Water, water everywhere

North Carolina rewards the hydrophile.  Whether it tumbles to the lowest spot or seeks a level and makes peace with it, water can reflect–or create–a mood.


These three water studies we’re drawn from life with walnut ink and body color, vulture quill and native cane pens.


There’s winter, and there’s winter

Last week, we had a blackberry winter. In Western NC, that’s a cold snap that threatens the blackberry flowers.  Two firefighters I know got hypothermia as they rescued a hiker with a broken ankle only two miles away from the fire truck.  It hailed on them.

The bad news is that you might die in this stuff. The good news is that when the weather’s murderous, you can stay indoors.

I did and framed this picture of the mouth of the Swannanoa River.  The frame is handmade by Mark Henry of Weaverville, NC, who is an excellent painter, too.


Vanishing witness

Virginians (and I’m one) used to be told that Virginia history began when Walter Raleigh bought a new cloak for an audience with Queen Elizabeth I.  Virginia almost didn’t happen because when Raleigh saw the Queen about to step into a puddle, he spread his coat before her.  When she later chastised him for showing up under-dressed, a witness to Raleigh’s gallantry spoke up on his behalf, and Raleigh goth three ships by way of thanks.

Virginians don’t learn that anymore, and North Carolinians never did.  To be propagated, history requires a certain density. In an effort to thicken up the past, note the following photo and two studies, done off Okisko Road in Pasquotank County, NC:


I know Virginia claims the first representative assembly (the House of Burgesses, 1619), but look who commemorated the birth of North Carolinian self-government.  That’s right, the Sir Walter Raleigh Chapter of Daughters of the Revolution.

Such self-confidence is inspiring. And it lasted longer than people think.  Two hundred yards from this marker sits this house, whose front porch in the Federal style is an example of the high tide of American architecture  that washed over even our distant countryside from 1750 until about 1830.  I got two studies of it–one in walnut ink and one in oil–and I intend to revisit it this spring and summer and make a large format work.

Like the Elliott barn and stable in my masthead, this home deserves to be known.

Holiday Market

Visit me at # 249 in Riverview Station today from 4 til 8pm, as well as three dozen of my neighbors.  Christmas is coming; support locals who make things with skill, and honor your loved ones with gifts of real beauty.

When you get right down to it, you’d rather be eating ginger snaps while I sell you a handmade walnut ink drawing than fight for parking at Wal Mart.


Early autumn


Before the leaves turn in Western North Carolina there is a solid month of foggy mornings. Sometimes these persist after the leaves fall. Here you can see trees in various states of undress as the as the fog reveals them and their reflections in the French Broad River in the mountains outside Asheville.  This drawing will be available at Of Time and the River, the third annual art show to benefit RiverLink, held this year at Zealandia, overlooking downtown Asheville.

I’ve spent a year describing space in my drawings without the use of a brush. Exclusive reliance on pens means a variety of pens.  The drawing above was executed with goose and vulture quills and Japanese manga nibs.

Heavy pen use also means trying for an expressive line. There is a lot to be learned from using line to turn form in the portrayal of small objects in the foreground.  We’ve all seen apples on a tabletop rendered with close-hatched latitude lines.  I’m trying to build on the skills involved in so doing to depict aerial perspective with the use of line.

Inspiration for this way of working has come from nineteenth century etchings by people like Whistler and Hayden.  Many thanks to Julyan Davis, who steered me to some good nineteenth-century prints online.

Here is the Chowan River by morning light, treated in a similar manner with the use of straight lines to evoke the geometry of space.