Dec 24, 2010

Captive subjects

“William does bananas”, 5x8" watercolor
Rita Reinecker of Minneapolis, Minnesota was winner of the red fruit contest. Pomegranate, she guessed and pomegranate it was. Dave Hawley of Huntington Beach, California came in second by guessing tomato. Both were good responses, both, more creative than an obvious red fruit apple response.

The first request I’m likely to get when I’m commissioned to paint a wedding is “paint my grandkids”. As you may know, my wedding painting is done on location, in the moment. No preliminary sketching with pencil, just alla prima paint application. If one of my subjects stays still for more than a minute, I’m fortunate. Kids, of all people, do not stay still for a minute. And so I simply respond to a grandparent’s request by saying, “I can’t guarantee anything. But then, neither do doctors and lawyers.” They usually cut me some slack.

This painting of William was a little less challenging. He was locked into his high chair, and so I had a captive subject. And his little dog Felton enjoyed snoozing, so he too was still for more than a minute. See the entire collection of William and Felton paintings by clicking here.

“Cavalier King Charles on his throne”, 6 x 8" watercolor

Dec 21, 2010

Out of the box

“Facing Finals at UNC”, 3x3" watercolor

I’m trying to find a link for Beaufort artist and good friend Jerry Stocks who tied with Donna in our little “Find the Dude” contest. Help me with this, Jerry, if you happen to be reading.

And here’s the last of the students studying at Carolina Union. Very recognizable in the crowd, with the UNC sweatshirt that gives him away.

In my past life as an advertising art director, creativity was king. No maybe not king, queen. The Idea was King. And so after trying to think out of the box for most of my life, I find myself still trying to come up with creative solutions. Here’s a valuable piece I learned from Bob Gill* when I was in graduate school, “If you want a more creative solution, make the problem more creative.” It works. Just try it. Ask yourself to name a fruit that’s red. Apple, right? Then make the problem more interesting, and ask yourself to come up with a fruit that’s red both inside and out. Name the fruit. I’ll post your response (or mine) on my next blog post.

Please note that I’ve left my last several students studying unsigned. This is because I don’t know where they’ll end up — the trash, in a mat singularly or in a dual-window mat where I only want one signature to show. Below is a series of quick-sketch watercolors I painted in Raleigh at Jerry’s Artarama for a fundraiser to benefit the National Wildlife Federation. Who says mat windows need to be cut perpendicular?

“Jerry’s Art-A-Thon”, multiple watercolors in an 8-ply multi-window mat

* Bob Gill,  author of Forget all the rules about graphic Design. Including the ones in this book.

Dec 16, 2010

We have a winner

“UGGs, book, and a laptop”, 2.5x4.5 watercolor sketch

Here’s one of the last two watercolor sketches I have of students gearing up for finals at UNC.

Interruption: my neighbor just stopped by with his usual Christmas gift for me, chocolate covered peanuts. I’m told he and his wife are now in their 80’s. Their son died just before Thanksgiving with a ruptured heart. 52 years old. As I watched his Dad step down my icy front steps, I thought to myself,
Sometimes life just kicks the crap out of us.

Two of you who put in guesses on the dude in the painting contest were friends of mine when my 36-year old husband Jerry died of cancer. I became a 29-year old widow. That’s when life beat up on me. I couldn’t have survived my loss without these close friends. Writer friend Leslie Carson Ritchie went out to eat with me when for some reason food wouldn’t go down in the presence of anyone else. Donna Jansen, also a writer, is a rock solid friend who I met in 1976 when she and I became a writer/art director team at TEAM Electronics, a chain of stereo component stores (remember those?) based in Minneapolis.

The contest was not rigged or biased. But I am glad Donna guessed the right dude. She’s been a great supporter of mine as well as a good customer. She is partial to my animal paintings and now has practically a farm in her collection — cows, sheep, goats, maybe others. It was partially her response to my last round of cow paintings that led in Fearrington Village (click “Losing the Muse”) to my last commission to paint a wedding. Thank you Donna!

