in Green, an early 20th-century auto garage in Edenton. It will hang my solo show there on Dec 4.
In the Renaissance, most preparatory drawings for paintings were done in chalk. This is a great way to indicate quickly where things go in the composition Such drawings look like this one, which took about twenty minutes to do. Chalk is smudgy for shadows and holds an edge for sharp lines; hence, one can capture a lot of information with it.
But to test out large blocks of light and shadow, one turns to ink. Since we live a century into the era of comics and posters, it’s nothing for us to look at a poster and register an image. Most poster- or comic-style drawing, though, is a very efficient shorthand, which purposely omits reference to the third dimension. If you were busy perceiving depth in a billboard, you couldn’t read that billboard while driving. In short, what we spend in depth perception, we gain in information. Non-realistic pictures are worth a thousand words, as marketers the world over agree.
Realism, though, is priceless. Witness this gem from Luca Cambiaso (fl. 1550’s):
Yes, this is realism, albeit at its most stripped-down. No one doesn’t like these Renaissance robots. Just the act of breaking these abstract figures up into front (lit) planes and side (shadow) planes gives them life. This is simplicity: a little doing a lot can make for a monumental effect. If you remember Genesis 1–or any other creation myth, for that matter–you have already noticed that life will not go where there is no form.
So here’s the same treatment applied to a 24 x 36″ study of the building I’ve been working on. A little doing a lot over two square yards. The ink is walnut ink made from the bounty of North Carolina, and the pens used in the drawing are reed pens, just as Cambiaso used.
First, I corrected the date given for my show in Edenton next month. It is now to open on Thursday December 4th. The time remains 5:30pm. The volunteers who run the Chowan Arts Council Gallery didn’t want the show to conflict with the lighting of the town Christmas tree.
Second–and as promised–another look at Bunch’s garage, which greets entrants into the town. Last year I made the quick sketch of it in China ink, paying attention almost entirely to the shadows cast by the molding. The building sports a certain posture despite its age, so I returned to the spot, this time to study the texture of the corrugated sheet-metal siding:
The rhythm of verticals in the building’s fabric makes a strong contrast to the contorted oak forms behind. I chose a prepared paper to catch the sense of atmosphere that nourishes the trees and ages the building, because, for the time being, the structure’s age contributes to its dignity. I also abandoned the brush, intending to suggest brittleness with the use of goose and steel pens.
Making a drawing out of a million tiny lines demands an upped tempo and a light touch at once. It asks both draftsman and viewer to see with two faculties that our historical moment hates: aggression and restraint.