Blue Ridge Spring Plein Air Festival—Drive a lot, paint a lot.

The Blue Ridge competition ended up being a real job this weekend with three days of driving up from Marietta, a distance of  about 100 miles plus a lot of  looking around for good locations. The Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association decided to include most of the area, so I was free to go to just about anyplace I liked to paint. The good thing was the weather was great and just got better as they wrapped up with the judging on Sunday. I did four paintings—finally warming  up with nice ones Saturday and Sunday. Again, I was surprised by the high level of competition and fortunate to come away with a prize for All Aboard, a view of the Scenic Railroad loading up.

Blue Ridge grows on you. It’s in Fannin county in north central Georgia. Being the history buff I was interested in the story of James Walker Fannin, who the county is named after. He led a Georgia volunteer army of 400 men all the way to Texas in 1836. During the battle of Coleto in the War for Texas Independence he was surrounded by Mexican forces and surrendered the regiment. Under orders from commanding officer Antonio Lopez de Santa, Fannin along with virtually all his men were executed.

The TVA built a dam here in the 30’s  and gave this area a magnificent lake with wondrous blue mountains and the Tacoa river flowing north.  From here to the state line are a multitude of forests, fly fishing spots and little towns. Saturday I drove along the river and stopped near McCaysville and painted a view old iron railroad bridge that crosses the river there, it’s a perfect southern mountain town with a quaint homes and original downtown buildings.

Blue Ridge is a bit spread out and put me off at first, but after a few days driving the area and four hours on Sunday right downtown my opinion turned around. The towns commerce and excitement centers around the Scenic Railway which runs north from here to travel through the high mountains to Copper Hill right on the state line. It’s a sizable train with pusher and puller diesel engines and unique open rail cars painted in dark blue with yellow lettering. The tracks run right through the center of town with long main streets parallel on both sides. A section of restored and newer buildings with shops and restaurants cater to the tourists before the leave and when they return. On Sunday I arrived around 11 am with the idea of getting a painting with the train in it and had until 1:30 when the train leaves north on it’s trip North. I set up looking right down the track with a view of the train and the mountains in the background. It  gave my painting some wow factor and I was feeling good about my chances as the time for judging arrived at 3pm.

The arts association owns the old Fannin Co. courthouse and uses it as a gallery. It’s a very nice columned two story building right downtown. I took some time and framed my last painting, cleaned up at got some lunch at a local eatery. Marsha Hamby Savage, a friend and one of the members introduced me to several of the fellow artists. There were about forty paintings entered in the show, much of the work first class. I was very fortunate to come away with third prize for All Aboard, Marsha was second with one her paintings,  Ken McLesky an artist from Athens who was visiting did three fantastic paintings and won first place with his Rocky Stream.

They run this event in the Fall also and with all the blue and some orange to complement it should make from some great painting. I hope to give it another try but I’m going to figure out a way to stay up there for at least one night so I can cut down on the driving.

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