Dec 15, 2010

The challenge continues

“The dude on the right is eating Chinese take-out”
4 x 10.5" watercolor
I have about a million things to be doing today other than running blog contests. Only one person tried yesterday to guess which of the students in “Reading Day . . .” might be the mystery student. And he guessed about every one but the correct one! This probably says more about my ability to draw than it does his ability to identify. So here’s anther visual clue. C’mon people!

Dec 14, 2010

A contest

Study for “Reading Day at Carolina Union”
9x12" watercolor

“Just-Not-Into-It-Dude”, 4x3" watercolor
Here’s a painting I shared yesterday in my weekly Behr Path email newsletter. If you’re a non-subscriber, clicking here will take you to the prompt that will allow you to become a subscriber.

The painting is a study for a larger painting that I plan to hang in my show next spring in Carolina Union at the University of North Carolina. In fact, this upcoming show explains my focus recently on the town of Chapel Hill and the University that calls it home.

The subject of yesterday’s blog entry is in the painting above. See if you can find him. I’m dropping in another one of him today. First one to pick him out of the group above gets a link on my blog. Already have a link here? I’ll give you another link on  Just leave a comment with your response. Ready, set, go.

Dec 13, 2010

A matter of focus

“Just not into it”
5.5 x 8.5" watercolor

It’s been forever since I last posted, so I’ll try in the next couple of days to make up for lost time.

Last Thursday was “Reading Day” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In preparation for finals, students with their brains, books and laptops were draped over every possible chair, sofa, and windowsill throughout campus. This provided the perfect opportunity for me to do some quick figure studies in watercolor. When I did these paintings, I was perched on the third level of the student union looking down into the lounge below. I could see the students clearly, but most of them were unaware of my presence above.

This guy was fun to watch. He was reminiscent of the quick model poses I’ve sketched in live model drawing sessions. He changed positions about every minute or so. One minute, he’d be checking his cell phone; the next, trying to focus on a book; and finally, he was eating take out food (I assume Chinese) with chopsticks. You’ll see more of this dude in days to come.

Nov 14, 2010


“The third floor
6x9" watercolor

Friday night was the official opening of On the Plein Air Trail with Brenda Behr at Carolina Creations in New Bern, NC. In 2003, I found this [very] fine art and craft gallery soon after my return to North Carolina. It might well be the finest gallery of its type in the entire state. Word has it that co-owner Janet Francouer hand selects every single item right down to each of the greeting cards. I love her taste of humor and whimsy.

Here’s a link to the paintings in the show if you are one of those living too far to travel to New Bern. If, on the other hand, you want a really splendid Christmas shopping adventure, I advise you go the extra mile.

I did my very first night painting en plein air Friday night while standing outside Carolina Creations. Janet’s husband and business partner, Michael Fracouer, rigged me up with some lighting. I’m happy with the resulting painting. I’ll be sharing it on my newsletter that will come out tomorrow. Not a subscriber? Click here.

Janet and Michael graciously invited me to be an overnight guest in their home Friday night after the festivities. What an honor! If I could afford it, theirs is how I would decorate my home, and I would call it BrendaLand. It’s full of art and color and whimsy. If I didn’t love my life so much, I’d be mad with jealousy.

Had to paint the other view. I’m in love with the apple green bookcase you see on the right. It’s from a line of “Dust Furniture” that is carried at Carolina Creations. I think the name of the line should be Drunk Furniture. If you agree (or disagree) and like the look, just click on the name I’ve given it.

“Room with a bookcase”
9x7" watercolor

Nov 11, 2010

Losing the muse

 “Rear View”
“Holding it in”
 “Dos Oreos”
“Solo Oreo”

Yesterday the Lord of Plein Air commanded me, “Go to your room and paint twenty cow paintings.” I painted twenty-four.

When most artists lose their muse, they paint dogs. I paint cows. After spending a frustrating two hours trying to find parking near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I decided I’m outta here and drove up to Fearrington Village near Pittsboro. Painting in the country sounded real appealing to me. Amongst other things, Fearrington Village is known for its Galloway cows, cows that appear to have white corsets around their mid sections. For this reason, they’ve acquired the nickname “Oreo Cows”. Click Mooving subjects to see my attempt earlier this year to paint them in oils.
Painting live animals on location has its challenges. As the afternoon moved on, my sketches became more anatomically correct. Focusing on shapes and the relationship of body parts, one to the other, was key.

