Painting Trip, Day 13, the Drive Home

(Note – this post concerns Sat, Sep 19, 2015)

My trip is drawing to a close. I slept OK last night but I woke up coughing and realized I was losing my voice. It has to be pure exhaustion. I pushed myself so far beyond what I normally do that I’ll have to pay for it. My weak spot has always been my lungs. If I get a chest cold it goes into bronchitis. And maybe pneumonia. But I did get a pneumonia shot last fall so that shouldn’t happen.

I woke up just before 7:30 am, Tennessee time, which is an hour earlier than Ohio time. As much as I would have liked to gone back to sleep, I needed to get moving.

It didn’t take long to pack up and be ready to go. I loaded everything into the car except my monster suitcase, which is extraordinarily heavy. I left it at the top of the stairs and went to the kitchen to say goodbye to Harriet. She, of course, wanted to cook me an egg for breakfast. What a sweetheart she is!

But I just wanted to get going. Driving is not my thing and I had about 6 hours to go to get home. Not a big deal to most people, but it would be a challenge for me.

Tiny little Harriet actually went up and got my suitcase and loaded it into the car. I couldn’t believe her strength. I wasn’t able to lift that beast at all. I really need to re-think that big case on future trips. It is HEAVY when full of clothes!

Harriet and I said our goodbyes and I was off into the gorgeous Tennessee countryside. The early morning sun was gleaming on the fields and fences as I drove away from the gracious Victorian home where I had stayed the past week. I was reminded how wonderful it is to wander a ways from home and see a bit of the world. You don’t even have to go far to discover new things and have a wonderful time.

Tennessee

As usual, I had my two hour driving rule in place. No stopping and no eating until I have two hours of drive time under my belt! So when it was time, I didn’t see anywhere I wanted to stop! That’s kinda crazy… I always want to stop!

Instead I kept on driving. Driving and driving. Maybe I’m a road warrior after all and don’t know it. Wouldn’t that be a hoot!

Really, I had plenty of snacks in the car so all I did was pull over at a regular rest stop to go to the ladies and unload some food from the trunk. A diet coke, a can of tuna salad, some chips and cheese… hey, I’m all set. I even had a pack of famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. Who could ask for more?

It was no time at all and I was almost back to Cincinnati. Rain clouds were letting loose overhead but now I’m back in my own stomping grounds. Nothing like heading to home sweet home.

I was still going strong when I hit the outer edges of Dayton, so I stopped at the grocery for a few things. I know when I get home I’m gonna crash and I may not want to venture out for a couple days. I got my usual staples… deli ham, sliced cheese, a half-loaf of bread and a pint of milk. I got some hot chicken soup from the deli for good measure. What’s better than chicken soup when you need recharged?

I made it home about 4pm and was glad to see my simple little apartment waiting for me. Only one more round of “schlepping” and all my stuff will be back inside where it goes.

What a fun trip!

I spent two weeks on the road, saw a lot of beautiful country, made new friends, learned a bunch about the painting I love and made it back home safe. All is well.

Truly, all is well.

Thanks to all who read here for taking this journey with me. Hopefully, when I resurface in a few days, I’ll be a painting fool. Can’t let all this new “learnin’” go to waste!

paint brushes

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Painting Trip, Day 12

(Note… still catching up, so this post is about the class on Fri, Sep 18, 2015)

I wasn’t entirely sure I’d be able to get out of bed on Friday morning, but I did. As soon as I got up I wanted to photograph the beautiful view out the front window of my bedroom. It is a gorgeous sunlit area that takes your breath away. I hope I am able to paint it when I get home!

Carl Rd front view 3

Then the lovely Harriet made me an over-easy egg on toast with a glass of cold orange juice. It was perfect. Could I be any more spoiled?

I drove to the gallery and got the last parking place in front. Fantastic – now it won’t be hard to load up on this last day.

And that’s what it is today… the last day. I am both sad and glad. Sad because it is almost over… and glad because it is almost over. I have pushed myself as hard as I can but it has been worth it.

The people in the class are finally warming up to each other and having that usual bonding that happens. It is so nice to meet people from all over who like to do what you do. There is a great exchange of information and we really enjoy our little bit of time together. In this class I met folks from North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and other places I can’t quite remember. It is quite refreshing to expand your little world with new friends like this.

As soon as class started I raised my hand and asked “OK… who went honky-tonkin’ last night at Puckett’s???”

Everyone looked surprised when I said, “I did!!!”

The older ladies asked, “where did you get the energy?”

The younger folks asked, “Why didn’t you tell us there was going to be a party???”

