Thursday, August 12, 2010

Asheville, NC

I just got back from a week vacationing in Asheville, NC. My wife's aunt maintains a farm and runs a vacation rental on the property that her father bought over forty years ago. It's located on a wooded hill, with mountain views, and is inhabited by cows, chickens, numerous butterflies, toadstools, blueberry bushes, and a host of other natural wonders.

I brought 3 small canvases to work on while I was there. I had done a few paintings of the farm in the past, so I knew the landscape and the beauty that was waiting for me. The thing that amazed me the most this time, was the way a fog, or blueish mist, would settle in the valley around dawn and dusk. I'm not sure if this was due to the time of year, but it created a beautiful sense of mystery and atmosphere around me...a certain kind of enclosure to the sweeping expanses of space, almost like viewing everything through cloudy water.

This first painting depicts the hay loft about half way up the road to the house. I did a small drawing first in my sketchbook, and then used that to transfer the image to a small canvas that night. I liked how the forms of the baled hay were sitting in this dark cavernous space, with the one in the foreground catching a little light. It reminded me of a Rembrandt portrait; the craggy wrinkled brow and nose of someone emerging out of the darkness. The cows were grazing the pasture in the background, so I managed to sketch a few of them in quickly as they went by.

The second one depicts the pine forest which has been cultivated for lumber. I spent 2 consecutive days on this, working just after dawn, from about 7-9 am. The forest had that heavy mist settled in it, dramatizing the effect of it's depth and density. This spot caught my eye while I was hiking with my son the day before. We came upon this hollowed out space in the woods, with trees in different stages of being processed. There were piles of logs in one spot, rough cut boards in another, then mounds of wood chips, and a bright orange pile of finely cut saw dust in another. I was reminded of the similarity between how the trees were being cultivated and the vegetables being grown on the property. Things were being picked, washed, diced, cooked and eaten every night in the same way the trees were being grown (slowly, since I found out later that the white pine forest was planted by Grandpa Peterson in the 1960s), trimmed, cut, planed, and used to build structures on the farm or sold to local contractors. I had a general feeling of unity to everything that was happening on the farm; that the land was being cultivated and used, with minimal waste. It's such a blessing that my wife and her family have been able to be a part of this land over the years, seeing it grow and change, and now watching the next generation be a part of the memories that it holds.

The last one I painted was of the small pond at the front of the property. We spent alot of time there swimming and relaxing, and me, trying to catch an elusive large bass. I also painted this one just after dawn, before the sun had peaked over the ridge in the east. I liked this point of view that showed off the kidney shape of the pond, and how the reflections broke up the murkiness of the water.

I worked on all of these a little bit back in my studio today, either from the drawings I had done or memory. There's something about the immediacy of the marks and the intimate scale (10"x 15") of these that I enjoy...like a small tablet that can be held in my hands reminding me of our time there.

click here to see my wife's blog about the farm with some stunning photographs and commentary. Enjoy!


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