Nov 6, 2010


“Lovers at the Cow Cafe”
7x9" watercolor

I do not include people as subjects in my plein air paintings because I’m interested in watching their activities, albeit those activities can sometimes be interesting. If I’m in close proximity to the people I want to include in a painting, I will tell them my intent, and make sure it’s okay with them that I paint them. If, however, the people are across the room, such was the case here, I can generally get by unnoticed.

I could write a romance novel based on my observations of the scene above. He couldn’t keep his hands off her; by the time they left, she’d let her hair down; they didn’t let the table come between them and their embrace. Oh my!

Here is a case where I went to the most family-oriented of cafés, the Cow Café in New Bern, and found there a couple deeply emerged in each other. I had been expecting a bunch of kids that wouldn’t stay still long enough to be included in a painting. (Notice the dad and his daughter to the left of the lovers.)

Sketching people in public places can be great practice for an artist. People, cars and animals move, and so capturing them can speed up your observation and drawing process. There are no model fees. You can meet people this way. If the drawing turns out, and you’re feeling generous, they’ll appreciate the drawing as a gift — on and on.

Nov 3, 2010

Carolina Creations Fine Art & Contemporary Craft: On the Plein Air Trail with Brenda Behr

Carolina Creations Fine Art & Contemporary Craft: On the Plein Air Trail with Brenda Behr

Movin’ on up

“The Guesthouse”
6 1/2 x 9" watercolor

I’ve painted the B&B and hotel rooms; now I’ve painted the guesthouse where I was so graciously accommodated in Beaufort last week. Years ago a TV show called The Jeffersons had the theme song called “Movin on Up”. I looked for it on YouTube as possible audio accompaniment to today’s blog post. I won’t go there.

Notice the whites left in the painting. I’ve taken many workshops by former students of the great watercolorist Edgar Whitney. And many of them have passed down quotes from the master. “Your whites are your Ace card” is one of them. In this quote, he was making reference to the white of the paper. With watercolors, this is really the only legitimate white.

Nov 2, 2010

Santa’s coming

“Steve and Ivie’s house”
7x10" watercolor

Ho de doe ho! Santa’s around the bend!
So, I’m not a poet, or a songwriter. But Santa really is just around the corner.

It would have been hard for me to leave the lovely Inn on Oak Street had I not been returning to quaintly beautiful Beaufort [SC]. My hosts Jerry and Ray had extended their gracious invitation to include the following weekend. And besides, Jerry was interested in commissioning me to paint her daughter’s house. And so here you are folks, Ivie and Steve’s lovely home in Habersham, an upscale development in Beaufort.

Notice the white trim. Normally, my calligraphic watercolor style does not lend itself to this kind of white crispness. I decided the trim, however, was so much a part of the character of the house that it needed to be depicted. To accomplish this, I did a base coat of watercolor that was a combination of wet and dry. Dry in the areas where I wanted to maintain my whites; wet in the areas where I wanted the colors to meld together. I feel good about the result. The next posting will include a painting in which I used this same approach. I may be onto something. With a major show of my calligraphic watercolors coming up next year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this breakthrough did not arrive too soon.

So you ask, where did Santa hop off his sled? The painting of Ivie’s house is a gift from her mom. Smart mom, she checked first to see if her daughter would be good with one of my paintings. Glad she is. Jerry’s candidness with her daughter also explains why this painting is not still under wraps.

Nov 1, 2010

Bedroom paintings

“The Treehouse”, 6x9" watercolor

Van Gogh painted his bedroom in Arles three times. My first bedroom painting was of a room where I stayed at a lovely B&B in New Bern, North Carolina. Click on “The artist’s room at her B&B” to view. Following this was my room last April at The Inn on Oak Street in Jacksonville, Florida. Click on “The Boudoir”, which has in it a stately four-poster bed. Next, was an elegant room at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC. This time click on “Sweet dreams”.

Two weeks ago, I returned to the Inn on Oak Street in Jacksonville, where I stayed in “The Treehouse”. I like to think there are better things to do when I’m on the road than flipping on the TV. Certainly, I can absorb more on my trips, if I’m painting as I go.

