Sunday’s Plein Air—Lemon House in Acworth

Acworth Georgia was petty much burned to the ground by Sherman in 1864. The Lemon House above was commandeered by his staff officers and spared from being destroyed. This classically proportioned Antebellum mansion still sits at the end of Lemon Street just a block from the railroad tracks. Built in 1856 by Capt. James L. Lemon,  one of only two confederate medals of honor winners, it has been occupied by his descendants almost continuously until now.

I was in Acworth for a critique sponsored by Don Maier at Gallery 4463. This art gallery is housed in a restored older industrial building right across from the center of town. I was invited to show some of my work but instead of putting off my usual Sunday Plein air session, I thought I’d drive over early and park in the gallery lot then find a good place to paint for a few hours before the event. I spent a lot of time wandering around town looking for a good spot – or just any spot, finally heading down to the closest residential neighborhood with the thought of catching some good period houses. Jackpot! several beautiful 19th-century homes, most in good shape to choose from. At the end of the street was this (Lemon) yellow-painted Antebellum mansion with all the bells and whistles and as I was to find out, quite a fascinating history.

So I set up and had at it for several hours hoping that I was not disturbing anyone. The yellow of this house was so very hard to paint properly and the gray day gave me little light to help. I used a lot of purples—the direct opposite of yellow on the color wheel, for the shadows and had to repaint it several times with new mixes of what is really a yellow-green. I forgot my new sharp brushes and had to make do with a medium-sized worn-out one plus battle fire ants biting my toes in between my sandals.  As usual, some of the braver residents and the owner of the house came out to take a look.   Descendant Mark Lemon (below) brought out a few pamphlets on the structure and its history. I was delighted to find that he too is an artist/illustrator/author and a historical one at that. His particular interest is the Alamo which he has built a scale replica of. He also created a book on the subject along with many drawings, paintings, and recently a huge mural in San Antonio.

I got caught up in the discussion of all this history and finally realized that I was running out of time. I had to excuse myself to get over to the critique. Of course, I was terribly late and wearing shorts with wet paint on them (wouldn’t want to ruin my reputation.)  but I made it over and sat through a good session of ideas and opinions from my fellow artists. In the end, they decided the shutters were too dark on the bottom—So after getting home I lightened them up a bit and straightened out some of the geometry. All in all a good Plein air day— except for the fire ant bites. I always learn something interesting when I’m painting Plein air. 

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