I responded that I didn’t actually have any “energy” – it was just a matter of going in to Puckett’s when I heard that music playing. You just don’t hear live music like this very often. I do believe it would be worth making another trip down there to go to Puckett’s, drive the Natchez Trace, take photos and maybe invest in another painting workshop from the Leiper’s Creek Art Gallery. They represent spectacular artists, one of whom is Roger Dale Brown. Roger is also represented by Walls Gallery at the Greenbrier (where I took a class last week.) Roger is from the Lieper’s Fork area and here is one of his gorgeous paintings called Subtleties of Winter. It is an oil painting measuring 36 x 48 and was priced at $9750. I say “was” because it has sold already. Beautiful work! (Click to enlarge this and see it even better!)

Roger Dale Brown

Then we watched Colley do the demos and did our best to replicate them ourselves. What a job!! Here’s some of the class at their easels.

Camille…

Camille at easel

Meg…

Meg at easel

Jerry…

Jerry at easel

Later in the day, Colley grabbed his easel and ran to the back of the property at the gallery. He had had his eye on this lone square hay bale back there and was dying to paint it. We all followed him and found a seat on the ground or on the stone wall nearby. I sat on the stone wall after pushing hard on the rocks to make sure they would stay put.

No more did I sit down than my classmate Cheryl said, “be careful… there’s a wasp landing on your back.”

Cripes! “Let me know if anything happens,” I said.

“Oh, you’ll know!” exclaimed Cheryl.

“Well, folks,” I replied, “I’m allergic to bees and I have an epi pen in my purse.”

The group fell silent. Then Camille asked, “Where’s your purse?”

Ahem…

“My car keys are in my left pocket and my purse is in my car directly in front of the gallery.”

Everyone nodded their heads.

Now I didn’t really think I was going to get stung because I was sitting perfectly still and I wasn’t worried. So I broke the tension by saying, “I’m having a good trip but I don’t want it to get as exciting as using the epi pen!” Everyone agreed. And here’s Colley’s painting of the hay bale.

Colley hay bale demo 3 resized

Finally it was time to load up for the last time. I took my time and made trip after trip to the car. Once I was all loaded up, I went back around back and parked myself in a rocking chair for a bit.

I sat right next to Bill… a husband of one of the ladies in the class. He had been there every day… all day… in support of his wife. At first everyone wondered who he was but he soon became an integral part of the group. Bill walks with a beautiful hand-made walking stick and he would wander about during the day from the rocking chairs on the back porch to the rockers on the side porch to the picnic area under the wisteria. Everyone sort of kept an eye on him.

Bill in rocking chair resized

Bill was very proud of his wife and told me he was sure she could have taught this class if she wanted to. I thought it was a very sweet thing for him to say and I enjoyed chatting with him for a bit.

So the only thing left to do was go to the demo Colley was doing on Friday evening that was open to the public. I thought about not going since I had been watching him paint all week, but I knew only two of us out of the class of 15 were thinking of going. Most everyone was anxious to get on the road for home and had left the area. I was worried about the turnout and wanted to support it.

Colley at Green's Groc. 3

I needn’t have worried. Lots of people from the local community were there, including the homeowners of where I am staying, and Colley was very charming with his presentation. I have to say he works really hard to maintain his career and he is quite gracious in dealing with the public. There’s a whole lot more to being a successful artist than just painting! Being around him all week was a good lesson in many ways.

After the demo I bolted for my car to get back to my room. I could feel myself wearing mighty thin – I had put in a 12 hour day – and my eyes were wanting to shut. I let out a wistful sigh as I drove past the lit-up Puckett’s. No honky-tonkin’ tonight… I have to get up early and drive back to Ohio! All good things must come to an end.

I am so delighted I got to take this class with an artist I’ve admired for years. Here he is with me at my easel… what a treat!

Starr and Colley 2

Painting Trip, Day 11, Part 2

(Note… still catching up, so this post is about the class on Thurs, Sep 17, 2015)

Ok… now we’ve had dinner and I followed a couple classmates clear back to Leiper’s Fork from Cool Springs, Tennessee. I intended to just turn around and drive the one mile back to my room, but here was Puckett’s all lit up and practically bouncing off the ground… how could you not go in???

Puckett's night time resized

I whipped into a parking spot, walked across the road and went inside.

It was “open mic” night and the band on stage was tearing down the house. Hoo doggies!

open mic 2 resized

People were gathered in every spot just having a good ole time and it made me smile. This is my kinda place…

Puckett's crowd 2 resiszed

When I went back to the Ladies Room, there was this sign on the wall. If you’re a fan of this music, you’ll recognize it…

BR549

I went and bought me a Puckett’s T-shirt (to paint in, of course) and one of those mason jars with their name on it. Then I got a Miller Lite and found a seat. Naturally with that kind of music going, people were heating up the dance floor. What fun!