Oct 30, 2010

The Innkeeper

I had to rush out of Beaufort right after I painted Jerry’s house, so I could catch the light in Jacksonville to do this next painting. I’ve named it “Lorena’s Sunroom”, as it is a painting requested by a beautiful woman named Lorena and differs from the one I painted last April of the same room. Lorena Eagle is the beautiful new manager of the Inn on Oak Street, where I’ve stayed twice now during Carol Marine workshops. See the watercolor I did of the Inn by clicking here. Owner of the Inn, Robert Eagle, a wise man, married this charming woman who comes from Albania. I call him wise, for as I see it, he could not have made a smarter choice in women for a wife and in managers of his beautiful Inn. She made my time at the Inn extra special by adding all kinds of special touches throughout my stay.

Above: “Lorena’s Sun Room”
Below: “The Sun Room”

Oct 28, 2010

Southern Hospitality

“Jerry and Ray’s”
7x9" watercolor

It’s been awhile since I last posted. Travels have taken me afar. One of you has followed me well enough to know that I was headed in mid-October to Florida for a Carol Marine workshop*. And, Jerry, you were kind and generous enough to offer me a stopover in your charming, quintessentially Southern town of Beaufort, South Carolina. Only half an hour or so out of my way, the overnight stay broke up the road trip beautifully. Additionally, I can’t thank you enough for undoubtedly having the insight to know that I would be mesmerized into painting your gem of a Southern town. In the coming week, I’ll be posting here and on my Hot Off the Easel blog the fruits of my Beaufort labor [of love].

*Fellow blogger and artist, Linda Popple, has done us all the service and favor of blog posts that very well cover Carol Marine’s workshop in Jacksonville. Do click here to follow Linda’s blow-by-blow posting of the workshop from October 18 through the 25. Linda’s a buddy I had the privilege to meet in a workshop with Carol Marine last April. She’s as kind, talented, and generous as TEXAS is big!

Oct 15, 2010

Cotton fields back home

“Now a Walmart”
5 1/2 x 8 1/2" watercolor

I’ve been intrigued with cotton fields since I very first returned to North Carolina in 2003. And I’ve always enjoyed putting stories with my paintings. Next Monday I’ll be sharing with my newsletter subscribers a new oil I painted of a cotton field not far from where I live. I’ll also be discussing the use of oils vs. watercolors. Please click here if you are not already on the mailing list, and are interested in becoming a subscriber to my weekly Behr Path newsletter.
Following is the text I wrote in 2003 that accompanied this painting. My watercolor style is different now, of course I’ve changed the name of the painting, and my mother has passed, but my love of storytelling and plein air painting continues.

I drove by this field many times on Hwy 70 en route to Raleigh. The vast field with barns on the horizon caught my eye even before the cotton started bursting. Mother in tow, I did the painting utilizing the trunk of the car as my easel. The leaves of the plants had turned partially crimson. How many times did I hear Mom tell me the cotton should be picked before so much rain falls on it? Growing up, long ago, she worked for a cotton grower in Texas. That’s why she says she knows cotton. I suppose any farmer in these parts would tell her it’s not her cotton pickin’ business.

Oct 4, 2010

It Takes a Village

“Miss Tee’s House
7x9" watercolor

The modest house in the painting was the home of a former Senior Vice President of Piedmont Airlines. And yes, she was a woman. Trailblazer Ms. Davis made her way up in the South of the 50’s, a time when Harriet Nelson was role model to many. Her friends called her Miss Tee, hence the name of the painting.

Wherever you stand on Hilary Rodham Clinton’s book It Takes a Village [to raise a child], I’m here to say, It Takes a Village for an Artist to Make a Living. I view my patrons as not only those who purchase my artwork, but those who support me in whatever way they can. Friends in the town where I live keep their eyes and ears open to opportunities for me. I get referrals from people who know my work, and I receive invitations for overnights on the road where overnight stays would otherwise be cost-prohibitive. I never had the privilege to meet Miss Tee. She is the late mother of patron and friend Ed Davis. Miss Tee’s house is where I’ve stayed in Winston-Salem in preparation for the Black Walnut Festival in Bethania, NC. Thanks to Ed and also to friend Rita who flew down from Minneapolis, MN to help me at the Festival. I send my deepest gratitude to all who so generously give me their continuing support.

