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.
Change at a break-neck pace.
In Pasquotank County, they’re getting a wind farm. In Perquimans County, I heard they changed the name of Hog Alley to something-or-other Road, and they even paved it over: “I mean, you wouldn’t know it to look at it.”
Across the river in Bertie County, they still operate a cable ferry between Sans Souci and Woodard, although “they” aren’t who you think they are. “They” in this case is not the ferry authority, but another part of the Department of Transportation that runs inland ferries.
In small communities, or even suburbs without a dense urban plant, “they” are busy people. People whose actions you see but whose faces you don’t. That’s why “they” seldom earn our trust.
That said, I confess to a certain fondness for “them,” provided they leave things behind. Children’s building-block edifices are charming; in a more solemn but no less poignant way are the remains of the dead, left where they did the work that sustained them. Like these houses:
Even the gratuitous hand-work is telling. Like the “V” for the more usual “U” in the Perquimans County High School facade. Someone made that decision about lettering to give an air of Latinate dignity to poor students in an overlooked part of the world. It was put there before someone decided to abandon the world of learning and human children and masonry for that of information, human resources, and trailers.
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.”
On Thursday, December 4, I’ll show 30-some works in oil and ink at the Chowan Arts Council at 504 S. Broad St. in Edenton. The show is titled Wide Open and features the overlooked landscapes of North Carolina’s Northeast. This is a land of forgotten explorers, a four-and-half-century history of visual art, small Indian tribes, and big skies. Between now and then, I’ll offer previews of some of the works and reflections on the places that inspired them.
The little sketch below grew into a study, a 2 x 3′ rendered drawing, and a painting almost as big.
On December 5th at 5:30, I’ll have a one-man show of about 30 works at the Chowan Arts Center in lovely Edenton, NC. That’s in the northeastern part of the state. In the show, I’ll focus on a world that has gone unnoticed since the expeditions of Walter Raleigh and that was already legendary at the time of the first permanent English settlement in 1607.
The CAC sits at the end of Broad Street on Edenton Bay where nature meets a small eighteenth-century town. Few places in the South so handsomely reward a visit.
In case you can’t make the trek, I’ll post the contents of the show on the site after it opens. In addition, I’ll post some studies for larger works as I make progress with them as well as details of finished pieces as they come.
For now, the sketch above, done with a reed pen and a brush. I drew it because I liked the rectangles struggling to keep their shape despite the passage of time. It spawned a medium-sized drawing done with three pens and walnut ink that played up the texture of the sheet-metal building and the lacy disposition of the oak leaves behind. Next will come a 2′ x 3′ ink drawing dwelling on the building’s trim and the paved surfaces below.
Last, I’ll do a large oil painting that ties together the elements just mentioned. I’ll also relate the the greens in the building’s painted trim and moldy siding to the greens in the trees. What began as a musing on shapes has turned into a sustained color study, and a meditation on nature and culture.
Here is one of the charms of a painted scene; things appearing winsome or repellent in isolation find new homes, new relationships, and new meanings when someone pays them enough attention.