Puckett's dancers 1 resized

Then I looked over and recognized two ladies who had stopped to chat with me earlier in the day while I was painting. I walked over and introduced myself. Tina and her friend Beverly remembered me so I took a seat with them and chilled out. We got up several times to dance and it was a blast. Nothing like a bunch of older white gals having a fun honky-tonk night out.

friends 1 resized

On open-mic night, each group of guys can play two songs and then have to switch. They were great so I made my way up front to take their photos. Man, what a fantastic bunch of musicians!

another bass player resizedbass player resizeddrummer resizedfiddle player resizedkeyboard player resizedharmonica player resizedmandolin player resized

Did you notice how the fiddle player came right up to me as I snapped his photo? What a character! And I always love a mandolin player because that’s what my daddy always played. It’s music to my ears for sure.

I finished my beer and knew I’d better head home before I passed out. But boy I’m glad I didn’t miss this real spot of music that rocked the house. I don’t care how tired I am… this was a TREAT!!!

I got back to my room and Harriet and Rainey were still up. “How was your dinner?” they asked.

“Oh that was great… but I’ve been out honkey-tonkin’!” I told them. They got a kick out of that and shooed me off to bed. And like I said… what a GRAND time I am having!!!

Painting Trip, Day 11, Part 1

(Note… still catching up, so this post is about the class on Thurs, Sep 17, 2015)

Today was another great day. I have lots of photos so I’ll have to post this day in two parts. I can’t believe what a grand time I am having!

The Art Workshop with Colley Whisson from Australia is now half over. We are in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, a really beautiful spot in the country. I can’t get over all the scenery around here… horse farms with endless fences, fields of hay bales that stretch on forever, and country or bluegrass music everywhere. I was raised on this music and it strikes a home-chord with me whenever I hear it.

I think I’m finally getting used to schlepping all my stuff into the backyard of the gallery each day. Yes, it’s a pain in the patutti – but mostly because I haven’t stayed in shape enough to do it. I have to say that this extra walking and setting up every day has reminded me that I NEED to be more active and would be better off for it.

The gallery is very gracious. They put out a table each day with coffee, snacks, and cold water that lasts us all day. I think the landscaping company is separate from them and the gallery can’t control when the yard will be a muddy swamp. So we all just have to deal with it. And I am rather getting used to it all!

Today’s demo is a seascape – something I’ve never tried before. But I love how Colley is expanding our range each day and encouraging us to branch out and do things we aren’t used to. It really is the only way to learn new things. Here’s Colley starting a demo – I love how rough and simple he starts a painting.

Colley 2a

Here’s the majority of the class on this “stage” (which I’ve been calling a “shelter.”) They actually call this a lawn chair theater and show movies here on Friday nights.

LCreek painters 2 resized

Once again I’m set up under the shade tree in the yard and I really like this spot. Now I need to ask myself… why is it I never go out and paint on-site when at home? Hmmmmm…. Here’s where 3 us (Camille, Jerry and me) are set up in the yard…

painting area resized

I didn’t need to go over to Puckett’s today for a food run because I had plenty of left-overs from last night. But guess what I missed??? Danielle (from the class) popped over for a take-out lunch and guess who was there…

Mike from American Pickers!!! He had stopped in for lunch but was recognized immediately. Danielle, the cutie, got her picture with him pronto. Isn’t this fun???

Danielle and Mike

All of us in the class are getting the hang of Colley’s methods and we’re getting a little faster each day. Colley, of course, is a fantastic teacher. He gets round to each of us numerous times a day in addition to the 3 or 4 demos he does. And he doesn’t lollygag at all. When he comes down off that stage to visit us in the yard, he RUNS. He’s like the pony express coming to the rescue. Such energy! And he’s a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man. What a treat to be around him and learn from him. He’s very generous and eats lunch with the group. It’s fun to listen to his accent when he talks and the different words he uses for things.

I kidded Colley for saying “yeh, yeh” all the time. It’s what he says every time he agrees with you or tries to make a point. When I mentioned it in the group demo, he automatically responded “yeh, yeh,” and blushed for saying it again. Everyone laughed and got a kick out of it.

Of course he also says “mate” a lot and when painting a chicken in one of his scenes, he explained that in Australia they call them “chooks.” Colley says it is not a compliment to be called an “old chook,” a phrase the teens often use. We’ve had a lot of laughs over things like this.

There were no chooks in today’s water scene. Here’s mine. I don’t think I’ve ever done a water scene like this and I’m really pleased with it…

Starr seascape 2

Some in the class wanted to go to dinner together, so Kay from the gallery made us reservations at a place in Cool Springs (other side of Franklin TN) called BrickTop’s. Kay printed me out some MapQuest directions since I get lost so easily and I ran back to the B&B, took a shower and actually put on a dress! I’ve been a grubby mess ever since I left home almost two weeks ago and it was about time!

However, when I showed my host, Rainey, the Mapquest directions, he said, “oh there’s a better way from here!” And he proceeded to draw me another map. Now I should know better… because whenever someone tells me there’s a better way I should ignore that advice. It’s not them… it’s me. I simply don’t do well with directions – even explicit ones.