See another recent gesture of hospitality shown to me by clicking Cabin Retreat .

Sep 15, 2010

Birth Announcement

5 1/2 x 5 1/2" watercolor

I can see it now. My funeral. I don’t know where it will be, but if there is some memorial service here in Goldsboro (probably some church), a guy named Henry is going to get up and say a few words about me. Something like this,

“She was always painting. She and I made an appointment one night for me to come spray her house [for bugs], so the very next morning I showed up on her porch carrying all my equipment at the time we’d agreed on. She was still in her robe and slippers when she answered the door. And she said, ‘This is not a good time. Can you come back tomorrow? I have a butterfly that just hatched and I’m painting it. I’ll pay you a partial if you’ll come back.’ And I told her I’d be back that Friday and wouldn’t charge her, but that I hoped there’d be no more butterflies. She was always up to something.”

And so, folks, I have never been a mother, and so have never gone through labor, but my guess is, we don’t choose what time a baby decides it’s going to show up. Such was the case with Henry, named after my [roach] exterminator.

Sep 9, 2010

Flying in plein air

13x13" watercolor quintych

Back when I was capturing caterpillars (in watercolor) in my garden, a couple of bees were buzzing around. You know I had to paint them. They move much faster than caterpillars. They don’t fly as fast as F-15 Strike Eagles which I’ve also painted, but they may be even more challenging to capture in a painting. F-15’s fly overhead in a flight pattern, so if you don’t capture one the first time over, you can get the next one. As far as I can tell, bees have no set flight pattern.

So here are my bees. I may not have mentioned to you, but I have a little sumi-e under my not-so-black belt. Sumi-e, which for those who don't know, is Asian brush painting done with ink (sumi). Sumi-e is something I studied at one time so I could learn some of its beautiful strokes and incorporate them into my watercolors. These bees would qualify as sumi-e had they been done in ink rather than watercolor.

Sep 5, 2010

Bearing witness

“Twin Mummies”
5x5" watercolor

Contrary to what you might believe, I am not a frustrated botanical artist. Plus, I really do have other things to do today besides painting chrysalises. But how often does one bear witness to a miracle? A friend called today and as I was talking to her, what was a caterpillar a few days ago turned into a chrysalis right before my eyes! If you Google Black Swallowtail Metamorphosis you too can watch this. I am so impressed. It’s almost as if he was swallowed by his own skin. He’s the top one in the painting above. I don’t know if he’ll become the vivid spring green you see in his sister beneath him. I have no idea why one chrysalis is brownish, and another, green. Nature is amazing. I learn from her all the time.

“Preparing for the Afterlife”

5 x 8 1/2" watercolor

Sep 4, 2010

They’re back!

“Slow-change artist”
5 1/2 x 5 1/2" watercolor

I apologize for the comment I made earlier that having caterpillars on my fennel plant a month ago was proof of global warming. I honestly believe that global warming is real, and is happening. I just happened to use a bad example with which to argue the matter.

So here we go. Right when I have way too much on my plate, the caterpillars are back from another hatching, and of course, like last year, I feel compelled to paint their various stages of development. If you happened to miss my first round of metamorphic watercolor studies, please visit As beauty unfolds on Hot Off the Easel.

So, I’ve been a caterpillar mom now for about a week. I knew my babies were preparing to become chrysalis, because three of their siblings disappeared from their banquet on my fennel plant. I managed to bring the others inside, and am happy to report that all three of them are on their way to becoming winged miracles.

Those who prefer my looser style painting, please visit Mooving on my other blog. Holy cow!

Sep 1, 2010

An aborted attempt

“It’s gone! The bread is gone!” I exclaimed as I checked out the back of his SUV for more loaves of bread. “Do you have any more? It’s all moved!”

The vendor trying to sell bread at the Fearrington Farmers Market thought I was being funny. In fact, he laughed his head off at my remarks. He was trying to sell bread; I was trying to make a painting. We each had our own agenda. It didn’t matter to me that he’d been kind enough to share his big umbrella at the threat of rain.

