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!