But… all showered and gussied up, I was ready to tackle it. I got to the end of Carl Road and there in the splendor of the evening sun was a field of those round hay bales. I had to take some photos. This meant driving up the road a ways, parking in a drive and walking back, but I was up for it. I got a good 15 shots of this beautiful field…

hay bales 15 resized

As I was walking back to my car a nice lady stopped to see if I was in trouble. How great is that? I was a happy camper as I set back off for Cool Springs to have dinner. And I immediately got lost. Ugh. But typical.

In downtown Franklin I pulled over and asked a couple walking down the street for directions. “Oh honey, you aren’t anywhere close!” And the girl took my paper, turned it over and drew me a new map. Off I went.

I drove forever and got lost again. Daggone it!

I stopped at a convenient mart and asked again. The young man behind the counter acted like I was speaking another language. So the guy buying a loaf of bread said, “come over here with me and I’ll tell you where to go.” I did. Thankfully he was pretty articulate and this time I found my way. But now I was more than an hour late and figured everyone would be finished with their meal.

They pretty much were, but I placed a quick order and was able to have a few bites while visiting with Robin and Kay – two ladies about my age from Alabama. We hit it off well and I begged them to let me follow them back. They were taking Colley clear back to Leiper’s Fork, so it was perfect.

I thought I would know where to turn off but I missed Carl Rd as usual. It was too dark for me to see it in time but that was ok. The gallery was just one more mile down the road so I decided to go there and turn around. I knew my way back. And boy was I glad I did!

You see, during the day, Puckett’s looks like this…

Yummy yummy food to choose from…

Puckett's hot food resized

Lots of mix and match old-time tables to sit at…

Puckett's inside

The pitmaster smoking and barbecuing beautiful cuts of meat…

Puckett's Pitmaster resized

Posters of upcoming music events tacked on the front door…

Puckett's posters resized

A gorgeous setting of picnic tables under a shelter covered with an enormous wisteria vine…

Puckett's picnic 3 resized

And then at night it turns into this…

Puckett's night time resizedStay tuned for what happened next….

Painting Trip, Day 10

(Note – I’m really far behind now… the place where I’m staying lost their internet service, so I have some catching up to do.)

The first thing I did this morning (Wed, Sep 16, 2015) was get up and take some photos of my BnB because it is so beautiful and now my camera is working again.

Here’s the front staircase when you first walk in. I have a key to the front door because the homeowners don’t come and go that way.

Carl Rd staircaseHere’s my bedroom…

Carl Rd bedroom 2with a beautiful desk in the corner…

Carl Rd desk 1and of course I have my own “princess makeup seat” in the master bath…

Carl Rd master bath 1And should I get bored, all I have to do is go out to the library for a book, a cup of tea, or a choice of one of the hundred or so movies on disc in the cupboard…

Carl Rd library 1Downstairs, Harriet has a nice collection of shells in an antique cabinet…

Carl Rd shell cabinetAnd she loves china teacups as much as I do…

Carl Rd teacupsAnd what would a Victorian home be without a Silver Service???

Carl Rd Silver ServiceThe kitchen is the gathering place, of course…

Carl Rd kitchenDon’t you feel sorry for me having to “rough it” in this private home???

Good grief, how did I even find this place??? I’m a little bug in a rug here!

So… it’s day 10 of my trip and day 2 of the Colley Whisson workshop. I got to the gallery in time to get the last parking place, but as soon as I walked around back I was discouraged. Believe it or not, a landscaping company had come in and aerated and seeded the entire lawn. It was a muddy mess.

All of us were walking through muck to get set up and I was feeling kind of grumpy from not sleeping the night before. In fact, I parked my gear under the shade tree and went and sat in a rocking chair on the porch to think whether I even wanted to set up at all. I still hadn’t decided when Colley said he was going to start the morning demo.

Colley and I were both getting a cup of coffee on the porch when the gallery owner’s dog came charging out the back door, growling and nipping at Colley. I jumped back and blurted, “WHO’S DOG IS THAT????” Boy it made me mad! I can’t stand it when people think their precious fur baby “won’t hurt a fly” and here he is snarling and baring his teeth.

Colley was much nicer than I felt. He made light of it and went on back to the shelter to start the demo. It was standing room only. I took a place where I could stand on one foot and then the other and felt kind of miserable. Then… the construction guys next door started up a chain saw. No one could hear a thing.

So now we’ve got mud… a mad dog… and a chain saw blaring nearby…

All of a sudden I felt like I had to get out of there so I walked to the car, leaving all my gear sitting in the yard, and drove back to my BnB. I had reached my limit and I needed a break. I climbed in the bed and fell asleep for an hour.

When I woke up I felt refreshed and ready to go. I drove back to the gallery but of course I had lost my parking place. I parked a few blocks away in the church parking lot. But it wasn’t a bad walk to the gallery.

