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….

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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!

Painting Trip, Days 5 & 6

(Note – still posting late due to exhaustion! Trying to stay current…)

Well, I missed a couple days because I was just too tuckered to write about it. I’ll catch up now…

Friday, was our last day of the painting workshop. Again I went in two hours early to paint but I could feel myself wearing down. I had packed my lunch and I also went through McD’s for a coffee and a breakfast sandwich to take with me.

Fortune was with me as I pulled into the North Entrance parking lot and there was an available space. This would make it easier to load up everything at the end of the day.

I trekked through the lot, into the building and was halfway down the hall when I realized I left my breakfast sandwich in the car. I hesitated for a moment, but I realized I DID have my coffee. That would have to do. I didn’t have it in me to go back to the car for a sandwich. And if that’s all I lose on a trip like this, then I’m good.

Up the four flights of stairs I went, hopefully for the last time, and felt my knees about to give out. By the last flight I was literally pulling myself up by the railing and willing my legs to keep going. I was just glad it was early and no one else could see me struggling on the stairs. “Last day… last day… last day…” I told myself with each step.

When John walked in about 8:30, he grinned at me and said, “first one here and last one to leave!”

“Yep,” I replied, “I don’t want to miss anything!”

Gradually everyone else wandered in and we all settled down to painting for the rest of the morning. After lunch, we looked at numerous slides of paintings and went over all the lessons of the week. It was a lot of information and I felt like my brain was completely full.

Here’s Nancy Marshall, who owns Walls Gallery at the Greenbrier with her husband David. She and artist John Poon are discussing her work in progress.

Nancy & John 2

There was a final critique of the work we had done and I was pleased with my efforts. I don’t have anything else finished enough to show here, but soon I will.

Then, of course, it was time to pack up. I had been dreading this moment. Again I was fortunate. My classmate, Lorine, offered to go get a hotel cart for us to share. Oh joy! She went for the cart and I began scraping my palette clean. It’s a messy job and I was just finishing pulling everything together when Lorine got back. Her gear is acrylic (mine is oil) so she didn’t have as much to clean up.

It was a long journey back down as the elevators are tucked away and not very convenient. When we got outside, I made two trips to the car and back. I still wanted to stop in the Gallery and chat with Nancy – who had organized this whole class – before I left. The gallery is quite beautiful and high-end for our part of the country. Nancy has been in the gallery business for over 30 years and she works tirelessly to promote truly fine art from both the artist side and the client side. Artists generally need professional representation and buyers generally need guidance in developing their collections. Nancy and David, being artists themselves, are truly expert at the entire process.

Nancy was kind enough to let me snap some photos of some of the gallery pieces for my own enjoyment later. My favorite piece in Walls Gallery right now is a very large landscape (48×60) by John Poon. My photo does not do it justice or portray the absolute glow it has in real life. Also, David makes sure that the Gallery pieces are framed correctly. He designs the frames, has them milled from raw wood and finished by skilled craftsmen in 24 carat gold leaf. Some are finished in equally fine silver. Here is John’s exquisite landscape priced at $24,500.

Poon Landscape

And here’s a funny tidbit… just a few days ago, when John arrived to teach this class, he was looking at this painting on the gallery wall. He immediately saw an area he wasn’t completely happy with, so he snuck down to the gallery at 2am, got out his paints and touched it up. He was careful to stay out of sight of security so as not to get caught!

So that’s it for this workshop for me. I am beyond tired but I can honestly say it is the best class I’ve ever taken. I can’t wait to type up my notes and think more about it all as I plan to paint more. This workshop did exactly what a workshop should do… refresh, stimulate and enable the artist to grow. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity.

Greenbrier Red Lobby1I didn’t have a chance to see a lot of the Greenbrier, but I did decide to go to the Ladies’ before I left for the last time. I had to go up to a different floor and I walked up on this “lobby” that was too big to even capture in one photo. I took a couple shots here… I can’t imagine what other gems are in this place that I didn’t get a chance to see! (You reallly MUST click on these photos to enlarge them to see the grandeur!!!!)Greenbrier Red Lobby2

Driving back to Lewisburg I felt the tiredness wash over me so I did not go out to eat. I had enough leftovers at my room that needed to be consumed or they would go to waste. So one more chat with Lynn, a bite to eat, a hot bath and to bed. In the morning I need to pack up and move on. Lynn’s home was a delightful respite that made my stay so enjoyable.

