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.
Eighty miles west of the Atlantic, twenty miles south of Virginia, and two hundred years past memory, the small Meherrin River joins the Chowan, holder of pirate treasure and backdrop to a few colonial plantations.
No one has heard about this river, because its namesake, the Meherrin Tribe, registered its holdings in the appropriate court house in the 1750s. Individual Meherrins still hold title to ancestral land nearby. With deeds to their land, the Meherrin didn’t have to fight a losing war for their land as did the Tuscarora, whose name graces a beach a few miles downriver.
My teenaged grandfather used to canoe down this river during the Great Depression. He and his friends made their canoes out of castoffs from a veneer factory near Murfreesboro. “They just said, ‘y’all take all that stuff; we don’t want to burn it.'”The only interruption on his trip was the cable that spanned the River at Parker’s Ferry, twenty feet to the right of this view.
They caught fish and cooked them on the banks where they slept. When they had to return to family, chores, church and school, they offered fish to trucks that took the ferry, and the drivers would drop them, canoes and all, near home.
I don’t know how he stood the deer flies. I varnished myself with bug repellent and sustained eighteen bites. And that while wearing canvas pants, coat and hat to paint this picture. Even then part of me was underwater on the ferry ramp so that I could get a view.
You can find a good picture of the ferry in operation here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/08/3919675/best-kept-secrets-100-counties.html. Select the picture at bottom right if you follow this link.
Some pictures come from stories. Some occur when the story is over and our work is done and there is peace at the last.
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.
That’s Edenton, of course. Edenton, North Carolina, the county seat of Chowan County, which figures into many of my landscapes. And it is beautiful, too: what with its pre-Revolutionary architecture and its decided lack of world-class golf, five-star this and over-bloated that.
Edenton was founded in the early 18th century, was the seat of the colony’s government, and was overlooked by history in favor of larger ports, railroads and the Dismal Swamp Canal. It sits on the Albemarle Sound, near the mouth of the Chowan River.
People usually ask, “Where is that?” It’s about an hour south of Virginia and an hour west of the Atlantic. Here’s what it looks like:
I’m going to paint the town at an event to benefit the foundation that cares for the 1758 Cupola House on April 25th and 26th. It’s called Easels in the Gardens, and a click here will tell you all about it: http://cupolahouse.org. The town will be at its best. The weather will, too. You can even dance in the middle of Broad Street during the two-day festival.
I’ll be in St. Paul’s churchyard both days from 1pm until 5pm.
Yes, it has a waterfront and historic buildings, Edenton is very much a living community. Drop by and live a little. Directions for cars, planes and boats: http://www.visitedenton.com/directions.
The Chowan Arts Center represents my work in Northeastern North Carolina: http://chowanarts.com.
The CAC sits at the end of S. Broad St. in Edenton, where nature meets eighteenth-century town planning. Few places in the South so handsomely reward a visit.
Get acquainted with the town here: http://visitedenton.com.
I spent the happiest parts of my childhood in Chowan County, and I feel honored to paint the place and sell paintings there. I will have a solo show in December at the CAC; more information on that in the next few weeks.