Monday, June 03, 2019

A Great Smoky Mountains Project

I'm delighted to share that the Knoxville Arts and Culture Alliance awarded me a Bailey Opportunity Grant for fiscal year 2020!

With support from this grant, I'm going to complete my training and certification as a Southern Appalachian Naturalist. This program is offered at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, located within the national park.

I've taken my first class and will continue my studies through next year. During this time, I'll document my observations and experiences of the park through my landscape painting. Most of the paintings will be small, plein air field studies. But I'll also complete some larger studio works.

The idea for this project echoes something I did while I lived in Pennsylvania. Back then, I created a series of plein air landscape paintings from central Pennsylvania's Black Moshannon State Park. I spent over a decade working in the park, getting to know it throughout the four seasons. As I developed a body of work that eventually numbered up to nearly 50 plein air paintings as well as many larger works, I wrote a book about the park's history and ecology, sharing my visual interpretations of the park with a narrative tracing its history and modern day ecology. I fell in love with that location by getting to know it well and one of my goals for this new project is to gain the same intimacy and reverence for my new home in Tennessee.

I've already ventured up to the Great Smoky Mountains many times and I'm really excited about the new sources of inspiration. Yet I'm also keenly aware of how much I don't know, everything from the broad history of the park to the minute details of its ecology. A vital part of my artistic process is to feel (at least a little bit) knowledgeable about my subjects. This is why when someone approaches me and asks me to paint something from their old family photos, I've always declined unless I can go see the place for myself. The direct experience and ability to witness the details firsthand is critical to my ability to make a successful painting.

This will be a long-term project and I have several goals. Not only do I want to create a new body of artwork that will allow me to call Tennessee my "home," but I also want to share what I learn with others in an effort to help them appreciate the park, its history, and its ecology. Of course, you'll see new works here on my web site as I finish them. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A Television Interview

Earlier this spring, the producers of "Tennessee Life" with East Tennessee PBS television reached out to me and inquired about interviewing me for a segment in an upcoming episode of their program.

It was a great experience to share what I do, as well as the "how" and the "why." Being an artist means that I spend a lot of days alone, working at my easel with just my dogs for feedback (they are wonderful art critics). So it's a privilege when someone takes an interest in what I do.

Following our move to Tennessee a year ago, I've begun work on a new series called "30 from Tennessee." This is my way of sharing my initial impressions of my new surroundings and of getting to know my new home. During the interview for "Tennessee Life," I spoke about this new series of paintings as well as my approach to my artwork. It's really important to me to share the beauty of everyday moments and to highlight the cool things that surround each of us. Under the right light, just about anything is a worthy painting subject!

I hope you enjoy the interview and the glimpse into my studio.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

An Action-Packed Year

My Art Show / Moving Van
Before our official move, I made a couple of trips up and down
I-81 to move much of my studio materials myself.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of our official arrival in Tennessee from Pennsylvania. One year ago today, my husband, Tim, and I landed at our house with just our suitcases, our two dogs, and a couple of air mattresses until our moving van and household contents arrived the following day.

And, yikes, what a year it has been. If you can picture some of the dime store comic books of yesteryear, 2018 smacked us across the faces with a larger-than-life "Ka-Pow" like a Batman and Robin adventure.

To be candid, it's been one of the most difficult years of my life and definitely one of the most challenging of our married life together. The day our moving van arrived to load up our belongings in Pennsylvania during a torrential downpour, my father-in-law was hospitalized in Illinois. He died within a month. Shortly after our arrival in Tennessee, our oldest dog and my field painting companion, Maple, was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, severely limiting her mobility.

Even before we officially moved in, there was the menace of the old house we bought. Prior to our official arrival in May, the air handler unit over the kitchen leaked, and condensation poured into the kitchen ceiling over a period of weeks while we were blissfully unaware and wrapping up the sale of our home in Pennsylvania. We fixed that upon our arrival, but the year rolled on and we soon realized that we were painfully naive about old house ownership. For every one thing we knew would need repair, there were at least two additional issues, everything from an old, buried fuel oil tank to a full property length retaining wall that had to be replaced after record rainfall in February, right on down to a leaky shower that had rotted the joists of the first floor over a period of years. Truly, throughout this past year, there has not been one single week without a contractor to our house to repair or replace something. And late last year, my Dad was briefly hospitalized following a series of mild heart attacks. He has recovered, thankfully, but I think you get the general idea of why this transition has been a bumpy one.

I was of mixed mind about moving to Tennessee. I wanted a new adventure, I just wasn't sure that I could see myself in Tennessee (aka, the South). After a year here, I'm starting to "see" myself better in Tennessee. I've begun to discover some beautiful parks and scenery, plus I like the city of Knoxville because there's much more to do here than there was in central Pennsylvania. And, of course, 2018 was not all bad. We enjoyed some fantastic performances by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and attended some great shows at the gorgeous Tennessee Theater. In addition, the downtown farmer's market is a wonderful destination throughout the growing season.

Oh, and our old house? Welp, she's in much better shape than she was a year ago. Uff dah!

Nonetheless, I'm intent on making this second year in Tennessee calmer and better. I'm starting with a renewed focus on my artwork. Because my studio is in our home, the non-stop parade of repair people and contractors has been extremely disruptive to my work and creativity. I'm looking forward to exhibiting my artwork at a couple of upcoming outdoor art shows in the next few weeks, and then I'm taking most of this summer off just to hunker down in my studio and paint, in peace.

I'm very excited about this.

I'm looking forward to plowing more energy into my painting while exploring some changes in my painting style. Stay tuned.