Here, folks, is an unfinished painting. The base coat, put down very wet and very loose is pretty much what most of my plein air watercolors look like before they receive their calligraphic line treatment. I’m including below a photo of the scene that I’d hoped to capture. I had to lay the painting aside to dry between the base coat and the calligraphy. I may and may not go back into this painting. I’m used to people moving, cars moving, but somehow I wasn’t thinking the bread would move. Fortunately for the bread vendor, I was wrong.

Photo left:
the view from the bread vendor

Painting above: “Unfinished”

Aug 29, 2010

Dead mules anyone?

“The Dead Mule Club”
7x9" watercolor

This was my third watercolor last Tuesday when I spent the day painting in and around Chapel Hill, NC. A Franklin Street merchant who carries a line of my greeting cards had suggested I paint this place. In an attempt to find the meaning of a “dead mule”, I found a blog that can tell you more than you may ever want to know about dead mules [in Southern literature]. Check it out.

The hole in the wall pub was difficult to find. The Dead Mule Club sets back from Franklin Street and is surrounded with signs that read MEMBERS ONLY. I have a hunch buying a drink is about the only requirement for membership. I may be wrong.

I’ve read the place has more ambiance than the run of the bars on the Street, so if you’re in the neighborhood, you may want to consider stopping in. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m., but I have been unsuccessful finding the days of the week they’re open. I reckon they are a bit of a private club.

Aug 26, 2010

Models gone mad

Last Saturday was an intense painting day. This is a good thing. First stop was plein air painting in North Raleigh with members from Visual Art Exchange, a private non-profit arts organization. Next was a trip into the city for a Dr. Sketchy session at Noir, a bar and restaurant closer to downtown. Last, one of my favorite Raleigh venues for indoors work, the cocktail lounge at 42nd Street Oyster Bar. To see the watercolor painting “Lined up on a Saturday night”, just click on Hot Off the Easel.

figure above: “Stretch Sketch”
9 x 7" water-soluble pencil

“tea break”
4 ½ x 2 ½ watercolor

The figure studies you see here were done at Dr. Sketchy’s, now an international organization that hosts drawing sessions with live models, dressed in various costumes, often risqué. Ou la la! The models that posed on Saturday were excellent. One of them had never modeled previously, but I would not have guessed this. They were dressed as twisted interpretations of Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter. This particular session was referred to as “Tea Party”, thus the still life of the teapot and cup that I painted during one of the model breaks.

“tea party”
7 x 9" water-soluble pencil

Aug 22, 2010

Bethania 10

“Old Bethania School”
6 x 9.5" watercolor

With the exception of a couple of commissions* I picked up when I was there, “Old Bethania School” concludes the paintings from my August trip to the quaint historical village of Bethania. Although this painting was done en plein air, it took me several photos before deciding what view I wanted to capture. As some of you know, I like to first frame up in my camera the views I choose to paint. This painting is lacking the school bell that sets on a pole in front of the schoolhouse. I’ll probably add it before I tote this painting off to the Black Walnut Festival in September. Later reference to a photo is another good reason for artists to take photos of the scenes they depict.

Please leave a comment to this blog entry if you know the reason for the dual entryway to the old school. I suspect one door was for girls, and the other, for boys. My research has not given me an answer to this question. Also, architects, pray tell, might these be considered a humble example of Greek Revival doorways? Very strange.

* Clicking “Summertime” will link you to what might have been one of these commissions.

Aug 20, 2010

Bethania 9

“the bake oven”
7 x 9.5" watercolor

As you can see from its title, what you’re looking at in the painting is not some kind of colonial doghouse. When I painted it, I was told it was an authentically reconstructed outdoor oven. But, truthfully, to find the true name of this type of oven, I relied on the wonderful book I recently purchased, Bethania, The Village by the Black Walnut Bottom. The book is well written and researched and gives me reason to introduce you to its author Beverly Hamel. Although, not a native of Bethania, she comes from a long line of Moravians in Pennsylvania and most definitely knows her history. Her book, available through all the known sources for books, can readily be found by clicking Bethania Writers Studio.