Now here’s an unexpected twist…

I’ve been planning this trip for weeks and somehow I did not book accommodations for Saturday night. What?

Well, nothing to do but roll with it. My next stop is a motel in Knoxville TN so I called and asked them to add Saturday night to my Sunday night reservation. Turns out it wasn’t so simple. I had a special rate for Sunday because I had booked more than two weeks ahead ($84) but now there was some big ball game in town and there were no rooms available anywhere. However, Country Inn & Suites would have mercy on me and squeeze me in on Saturday night for an additional $300…

I guffawed… and guffawed again because I’m so tired I’m slaphappy.

So a last minute scramble on AirBNB found me a room for two nights in Sevierville TN for even less than the Country Inn’s special rate. I enjoyed calling them back to completely cancel.

When I woke up Saturday morning it was time to pack. I rolled out of bed and went down the 3 stairs to the main floor and my knees screamed in protest. Ohhh… I finally let down my vigilance and realized I’m gonna pay for all those stairs. I need the Tin Man’s oil can for my joints and some ibuprofen to keep going.

Lynn and I hugged goodbye and I was on the road right at 9am. I had almost 5 hours to go through the mountains and it took me 6 hours because I stopped a couple times. Which was fine with me as I’m not in a rush and I’m enjoying the drive and the view. I actually saw 3 different accidents – all on the other side of the divided highway, thank goodness. One was a jack-knifed truck with traffic at a standstill for about a mile. People were milling around outside their cars while they waited.

I couldn’t quite see the second accident – only the wrecker’s lights – and again the road was closed and traffic backed up for a good mile. Eeks. Made me be much more watchful.

The third one was a lady who had catapulted right down into the middle of the large grass median. She had left a trail of deep tracks and was just emerging from her vehicle looking pretty shaken. Must have been a wild ride but she looked ok. Yikes!

At any rate, I found my destination even after missing the turnoff twice. But that’s normal for me. Now I’m settled into someone’s Mountain home, first floor all to myself. The owner, Liz, and her adult son James are extremely welcoming. They fussed over me nonstop and made sure I was comfortable. Liz also told me to keep the outside door shut all the time because the free-roaming chickens like to come right on in. And that is true! Every time I went to the car, they would run up to investigate. They must think seeing humans means food or something.

I grabbed my camera and took some photos of the chickens. Look at this strange little silky… isn’t he a hoot?!

silky 3

I also snapped some shots of the view of the mountain…

TN mountain 5

And then… my camera went black. Time to charge the battery. Except the battery won’t charge. I fooled and fooled with it but I don’t know if the problem is the battery or the charger or both. This is AGGRAVATING!!! I’m only half way through my trip and I NEED this camera! I’ll have to deal with it tomorrow.

Later in the evening I went to sit outside and Liz and her grandson Josiah came up to chat. Josiah introduced himself and gave me a nice firm handshake – which was very impressive. He and I began to talk.

“Are you a real artist?” Josiah asked.

“Indeed I am,” I replied. “Would you like to see a couple sketchbooks?”

His eyes lit up and at that, his brother and sister and Liz and her son James (the kids’ uncle) all gathered round. James is an accomplished photographer and musician and showed me an unusual instrument he was currently working to master. I can’t even tell you what it is since I had never seen one before!

So we looked through my sketchbooks and everyone loved them. Josiah asked me, “what’s your secret? How do you draw so well?”

I told him there really isn’t a secret – it’s a lot of learning and practicing, but if you want to do it you probably can. Then I could see the wheels turning in Josiah’s head.

“How old do you think I am?” he asked.

“12,” I guessed.

Josiah laughed out loud.

“Up or down?” I asked.

“Down.”

“11.”

“Nope.”

“10”

“Nope.”

“Don’t even tell me you are 9!”

“Yep,” grinned Josiah.

Now this kid is tall, charming, articulate and handsome. The world better watch out on this one…

“OK,” I said. “Do you think you can draw something as simple as a coffee cup?”