As soon as I rounded the corner into the gallery back yard I ran straight into Colley. “Did you miss me?” I asked.

Colley looked at me sheepishly and asked, “did you go somewhere?”

“Yeh, but I’m back and I’ll go get started,” I replied.

I set up my easel and quickly did my stage one painting while everyone ate lunch. I was caught up in no time.

Actually, Colley doesn’t have to babysit me. He spends a lot of time with some people because he has to do a lot of corrections on their painting and he wants to teach while he’s doing that. Mostly with me he’ll point out weak points and tell me how to do it differently and then I do it.

So I caught up right away and all was well.

The rest of the afternoon passed very quickly and soon it was time to pack up again. I swear all this schlepping gear is the worst part of the whole thing.

Someone pointed out a gravel lot near the back yard and said we could load and unload there since it was so much closer. That looked good to me.

I tore down my gear, lugged it all back to that gravel lot and began to walk to my car. But when I passed that gravel driveway out front (that goes back to that gravel lot) there was a large pickup and trailer parked in the drive that you couldn’t get around. I saw a worker walking by and waved at him to ask what he deal was. He waved back and kept on going.

That’s just GREAT.

I’m exhausted, my feet hurt and now I gotta go run this guy down. I walked to the back of the house and knocked. He tried to ignore me but I could see him. Ha! He finally came to the door and I asked him if he was going to be there for a while and I told him I had gear out back to load up.

“Not my problem, lady,” he said. “And I ain’t backing this trailer anywhere until I’m done.”

My heart sank but I just said OK and went back to where my gear was. I had it carried back out front in a few trips. Now I just had to go get the car and come and pick it up. When the worker saw me schlepping he said, “sorry, lady.” And I said, “yeh, I know.” I don’t think he was all that sorry or he would have helped me. He was an able-bodied man younger than my own sons. So I just gimped along and let him watch. There’s always karma, you know…

I decided what I needed was a glass of wine and a hot meal. I had looked up restaurants in the next town to see what the choices were. I chose JJ’s Wine Bar. The neat thing about this place is the wine bottles are in automated machines with your choice of pour. There are a lot of selections of white wines, red wines and premium wines. You can choose a 1 ounce taste, a 5 ounce half glass or a 7¼ ounce full glass. They give you a wine “card” that goes into the machine and keeps your tab.

wine choices 1

I tried a half glass of White Bordeaux from France to start. Quite citrusy, but not a good buy here. They are charging you $7.20 for a 5 ounce glass when the whole bottle sells for $8. The wine itself is only rated 3.9. That’s a cheapo wine…

White Bordeaux price 1

I was sitting at a table on the front porch and when I went back in, I wanted to try a premium wine. I looked to find the most expensive… It was a 2012 Palazzo White Blend from Napa Valley. A full glass would cost $34 but I got a 1 ounce “taste” for $4.70. It was an excellent fruity wine with a long finish featuring strong peach and pineapple flavors. JJ’s is still overcharging since you can buy a bottle of this for $55, but I guess that’s how they make their money to stay in business.

Palazzo price 2

The waiter was very genial and talked me into ordering food. I got the Black and Blue Flatbread, which was herbed cheese on the flatbread, topped with thinly sliced beef, then shredded mozzarella and blue cheese and sprinkled with burgundy onions. Very tasty! I got a half glass of 2013 Malbec from Argentina to go with it. This is a pretty juicy, berry-flavored, moderately tannic wine. This 5 ounce glass cost $7.50 but again was overpriced since the entire bottle costs $10-$11. JJ’s is charging that for one full glass so it is at least a 400% markup. Of course, that’s at retail price. A wine bar like this surely gets a discount case price or more for volume purchases. Now we’re talking 500-600% markup. That’s bogus. I don’t need high prices to make me think I’m getting something special. Forget that.

Malbec price 1

I had a good time at JJ’s but wouldn’t go back just because the pricing is out of line. I would enjoy looking up the wines myself and buying a bottle at one-third to one-fourth the price. I can sit on my own patio and enjoy a glass of wine just as nicely, thank you very much. The only thing special about this place was the service and that was dependent on one waiter who might not always be there. I hope they pay him well.

So I took my leftovers, drove back to my room and drew a steaming hot bath. It was good to soak until I couldn’t keep my eyes open and then fall into bed.

It was a great day of painting even if lugging all the stuff is hard on me. Here’s my painting from today…

interior Colley scene by Starr

Painting Trip, Day 9

(Note: once again, I’m a day or two behind!)

L ForkOK, it is Tuesday, September 15, 2015. Ninth day of my trip and Day One of the class with Colley Whisson at Leiper’s Creek Gallery in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.

This little unincorporated village is only a short distance from Nashville but it will instantly take you back in time. It boasts a population of about 650 on 1,100 acres of land.