Not as historical as Ms. Hamel might write, but interesting, the bake oven is, amongst other things, used for baking rolls for Lovefeasts* at Bethania Moravian Church (visible in the background of the painting). Like its hot doughnut [Krispy Kreme] descendant, warm freshly baked bread has irresistible appeal. And imagine the energy saved doing all this baking outside and in a brick oven? Those Moravian colonists were way ahead of their time. I’m in the market for an invitation to their next Lovefeast. :-)

* click for Wikipedia definition of Lovefeast

Aug 19, 2010

Bethania 8

“Gates to God’s Acre”
7 x 10" watercolor

There stands a magnificent entryway to God’s Acre, the Moravian graveyard in Bethania. And I found solemn contemplation in painting it. As I’ve mentioned, some of the red cedars in this graveyard date back to the founding of the community in 1759. How fortunate the dead have kept watch over these historic trees and protected them from being leveled to the ground in the name of new development. I invite you to see a wider view of the Gates at
Hot Off the Easel.

Aug 18, 2010

Bethania 7

“the Cornwallis House”
7 x 9.5" watercolor

I no more than arrived back from my painting trip to Bethania, than a letter from Robert Genn* arrived in my email that addressed the pluses and minuses of being alone when an artist travels. I could write the book on this. And he actually did post my response to his letter on his Painter’s Keys website. Click on “What to do with yourself” to find my little tidbit, and by all means scroll down when you get there.

As you will see in my response to Robert Genn, I used the painting of Cornwallis House to illustrate my trip to Bethania. Because Lord Cornwallis was a British revolutionary general most of us have heard of, and because he reportedly spent a night in this house during the Revolutionary War, the painting above seemed to me a logical choice with which to represent my trip to the historical town of Bethania.

* Canadian artist Robert Genn writes a bi-weekly letter that is followed by artists, writers and others worldwide. Subjects are art-related, but his writing and thoughts are eloquent and of interest to all. If you are not already a subscriber to Genn’s letters, you may become one by following this link.

Aug 17, 2010

Bethania 6

“Jacob Loesch House”
7.5 x 9.5" watercolor

All I can tell you, none of the other houses in the town of Bethania show exposed logs. Maybe this is why I found it the most interesting house there, and so the one I chose to paint first. The temperatures went into the 90’s that afternoon, so you can bet I was painting in the shade of a heavily leaved tree.

There is one more thing I can tell you. A story much better than I might convey about the restoration of this house can be found by clicking here.

Aug 16, 2010

Bethania 5

“Bethania Moravian Church 1”
7.5 x 9.5" watercolor

How could one go to Bethania, the oldest Moravian village in North Carolina, and not paint the church? Here we see the church as it appeared to me on a very hot day a little over a week ago. Perhaps the day’s heat index kept me from adding further calligraphic detail to this plein [hot] air painting. See the detail I’m referring to at “Bethania Moravian Church 2” on my Hot off the Easel blog.

Aug 15, 2010

Doughnut Break

“Doughnut Factory in Winston-Salem”
7 x 9.5" watercolor

I can’t remember now if this is the first painting or the sixth that I did on my trip to Bethania. No matter. What would a trip to Winston-Salem (nearest city) be without a stop at Krispy Kreme? (Actually, I made two stops. See proof of them at HOTTER than HOT).

What you see here is not my typical calligraphic kind of watercolor painting. The driver of the car parked in front returned to his car and so when I saw he was pulling away, I scrambled to get a little calligraphy into the painting. Unfortunately, the base coat was still wet. And so, I consider this a watercolor about shapes more than about calligraphy.

This is yet another painting done in the car, this time in the passenger’s seat. And wouldn’t you know, between stages of the painting, three Krispy Kreme employees came out for a smoke break (see below).

“Smoke break at Krispy Kreme”
3.5 x 3.5" watercolor

Aug 14, 2010

Bethania 4

“Pathway to God’s Acre”
9.5 x 7.5" watercolor

Here you see another dans la voiture watercolor painting, and this time, it was painted in the car, not because I needed a higher view of it, but because a storm broke, forcing me to dodge rain and lightening by staying in my car. Not such a bad thing, I might note. In 90º temperatures, an automobile offers one the advantage of running the air conditioner. Windshield wipers and defrost are part of the mix, but the escape from sweltering heat makes it all well worth it.