“Of course,” he said. “If I had a pencil and paper…”

“You wait right here,” I instructed. And I went back inside and got pencil, paper and a coffee cup. I brought it back outside and sat him on the ground and the cup on the concrete in front of him. “Draw,” I told him.

beginner coffee cupJosiah did a good job but it was a typical newbie drawing where the top of the cup was way too round and the bottom very flat. It’s just a matter of not understanding the shape of a cylinder. And how would he if no one had shown him?

I said, “OK, Josiah, good job. Now I want you to go inside and bring me out one of those bar stools.” He and his 7 year old brother Brandon raced to get the stool. We set it up in front of where I was sitting and set the coffee cup on it for me to draw. “Stand right beside me, Josiah, and watch.” He jumped into place. His Uncle James scooted right in beside him.

coffe cupI began to draw with an oval for the top and explained the perspective. Then I drew a dotted line down the center and told Josiah that since the cup is exactly the same on both sides, you can match the sides up with a center line. You also draw a curved line at the bottom. Then I pointed out the shadow and put that in.

Josiah was adorable. He kept looking at his Uncle James and saying, “I can see it before she even draws it!” And I knew he could FEEL it, which is what I always do. And that’s something you can’t teach. Josiah’s got it and he doesn’t even know it yet.

At that point a few raindrops started coming down and Josiah was disappointed to stop even though James had gotten the kids a movie to watch. So we all piled back into my digs, James drug out a folding table and set it up and we continued. Brandon wanted in on the action so James found another coffee cup, I got out some more pencils and paper and we all began to draw. I told the kids they would miss their movie if they didn’t go upstairs soon, but they didn’t care. “We never get art lessons!” exclaimed Josiah.

Josiah also grew thoughtful and told me he missed his grandmother who passed away a while back. Then he commented to me… “you have the same face.”

“A grandma face?” I asked.

“Yeh,” he said, and smiled at me. It made my heart swell right up with affection for this child I don’t even know. I hope Josiah will remember this evening when an artist visitor came to stay for a couple days at his granny’s house. I know I will.

James wrote down a supply list to get the kids (and himself) for later and we had a blast. And Brandon was exceptional! I think he has natural talent that just needs guided and he’ll end up an architect or an artist or both.

Finally the kids’ parents came back to collect them and they were still in my place drawing their little hearts out. Completely missed their movie and didn’t care. I even fed them some candy that they don’t normally get, so they were happy. In fact, Brandon took a couple pieces of candy and ran them upstairs to his little sister Serenity, age 5, so she didn’t miss anything. He’s a sweet little guy.

So my trip continues to be eventful and fun and full of the unexpected. Now I need to find a camera battery or charger or both. Egads… of all times!!!

Painting Trip, Day 4

Looooonnnnnng Day!

I was so tired last night all I could do was go to bed, so that meant I could get up early this morning. The alarm went off at 6 am, I hopped up and packed my lunch and off I went. I got to the Greenbrier two hours early and had the classroom all to myself. And I got a lot done.

When the instructor, John, arrived, I was able to get a private critique and keep painting. Good stuff.

As everyone trickled in, we worked on our individual paintings until John was ready to demo. Today’s demo was on CLOUDS. And again, just as with yesterday’s lesson on TREES, I was totally captivated. I know that sounds silly to someone who doesn’t paint, but you really can’t do these things unless someone shows you how. People think artists have some sort of God-given talent that flows out the end of their arm, but that simply is not true.

clouds

Art is a science and a craft that needs to be studied to be understood. A lifetime is not enough to gain mastery, although some are ahead of others. That’s why I take classes. Any hint I can get to improve my work is fuel for my passion to do artwork. And I DO get excited by subjects like TREES and CLOUDS. Everything you do builds on something you’ve learned.

Our afternoon lecture was on DESIGN. This one was harder for me to understand but I think I started getting the hang of it toward the end. Gads! How much can one person absorb at a time? I feel like I need to take the cork out of the top of my head so old stuff can flow out and new stuff can flow in…

By 5 pm I was beat. That’s 10 hours for me today in the studio but I was glad for every moment of it. Tomorrow will be our last day of class and I will be sad when it ends. Information-wise, that is. Myself… I’m wearing down a bit. But only because I haven’t kept such a full schedule in a while. But this has been an absolute blast and the most “learning” I’ve done in ages and ages.