I am thrilled to be here. I started following Colley Whisson about 3 years ago when I was in Italy. I was looking for inspiration online and there he was. I have been a fan ever since of this Australian artist and never dreamed I would get to meet him, let alone take a class with him.

And today I got to tell him that!

But not before I looked like a complete idiot…

So let’s back up here just a bit.

I was on the computer last night and realized that the clock on my phone and the clock on my computer were different. Hmmmmm….

Turns out I’ve crossed into the next time zone and it is an hour earlier here! Who knew?

I’m glad I found this out before class today!

But I did get up and get ready for class at the right time. I went downstairs ready to pack my cooler and my hostess, Harriet, asked what I wanted for breakfast. I honestly did not want to put her out but she insisted. Soon we were eating Turkey Bacon, slices of fresh organic avocado and for me… an egg over easy with a piece of toast. Harriet brought out her Jack Daniels Whiskey jam for me to try. Yum!

Off I went to class with a carful of “stuff” and a lot of trepidation. New workshops are always a venture into the unknown. We artists have a joke (which did come up today) that when people find out we are painters, their typical response is… “oh that must be so relaxing!”

Hahahahahahahahaha!

There is NOTHING relaxing about it. I find it pure hard work. Especially painting en plein air… in other words, outside.

I got to the gallery this morning, got a parking place, and noticed other artists trekking toward the back yard. I followed them and discovered about a dozen people in the midst of setting up easels and spreading out art supplies. And even though I was a half hour early, the space under the shelter was gone. That meant I had to be out in the yard. Great.

It took me four trips to get everything from the car and it was all in a big pile. My feet hurt and we hadn’t even started. I felt at a loss and didn’t know where to start… so I didn’t.

Colley introduced himself and started with a demo. We all gathered round to stand and watch.

My feet were BURNING already and Colley is very softspoken. It was hard to hear him, especially when I am leaning first on one foot and then the other. I had a hard time paying attention.

But others didn’t!

The one thing Colley asked was that no one snap pics of his original reference photos. Photos of anything else were fine, but these are his photos that he has taken and wants to paint from. They are not public property.

Some did not respect that. Colley would take one step back from the easel to turn and talk to us and two people would literally jump in between him and the easel and start snapping photos. Colley couldn’t even turn back to the painting in his own personal space! This, along with the pain in my feet, was really getting on my nerves.

Colley only did “stage one” on his canvas and then we were all to go to our easels and do the same. Everyone dispersed and started painting. Except me.

I still wasn’t even set up and my gear was all out in the direct sun. No way was that going to work for me. I looked around and decided to join two women under the nearest shade tree. I schlepped my stuff to that spot.

Then, before I was even set up, Colley appeared to direct our little section. The other two gals were painting away and I didn’t have a thing out except the blank board I intended to paint on. For some reason I was befuddled and couldn’t get going. Colley walked up and I told him I’m a slow starter. “No problem,” he replied. “I’ll be back.”

I’m pretty sure everyone around me thought, “oh, here’s a live wire! Can’t even get the paints out of the box!” Which is true…

Somehow I got semi-organized and roughed my drawing in pretty quickly. Then I went up to the shelter to Colley’s station and got some of his “medium.” This isn’t something I’m familiar with, but the point of the workshop is to paint like he does. And he invited us to use his supplies because he represents that particular paint company and they give him paint to share with his students to entice new customers.

I got the board covered before noon but it didn’t look very good. Great… now I look unorganized and like I can neither draw nor paint. This is not a good start.

Soon it was noon time and everyone made a mad dash for the “gas station” next door, Puckett’s. What a neat place!

Puckett'sPuckett’s is the cornerstone of Leiper’s Fork. They’ve branched into a couple more locations but everyone says those don’t count… this is the original store that was founded in 1953. It started as a country store where you could get fresh groceries, a home-cooked meal and a tank of gas. And that’s what it still is. Tourists and locals both flock to it.

Puckett's orderStill, this is a little ole country place with one gal manning the grill, one dishing up hot entrees and sides and another girl on the cash register. It isn’t fast. And I was last in line. I thought my feet were plum gonna fall off before I got my turn to order a fried bologna sandwich with mustard. As soon as I placed my order I sank into a nearby chair and waited. And waited.

I began to think they’d forgotten me, but they hadn’t. That’s just how long it took.

Here’s another neat thing about Leiper’s Fork… they have a sort of “mascot.” It’s this vintage sheriff’s car they park around town for visitors to enjoy. I laughed out loud when I saw it and hoped Andy or Barney would be nearby. If only…

Sheriff car

I took my sandwich back to my spot under the shade tree, which was no longer in shade. “We’re gonna have to move,” said the girl beside me. I knew she was right but I wasn’t happy. Schlep all this stuff again? Yes, indeed.

Across the yard we went in several more trips and set up again. I was aggravated thinking how temporary this would be since we were going to have to tear it all down and pack it back in the car at the end of the day. I am not a dedicated plein air painter and I do not have portable or light equipment. And all this schlepping is making me grumpy.

