Thursday, February 27, 2014

Easel on Down the Road - North Carolina

Asheville is just the coolest town. I spent yesterday afternoon scanning galleries and poking into little hippie shops. I concluded my visit with a gluten-free beer (amazingly good!) and calamari at a local brewery. This morning I enjoyed my coffee slowly and got into the Fit around 9:30. I had cheesy eggs at a Waffle House on the way to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Right now the Parkway has 9 open miles above Asheville; it is mostly closed during the winter season. I took my time winding up the roads, enjoying the vistas between stretches of dense foliage. I wasn't in a big hurry. It was below freezing.

Eventually I pulled over. The Smokey Mountains showed purple behind a thick tangle of trees.  I set up my easel and sketched on the canvas with thinned-down Quinachronome Burnt Orange. The biggest challenge was to simplify the foreground. Behind me, icicles hung down a rocky face, glistening in the sun. Every now and then I jumped at the glassy crash as they slid and broke.

It was cold today but the sun was a fine companion. Tomorrow I point the car home. The best part of any trip is returning! I especially look forward to pulling out these four paintings, having not seen them since started. It's just a little bit like Christmas. And when they are finished, I will have completed 20 states. I'm on target to wrap up by the end of 2015! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Easel - Some thoughts on the similarities of painting and sound

So, on this - my 10th day on the road - I remember why I like "Easel". I may have all the most wonderful things at home that I miss like crazy - with a hearty squeeze on my heart - but I am a free-agent on the road and the sheer opportunity hits me like I'm traveling the universe aboard the Starship Enterprise. (OK, I saw one of the "Next Generation" movies last night - love them!)

I was driving to Asheville today when, two hours into it, mountains appeared - ultramarine blue and distant. I did not see them again for 20 minutes, but my mood elevated. Meanwhile, I had been scanning the radio stations, skipping over bible proselytizing and commercial droning and I found a great Latin rhythm, so I left it there. When the DJ began speaking earnestly in Spanish, I listened. Despite 3 years of Advanced Spanish in High School, I understood nothing (except maybe the numbers). But the cadence of his voice tickled my brain, so I left it on. 

This was another reminder of how music/sound is akin to painting. The rhythm of his speech was textural. The tone - like a color. Even the canned laughter and applause were marks upon a canvas. I am often struck by these similarities. Listening to another language emphasizes this. The sonant massaged my brain. 

Tomorrow I will drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway because every single person I asked today said that was the place to go and paint. I am now ensconced in a simple but pleasant apartment in the foothills (thank you, "airbnb") and again have the luxury of painting all day tomorrow and driving right back to this futon to go to sleep, rather than hunting up a new place to stay. Ahhh.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Easel on Down the Road - painting in South Carolina

Painting today was glorious! I had the luxury of waking up in the area where I would paint and of knowing I did not have to jump in the car and drive to a new destination when I was done. I walked some trails before breakfast and found an open space among pines next to Lake Thurmond. The ground was soft and the earth that dipped into the water was a rich red. A cool breeze balanced a steady sun and a deep calm settled over me.

I approached my work slowly, breathing in the pine needle twang and crawling the edge of each shape with my eyes. I heard wind approaching through the trees and looked up to see it press on the water in the distance, making a stripe of darker blue. I held onto the canvas and, when the wind did not dissipate, decided to put the painting on the ground and stretch myself out in the sun until it died down. This was an easy problem to solve!

I tried several more times to mount the painting back onto the easel, mixing colors and cleaning brushes before doing so. This worked for awhile but eventually the wind won. I put the painting on the ground and sat cross-legged to finish, feeling a bit like I was in kindergarten.

After cleaning up my supplies and myself, I drove out of the park and discovered a lovely restaurant within a local golf course. Everyone was remarkably friendly and exceedingly polite. What a day! Tomorrow I'm heading to Ashville, NC. I look forward to a scenic drive and to two nights in a cottage I found through "airbnb". 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Easel on Down the Road - Georgia

I spent 25 hours in Georgia. I am reminded that my quest to paint a landscape in every state is a journey. The navigation is erratic and dictated by any number of unrelated factors: available time, the weather, cost, visits to family and friends plus the unknown. Much like my actual life right now, the rules are few and the results are uncertain. It feels healthy, free and just a little bit scary. I'm stating this now to assuage the guilt over spending so little time in The Peach State.

So, anyway, I took a detour from painting after Alabama and spent three days with my 95 year old mom in Naples, Florida. Ruthie is a hoot! Nearly blind, ready to nap at a moment's notice and happy, happy, happy to do absolutely anything at all, especially if socializing is involved. We had lots of fun together. Then, yesterday, I drove to Atlanta and stayed with a dear, old friend. Catherine is my cousin's cousin and feels like a sister. We three (including the connecting-cousin, Mary) spent most of our summers together on the beaches of Saugatuck. Distance and adult responsibilities have kept the two of us apart for most of the last 30 years but once we saw each other again, we could not stop talking. What a true pleasure! 

This morning, after a brief driving tour of the grand, old city, I set off toward South Carolina via Catherine and John's lake cottage. I pulled into the drive at noon. It was cool and sunny. Fishermen floated by on boats and the breeze caught at the canvas on my easel. I painted a single chair under the shade of some trees, thinking of a lazy summer day in the South. I packed up in the late afternoon and drove across the Savannah River into South Carolina, where I have a room booked in the lodge at Hickory Knob State Park.

I expect tomorrow to be sunny again and will hike some trails in the morning, scouting out my next painting location.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Easel on Down the Road - Alabama

"Oh..oh Alabam... The devil fools with the best laid plans..." I can't help myself! Being a lifelong Niel Young fan, my brain sang that song endlessly as I drove the length of the state today. I painted 1/3rd of the way down, in Oak Mountain State Park, near Birmingham. It is the largest state park as well as home for a waterfall. I hiked part of the way to the bottom of the falls.  It wasn't very far from the parking area but I had to grasp saplings to steady my gate. I sweat pretty hard climbing back up (decidedly out of shape!) and chose instead to unpack my easel and paint near Peavine Falls Road, overlooking a gurgling runoff, just steps from my car.

I grew calm once painting. Yesterday's drive was grueling - 11 hours starting with snow and ending with torrential rain and a stay in a sticky Motel 8. I felt grim. Why was I doing this, again? Was there a point to leaving my warm (albeit snowed-in) home and studio, my wonderful boyfriend, my needy dog? I did not feel the pulse of the project, the urgency to drive and paint, drive and paint. But once the challenge of recording moving water was upon me, I forgot everything else and focused. Structure! A goal! The sun swept through the trees and the breeze was light and warm. Ahhh.

Tonight I am in a much nicer room and very close to the warmth of the gulf. Tomorrow I drive south to Naples, where my mom is eagerly waiting to see me. I will take a luscious three days off, then head to Atlanta, stay with an old friend and locate a landscape to paint, once more a citizen of the road.