West Jefferson, NC Sketch #5

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click to enlarge

Like all small towns, there is an end to the main street, and this gallery is it.  Here’s where everyone turns around and starts back up the small hill.  There’s a sculpture in front which I left out.  Too complicated for my fledgling talents, but I may redo this someday to see if I’ve improved. West Jefferson has several galleries, the largest of which is on a parallel street near a factory.  We almost missed it.  Like the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Va., it houses studios, and the halls are lined with art.

Worth a note:  If you travel here, take the side streets for some surprises.  There’s a bee shop in an alley, complete with a working hive and a hole in the wall to allow the bees access to pollen.  Also, there are several eateries across from the Farmer’s Market.   There’s so much to do and see in this small town.  I can only imagine how spectacular this place would be in the fall.

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West Jefferson, NC, Sketch #4

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The iconic image of West Jefferson, besides Mount Jefferson, is the cheese factory’s entrance where three rather large holding tanks are configured and painted as cows.  Whether these tanks actually hold anything is a mystery, but they’re large enough to be noticed immediately upon arrival into downtown, and if there is a crowd at all, it’s people getting their picture taken in front of these three ladies.

Not a particularly interesting sketch, but necessary to complete the series.  I might have painted those empty vats.

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West Jefferson, NC, Sketch #3

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Downtown is so lively, and I felt like I had license to use all the colors I saw.  Unfortunately, they’re not in my palette.

But of all these sketches, and there are more to come, this one was the most fun to paint.  I feel I conveyed the happiness of the place – and the depth of the blue sky that’s up there near 3000 feet.  What a great little town.

What a fun place to sketch and paint.

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West Jefferson, NC, Sketch #2

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click to enlarge

Our first stop was the cheese factory, the town’s biggest draw.  Operating since 1918, it’s still popping out cheese and butter at an alarming rate.  More alarming is that on this second visit (I was there a few months ago), the vats were again empty; yet people crowded around the large viewing window staring into them.  A bit strange, but seeing the vats full would not have been as entertaining.

 

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West Jefferson, North Carolina Sketch #1

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It was one of those perfect days.  “Carolina Blue” skies.  Seventy degrees with a slight breeze.  No traffic.  Great food, friendly service, and everyone everywhere glad to see us.  The colors were indicative of the tone of the town – bright and happy.  There was so much to see and do we didn’t make it up the mountain.  But…

Here is the first in a series of sketches.  This light fixture fixated me.  My depiction doesn’t convey its size and patina.  I probably shouldn’t have sketched it.  Somehow I feel I’ve diminished its beauty.

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Hummingbird Watercolor

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While I’ve never had this many hummingbirds at my feeder at once, I have counted five different birds.  I know this because of their markings.  Maybe there are duplicates, and I’m feeding more than I realize.  Whatever.  I enjoy watching them, and have come to terms with risking my life on the ladder to clean that feeder.

What is harder than reaching the feeder is timing wet-on-wet watercolor.  Too soon and there’s too much leaching.  Too late, and a line surrounds the newly added paint.  This takes practice.  I have the time if it stays this hot and keeps raining.

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Hummingbirds in the Rain Journal Sketch

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My feeder is protected by a rather large overhang, and it’s not uncommon to find hummingbirds using this area for a rest or pick-me-up at the trough.  I’ve been very diligent about cleaning the feeder, and that has significantly increased these little visitors.

Unfortunately for them, I also keep this large window very clean because I take a lot of photos through it.  So it’s also not uncommon to hear one of the birds hit the window.  Now and then I can hear one with a panicky chirp because they’ve gotten their beak stuck in the screen.  It’s usually only a few seconds before they wiggle themselves free.  Their resilience is surpassed only by their quest for constant food.  Lucky for me.

This journal sketch is under 15 minutes, including watercoloring.  I had to “imagine” what one must look like smacking the window.

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Keeping it Loose

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Bing always has a great picture, as well as a learning opportunity, on their front page.  I’m not sure how these photos get chosen, but they are invariably beautiful and enticing.  (Who has the job of choosing, and how did they get so lucky?)

One photo was of Bruges in Belgium. Everything about this photo makes you want to travel there.  But much of this photo made the painting of it too complex.  Most of the advice I’ve gleaned from my classes, books and dvd’s is simple:  Choose only those subjects within the whole that you want to paint, and only as much as will fit in the context of whether you want a tight or loose painting.

I chose loose.  Very loose, and I did this as quickly as I could – maybe too quickly because I see I left out many buildings that might have defined the painting more.   Mostly this was about color, and the color worked for me… even if the water looks like the top of the stone wall.  I would etch this up with the black pen for definition, but it’s already too busy and it’s not in the journal.

 

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Burke County Courthouse Sketch

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It was sunny today; sunnier than it’s been in almost a week, so I took the opportunity to take some snaps of downtown Morganton.  I had my sketchbook with me, but it was just too hot, and frankly too sunny to see much above ground level.

This is the dome of the courthouse, which reflected more color than its actual white and beige.  I wanted to sketch very loose and use less color.  I succeeded in the color, but put in a bit more detail than I intended.  I am getting more comfortable with trees and bushes, which in retrospect are pretty simple once you get the hang of them.  Done with pencil first, then painted, when totally dry I added the pen for contrast and depth.

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Two Journals

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I’ve had a large sketchbook since 2010, the summer I spent on Bailey Island.  Much of what’s in there is not worth posting, but I did two sketches recently that I knew wouldn’t fit in the little journal I have in my purse so I pulled the big one out and like having all that space to fill.  Faces are incredibly fun to sketch.  It’s much easier to see what has gone wrong while your sketching eyes and noses than when you’re just drawing buildings – which seem to hide the mistakes.

I need to be looking for some very hard charcoal sticks, and will appreciate any suggestions on what works and what doesn’t.

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click to enlarge

The Rose Dawson sketch is my representation of one off the “images” on the Internet.  For fun, and because it was on one of the “plex” channels, I listened to the movie while I drew this.

The other sketch is simply something from one of my learn-to-draw books.  Both of these are freehand, and differ quite a bit from the originals. But both were good learning experiences, and part of my commitment to sketch or paint every day.

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