I wasn’t the only one…

After a late day demo by Colley, we were sent off to finish our paintings in the last hour of class. Several of the older ladies were grumbling that they needed to stop for the day. I felt the same but I hobbled back to my spot and willed myself to finish my painting. I can’t even believe I did it, but I did.

Colley came around and stopped abruptly when he got to me.

“Nice job!” he exclaimed. I ignored my feet long enough to say a half-hearted thanks.

Colley must have thought I didn’t believe him because he lowered his voice and said, “I want you to know I don’t give false praise because that isn’t really fair. You have done a very fine job today.”

I smiled and Colley went on. “Workshops are hard and not everyone has a good day in them, you know. So I like to give praise when it is due and when I think someone needs work I’ll acknowledge that they’ve had a rough day.”

We chatted for a couple minutes and Colley moved on to the next girl nearby. I heard him say to her, “You must be having a rough day…”

Well, I guess that got me through the final packing up process because I did get everything back in the car. Then I had a devil of a time getting my own legs lifted high enough to get in the car myself. Good thing I’m staying nearby!

Here’s my painting from the first day of class…

rural Colley scene by Starr

Painting Trip, Days 7 & 8

My trip is flying by and I am having a hard time keeping the blog current. But I still want to do it because I am having such a wonderful time!

So… to recap…

On Monday, September 7th (Labor Day) I left home and drove to Lewisburg, West Virginia. I ended up at this charming Craftsman bungalow.

Bungalow

I was very at home here while I took the 4 day painting class from John Poon at the incomparable Greenbrier Resort. In fact, I looked longingly back at the picture-perfect front porch as I drove away on the following Saturday morning.

Bungalow front porch

On Saturday, September 12, I drove to Sevierville, Tennessee and landed at this mountain home.

mountain b&b

My hosts, Liz and James, were extremely welcoming and made me feel like part of the family. I described hanging out with James and the kids in my last post. We had a fun time having art lessons.

Well, on Saturday night, I realized my camera battery was drained and I got out the charger to plug it in. It didn’t work. I didn’t quite believe it so I walked it from room to room plugging it into different outlets. It still didn’t work. Daggone it!

I got on line to look for one and it was quite confusing. I decided to look for a local camera shop since this IS a tourist area. I thought I found one but had to wait till morning to call.

Meanwhile, I fell asleep early and then woke up early as well. I got on the computer from about 5 am until 7 am and started feeling sleepy again. That’s when I crashed. I slept HARD for several hours and roused about 10. Wonderful! I needed that!

I got up and did a load of laundry – one of the perks of staying in this B&B – and tried to call a couple camera places. That didn’t work out so I looked up where the nearest Walmart was. They had what I needed online and I could only hope they would have it in the store in this tourist hotspot.

But they didn’t. Drats.

Oh well, while I was here, I wanted to get the kids from last night a “kneaded eraser.” They loved mine because they hadn’t seen one before and they decided that real artists have to have one. So I got the erasers and more. I got the kids a small sketchbook, mechanical pencils and a drawing pen. The little girl got a coloring book and crayons and some stickers. Then I threw in packs of animal crackers, pouches of juicy juice and some Dove chocolates. I bought some large freezer bags to make each kid (and James) a goody bag. I knew they would love it.

Then I wanted to drive through Pigeon Forge and maybe find a place to eat.

DollywoodAs I drove down the crowded strip, all I could think was… Good Golly, Miss Dolly, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

Yes, this is the original home of Dolly Parton, country music queen. She was one of 12 children, born and raised on a run-down tobacco farm in Sevier County. But these days, Pigeon Forge is no longer a scenic Cherokee hunting ground. It is a country-style Las Vegas hokey hoe down that completely overshadows the beauty of the Smoky Mountains. Honestly, if you bring a kid here will they even notice the mountains? I don’t see how they can when all you see are wall to wall billboards, flashing signs, arcades, amusement park rides, go karts, magic shows, water parks, laser tag, black-light mini-golf and a ride through a fake Egyptian tomb. What does any of this have to do with anything? And what in the world does it cost?

Pigeon Forge 2The beauty and grandeur of this place has been lost to outlet malls and Dolly’s marketing team. Just this summer her new 100-acre DreamMore Resort opened. It is decorated with her instruments and album covers and guests are greeted with a signature drink… pink lemonade. The logo and décor focus on Dolly’s personal fascination with butterflies and you can even get a “bedazzled butterfly” manicure or pedicure in the spa.

Just what we all need. It’s what I would fight this traffic for… NOT!!!

Paula DeenThen I saw this face on a big ole billboard… seems she’s getting in on the action with her new “Family Kitchen.” Is there no end to this?

