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.