I painted this scene three times. See an oil version of this painting on my web blog, Hot off the Easel. The third version will be introduced in my weekly “Behr Path” newsletter on Monday. If you are not already a subscriber to the newsletter, I’d love for you to become one. Clicking here will lead you there.

Aug 13, 2010

Bethania 3

“Vista from God’s Acre”
9.5 x 7.5" watercolor

You snooze you lose.

I don’t know where this day went —lunch with a friend, then a wonderful afternoon with my favorite pillow. I really do want to post my Bethania paintings, one each day until I’ve shared them all. I was away from you all too long.

God’s Acre is within the fenced area on the left in this painting. The Bethania Moravian Church is the church you see just over the hill. God’s Acre in Moravian lingo means cemetery. You will find a much better description of the term and a little of its history in Wikipedia.

I stayed in my car for this painting. One of these days my watercolor water bucket is going to have a mishap and pour itself down the gear shaft of my car. Maybe it’s called the transmission. I’m the first to admit I don’t know cars.

“Vista from God’s Acre” required me to be as high up as I could get, and without climbing a tree, my mini-SUV took me as high as I could get. For more about painting in the car, visit my “Dans la voiture” blog entry.

Aug 12, 2010

Bethania 2

“Visitor Center”
7x9" watercolor

Of course the Visitor Center was my first stop upon arriving in Bethania. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Wolff-Moser House, the subject of this painting . . .
The Historic Bethania Visitor Center facilities include a relocated and restored Moravian farmstead home, the Wolff-Moser House, dating to ca. 1792, one of the earliest known surviving rural Moravian farmstead homes in North America.
When painting en plein air, I find it a real time-saver if I can find two views of things I want to paint that are in close proximity. The Visitor Center was just down the road from the second painting I did of the Mill, and so I only had to face the other direction to view it. In addition, my calligraphic watercolor style requires some drying time between the base wash and the calligraphic line treatment, so this painting was started as the wash on the Mill painting was drying.

Aug 11, 2010

Bethania 1

“Bethania Mill & Village Shoppes”
7x9" watercolor

This was a first for me. An anonymous benefactor actually paid my travel expenses to paint a specific geographic area. Bethania is a small community on the outskirts of Winston-Salem, NC. Incorporated in 1995, the historical town is distinguished as the second oldest Moravian settlement in North Carolina. Pennsylvania Moravians founded the community in 1759 as a missionary outreach base. I scoped out the area on Tuesday, August 4, and began a series of paintings the following day.

So today I begin posting the plein air paintings I did on my trip. The Bethania Mill is one of the first sights one sees upon entering the town. At the sight of an old seed mill, the structure has been completely renovated and turned into a shelter for several quaint retail shops, a gallery, artist’s loft, as well as West & Stem Architects, the masterminds behind the renovation. Patricia West, co-founder and co-owner of the property that houses Bethania Mill & Village Shoppes has spoken for the painting. See her car parked in a second view I captured of the Mill at my other blog, Hot Off the Easel.

Jul 29, 2010

Where did I go wrong?

“Out on a limb”
6x8" watercolor

I’ve never been a parent. I can only imagine what a parent goes through when their kid(s) don’t turn out quite as they’d hoped.

Last year I found a dozen or more caterpillars devouring the fennel plant that grows on the south side of my house. I kept thinking, “I really need to photograph this.” Three days later when I finally remembered to do this, all the caterpillars were gone. I found a chrysalis in their place. This story and the paintings that illustrate it, can be found on my other blog, Hot Off the Easel.

This year, deciding to go through the same process of metamorphosis, but protecting the caterpillars from birds that may have eaten them last year, I went to the trouble to protect them with the kind of netting used on tomato plants. They walked right through it! They’d perch right on top of the netting. All of the seven caterpillars that were on my plant three days ago are gone now. Maybe I was being overly protective; maybe I shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Note : A mature caterpillar is faster than a young butterfly. They don’t look like they can move fast, but when an artist sets out to capture a caterpillar likeness, (s)he needs not to waste any time over it.

“Anise Butterfly”
6x6" watercolor