I actually did stop for dinner at one of the restaurants and it was terrible. I felt herded in and out like one of a flock of sheep. The food was mediocre as was the service. If I had booked a show I would have had to white knuckle the arms of my seat to stay in it. But I didn’t. I couldn’t wait to get back to my room outside of town and get away from this hot mess of commercialism.

Naturally everyone says it is ok because it creates jobs in a notoriously poor area. Well get this…

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park opened in 1934, there were NO tourism-oriented businesses in Pigeon Forge. In the 50s through the 80s, theme parks and factory outlets arrived. This drove up land value to the point that local farmers could no longer afford their property taxes and were forced to sell their land.

This meant that the cost of living in Pigeon Force went up, but the only jobs to be had were low wage opportunities in the tourist business like go-kart operator, T-shirt salesperson, or cabin cleaner.

Only 13.7% of Pigeon Forge residents have a college degree because the local economy favors uneducated part-time labor in the tourist industry. There are few long-term career opportunities since non-local business owners have no interest or incentive in providing benefits such as health insurance or paid sick leave.

I don’t see the value in any of it. How many millions of dollars are people spending here and not even looking at a mountain? Lord help us.

So I drove back to my home away from home to watch the sun go down behind the blue misty mountain in the distance. James tried to help me with my camera and we couldn’t get it charged, so he loaned me his to use for the evening. I was able to download the photos off his memory card, delete them from the card and return it. It was great!

TN mountain11

Sunday had been my one free day of the trip – no driving and no class – and I was able to recharge my batteries a bit. Now I needed to get my game plan together again.

Monday morning it was time to pack up and go. It’s amazing how spread out I can get in a couple days and it took me a while to get organized. I lugged all my stuff out to the car to load up. The chickens were still penned in from the night before, but there were two overly friendly cats on the scene. I kept having to shoo them away from the door as I went in and out. Finally, I was loading the last of the bags into the trunk and the black cat leaped onto the wet front windshield and slid backwards. He made a screeching sound as he tried to regain his footing.

The cat disappeared from sight and I assumed he fell off the hood of the car. But when I reached up to pull down the hatch, there was that midnight-black cat, perched in mid-air, ready to jump straight into my face. I screeched and flew backwards, the cat made a mighty arching leap past my shoulder and the hatch slammed shut. I lost my breath for a minute.

Geez o pete! At least I didn’t full-out scream! Sorry, folks. I just don’t like cats. Those who do say they are playful or mischievous – I think they’re sneaky. And Mr. Black Cat didn’t endear me any further. Ugh!

So I was on my way to my next destination. It was about 5 hours or so to Franklin Tennessee and I was already enjoying the journey. As usual, my goal was to drive a couple hours before I had to stop – because I always have to stop to break up the trip.

When I first started out, I was still in the country. And it’s amazing what you see. For instance, did you know that at Floyd’s Market you can also buy fireworks and get a tattoo? Or maybe it’s just in the same complex, I’m not sure. But that’s just one example of one-stop shopping. And I won’t describe the billboard I saw for dental implants… people with missing teeth aren’t normally used for advertising… are they?

Then, every couple miles or so, I saw a hamburger joint called Krystal. It kept saying “the original square slider.”

Hmmm… sounds like “White Castle” back home. I rather like White Castle once in a while, so I decided that was what I wanted for lunch. But I had my two hour driving rule in place. I’d have to wait for a bit, but then I could compare the little square burgers…

Well, two hours passed and I started looking for a Krystal sign. They had started getting scarce. What I DID see was a Waffle House at almost every exit. Which is what I had been hungry for a week ago when I left home and couldn’t find one after my two hour rule was up.

Darn it, all Waffle Houses and no Krystal. Then I saw a White Castle sign. That meant I must be out of Krystal territory. Ah well…. Waffle House it would be. And besides, I needed a good cup of coffee to go.

It was a quick lunch and I was right back on the road. I had most of the day’s drive under my belt and only about an hour and a half to go. I’m getting pretty good at this driving stuff!

Soon I was near my destination and I was now in beautiful country. This area reminds me of the splendid landscapes around Louisville, Kentucky. Suddenly there were horse farms with long stretches of black fencing and fields full of those rolled up hay bales gleaming in the sun. I NEED MY CAMERA!!!

At last I pulled into the drive of my B&B here in Leiper’s Fork and it is a stunning place. I can’t believe these people even share their home with strangers! Here’s a view of the front of the house…

Victorian

When I get my camera charged up, I’ll take some more shots. This home is downright gorgeous and I have the whole upstairs to myself… library/sitting room, 3 bedrooms and 2 baths. Plus fridge space and the outdoors. I took my knitting out on the front porch for a while and sat in one of those classic white-painted rockers. What a treat to stay in such beautiful surroundings!

Now I need to get to bed as my class starts tomorrow. I’m very excited for it, but I know I’m going into it a bit worn out. I’m sure adrenaline will take over. I can’t wait!

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