This weekend was the Blue Ridge Paint Out. This three day event is held twice a year, both Spring and Fall and sponsored by the local arts association. Blue Ridge GA is a mountain town in Fannin county, famous for the wonderful TVA lake of the same name but the town is actually not on the lake it’s situated on a rail line that is now used by the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. This is the second time I’ve attended but after putting nearly 600 miles on my car last year with four trips up and back I decided to only go up Saturday and Sunday plus stay over at our home in Helen—about 40 miles SE of Blue Ridge.
With my Z loaded up with supplies, frames and an overnight bag I drove up 575 Saturday morning and checked in at about 9AM. I love the train but it only sticks around until about noon when it leaves with it’s passengers for a three hour trip to McCaysville, a town right on the Tennessee boarder. So I set up quick for my first painting on a deck of one of the near by buildings above the tracks. The store in front was closed for some reason so I was all alone with a great view. Last year I won third prize with a view of the front of the train near the station (see here). I did a few thumbs first, deciding on a vertical view that included the town in the background. I liked the way the shadows fell across the train from the line of building that parallel the tracks and I used this to highlight the train and some quickly rendered figures —including one of the conductors. I broke one of my rules and suffered because of it. Never try new techniques or equipment (except a brush) in a competition. I bought some Galkyd, a quick drying alkyd based medium because I was out of my Archival Oils Odourless Lean. This dried the paint so quickly that I had some trouble adjusting to it—mostly because it made a sticky mess on my palette. I like to work lights over a dark under painting and this is helped by having a slightly dry surface. But the Galkyd dries up much faster than I was use to and with a lot of gloss. No excuses, but it took me about an hour longer to get what I wanted and it still was not as tonal as some of my more recent work.
Horse Creek Stables
After overshooting my time limit on the first painting I went to lunch and decided to go out to a location east of Blue Ridge in Mineral Bluff up Hwy 60 — Horse Creek Stables. Marsha Hamby Savage—a friend and fellow artisit mentioned that a group of painters were planning on doing some sunset painting from this location around five in the afternoon. With not enough time before the designated rendezvous for another painting I decided to go out early and set up. Driving in my car with the top down on a beautiful
Spring day in the mountains is no chore and the location was only about ten miles from town. I found Postell Rd. off Hwy 60 and drove in slowly on the gravel arriving in a nicely situated valley with views west toward the mountains. Horse Creek Stables is owned by Diane and Lester Aradi who have escaped to this idyllic location and set up a rescue center for animals. Several horses and a few llamas graze in verdant green pastures with nary a thought of the problems that they must have encountered in previous lives. Dianne and Lester keep busy taking care of them and occasionally guests who rent the comfortable getaway cottage situated right next to the farm house. I drove right up to the house and was greeted by Lester who was expecting us—perhaps not this early but still very graciously. Again I got out my gear and worked with my pencil searching for the right view that could take advantage of an eventual back light. It took a while but I ended up right in front of the house with a view of a distant ridge, pasture and the fence lined road in the distance. As I worked the animals came and introduced themselves. First the dogs, a big Golden and a Australian Shepard named Blue—both rescued but now living the good life. Then a cat that I felt against my back legs, finally a collection of chickens—one white, that insisted that I must have something good to eat in my pocket. In a while the rest of the painters showed up until there were five of us set up with easels —most on the front porch of the lovely double decked southern style home. A young couple staying in the cottage joined us for the fun. I kept an ear out for the conversation as the sun set and worked hard to capture the wonderful view. I enjoy things that make a place like this special— I’m not going to make it easy on myself by painting isolated objects even though I know it’s risks making a small painting busy. With this I included some of the horses and chickens that were so much a part of the experience—they thrive with obvious love and care and grace this magical landscape. Thanks to Diane and Lester for such wonderful and unexpected experience.
I was finished just as it got too dark to work and we all loaded up and headed our separate ways. I contemplated getting a room at a local hotel and avoiding a drive through the mountains but in the end felt like I had enough energy to finish the journey and keep with my original plan. The precarious corkscrew of a road ended up being mostly downhill of this I was thankful plus the weather was good with not much traffic either way. I drove into the driveway of our house near Unicoi Park at 10PM. The night was starlit and clear but I still needed the light of my phone to get all the locks open and after a few minutes I was asleep in big king size bed. In the morning I double checked my equipment loaded up once more and headed back to Blue Ridge for the last day of the event. The day was gray and the weather forecast was rain in the late afternoon. I decided to go to McCaysville to see if I could find a good spot. Honestly I would have been better off in Blue Ridge as I spent several hours looking for the perfect spot finally ending up on an interesting section of road that parallels the Scenic Railway tracks and the Taccoa River. I worked about an hour on one view and then switched to another ending up with a rather gray 12 x12″. With some light this might have been a winner, with out it was flat and a bit too academic for this event. At about 2:30 I packed up once more and headed for the art center in Blue Ridge. Most everyone was there ahead of me but I made it by the 3PM limit, got my work framed up and toured the gallery while the judge made her decisions. The results? Second place for my “Sunset at Horse Creek Stable”
Weekends like this show how much you can accomplish if you just give it a try—spending time outside in nature as a plein air painter is a joy —I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. Ad to that meeting new people and having new experiences and you have a pretty rewarding activity. Unlike many I like the competition too, it gets me working hard and thinking hard and in the end we’ll see where it takes me.