Food & FriendsI think I was a zombie on my drive back to Lewisburg. However, I like to go to dinner after a long day like this and tonight I went to Food & Friends. Another excellent place. For as small as Lewisburg is (>4,000 population) they have a number of restaurants and retail shops way bigger than their local community.

This place is famous for steaks and seafood. The special of the day was beer-battered grouper, some fried oysters, fried shrimp, coleslaw and wedding soup (if you got soup instead of salad.) I did. And it was scrumptious…

F & F meal 1Also, the bread comes baked in a flowerpot. It is an over-sized yeast roll and when you put real butter on it… it is heaven. You could go to this restaurant for this bread alone!

By the time I got back to my room I wondered if I could even make it in the door. My knees were aching, I was walking all gimped up and I needed to process this day and get ready for tomorrow. I really felt totally exhausted but totally exhilarated at the same time. Weird… and tiring.

So here’s my finished painting from today. I don’t think it will look any different from what I usually do to those who know me, but I have made leaps and bounds mentally in this class. And this is a nice little painting.

Farmhouse ptg2

Now off to bed so I can go in early again tomorrow and not waste any class time. Can’t wait!

Painting Trip, Day 3

Today was a really good day.

It makes me so happy to say that because there’s nothing better than a really good day that makes you just enjoy your life.

It was Day Two of the painting workshop so I set off for the Greenbrier a little after 8 AM. Lo and behold, I drove right up on a close parking spot. Hooray! What a good start!

A couple of classmates were late so I had time to sit and chat with the instructor, John Poon. He’s a very interesting man… but then I think I am rather interesting, too. So it was fun.

The first lecture of the day was on…. TREES.

This might sound a little strange, but trees are not really the easiest things to paint. I’ve never done them very well at all. I’ve studied pictures in books and been mystified as to how you achieve a believable look to a bank of trees. Well, today I found out how to do it.

John broke the process down to the basics and explained exactly how to portray the various shapes so that they end up looking like a real tree and not a splattery mess. I’ve never been so fascinated with such a mundane subject. Honestly, it was like I had a brain-shift. Or a Eureka moment. Finally, I understand how to paint a tree. I don’t know that I can actually do it yet, but I know how to approach it now.

Then John did a painting demo of a landscape of trees. I pulled up a chair as close as I could get, notebook in hand, camera at the ready and was glued to the spot. Frankly, it can be pretty slow watching someone paint – it isn’t miraculous or anything – but I wasn’t one bit bored. I could have watched him paint all day.

Poon Demo 1

We broke for lunch and I was glad I had my packed pasta. John kept touching up the demo painting off and on and I was a captive audience. When I find a good teacher like this, I just can’t get enough. I don’t want to be annoying, but I’m not going to waste any time, either.

After lunch we painted for an hour and a half and then gathered around for another lecture. This time on “color.”

Oh my!

I’ve studied color a lot. A whole lot. I’m no dummy about color. But John totally took it to another level. Really, how can I have been painting my whole life and not know some of these things? I’m totally gobsmacked by the information I am getting in this workshop. It has been worth every penny and then some. In fact, I’m so excited by what I am learning that I’m pretty much on a “high.” It is literally fueling me up from the inside out.

So I’m halfway through the workshop… two days down and two to go. I’m planning on going in early in the morning to paint by myself before everyone else gets there. I have to try out some of this new stuff I’m learning while I’m all set up and ready to paint.

After class, I enjoyed the 10 mile drive back to Lewisburg. The country roads are so pretty and it gives me a few minutes to decompress. This time, when I got back to town, I stopped at a Mexican place, Del Sol Cantina. Their little courtyard is covered in flowers and the service was quite good. And once again, I have more than half of my supper left to pack for lunch tomorrow.

Del Sol

Now all I have to do is repeat last night’s routine… a glass of wine, a hot bath and a comfy bed.

Right now it is raining softly outside and the windows are open to let in the fresh air. What a good night to snooze in a mountain hideaway!

mountain rain

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