Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Nars, Buffalo National River, Searcy County

The Nars
11X14, Oil on Canvas
The Nars, or the Narrows for those of you who don't speak the English dialect peculiar to the Ozark mountains, is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain of limestone high in the Boston Plateau. Below and to the left is the Buffalo National River. As you stand at this location, I guess the river is about 100 feet below you. To the right and about the same distance down would be the Richland valley. Millions of years ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it's current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of rock. The brave adventurous type can cross this strip and climb up the throne on the other side. At it's narrowest, the rock ledge is only a couple of feet wide and while the distance to the ground is not terrifying, a slip would certainly result in a broken leg or worse. The ride down that way would be extremely bumpy to say the least. This is a pretty isolated place and to fall here alone without a GPS transmitter would probably be disastrous, especially if you fell onto the Richland Valley side. I certainly wasn't brave enough to cross!
I have only been to the Nars twice in my life and when we went here to get reference pictures a few weeks ago, I was actually pretty concerned about being able to find it again. The first time I went was about 20 years ago and I was working for the Youth Conservation Corp building and maintaining trails in the national park. A county road runs right past it but that road is all but abandoned. The Nars is marked on some maps but there are no signs pointing you to it and if you have never been there, you could very easily walk right past the trail taking you up to it.
Downstream on the Buffalo side is a place now colloquially called Skull Bluff. It used to be called the Bat House by locals. This was the very first place I ever went camping with my dad, uncle and grandfather. We slept open air with the milky way stretched out across the sky above us. I think I was only about 4 or 5 but still have very vivid memories of that gravel bar.
The Nars is a very special location to me. Not because I've spent a lot of time here or any reason that most people might consider a place special. It's special because it was obviously very special to my family. Visiting my grandparents in Pindall as a child, I would hear them talk about The Nars all the time. It was a landmark for locating places and people in time. "Remember when old so and so went up the Nars?" "About a mile past the Nars is such and such." My dad and most of his siblings were born very close to here and it figured prominently in the landscape to them both literally and figuratively. And it took on mythical proportions in the mind of a child, much like Tir na Nog, a place of wonder and mystery.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Prescott Hardware, Nevada County

Prescott Hardware
8X10, Oil on Wood

Sometimes I drive through small towns and just have to ask myself what could have happened here?? Prescott was one of those. You can tell that maybe only a decade or so ago, this was a thriving small town with a beautiful little downtown area. Prescott is the county seat of Nevada County in southwest Arkansas. I don't recall seeing a Wal-Mart there so I don't think that can be blamed for the current state of affairs. It's probably just another case of rural communities drying up because the young folks can't find work and are forced to move to larger cities.

Our rual communities are in stress and there isn't a whole lot that can be done about it. At least some communities try and it looks like Prescott is doing what little it can to bring commerce back to the downtown.

If I were not so connected with the Ozarks of northern Arkansas and had enough regional and/or national collectors to support a fully professional artist life, I might consider this town. As you can see, real estate is dirt cheap. Two store fronts and the land for only $9000! Now, I wouldn't expect to get much(any) traffic to a studio in such a downtown but that's not the point if you have a stable of collectors is it? If you're in that boat, then geograpic location is pretty much a nonfactor. So...if you just happen to be a solid selling artist in need of a very low cost of living location with a lot of landscape to paint, maybe this is the place for you?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back to the Studio and a Very Pleasant Surprise!

Well folks, I'm back from the Los Angeles area and ready to hit the studio again! The trip was great by and large. I got see lots of great art and visited with several artists including one of my absolute favorite artists!

Last week I visited the studio/gallery of Mr. Manfred Kuhnert in Laguna Beach. Earlier this year we purchased one of his pieces. This was the first piece of original art we had ever bought since our walls are usually full to the brim with my own work. However, we were enchanted by his use of color in design so we couldn't pass it up. I had been hoping to get a chance to accompany him on trip to paint out but he is advancing in years and I learned he seldom paints plein air anymore.

On Monday I was treated to a visit of the studio of the EXTREMELY talented and very gracious Mr. William Wray! I've been following him for I guess close to 4 years now. It may not always look like it but I've been influenced a GREAT deal by his work both stylistically and thematically. In particular, I like to think I've learned a great deal about design of sky passages in paintings by studying his work as well as the application of implied detail in "mystery" passages. It was certainly a treat to get to examine many of my favorites in person! I am also very pleased to say that we made our largest art investment ever and I can't wait till it makes it's way to it's new home here in Little Rock! Mr. Wray, if you ever stumble onto this blog, I'd like to thank you for your time and talking with me about your art and your experiences in the art world and most definitely for putting up with a 4 year old in your studio! The Donald Duck has accompanied him almost everywhere since we left your place!

I took plenty of good pictures for future painting fodder both in Laguna and in Pasadena. But first I'd like to complete the two paintings I started before we left. The Magnolia painting is progressing nicely but I still feel like there something missing, like the extra punch is lacking. I may need to take some time to figure out what it's begging for. The small 8X10 of Prescott is in a similar situation. Just a little bit of the right medicine and I think it's going to be grand.

Victoria Beach, Laguna

Pasadena City Hall from Colorado

I had a very pleasant surprise on the voicemail when I got home: I have two pieces that were selected for the Diamond National Show in Hot Springs in August! This is my first national show acceptance and to say I'm excited is putting it mildly. I dont' know how many pieces were accepted total but knowing the space at the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center, it was probably only around 60 or less. To get 2 out of 3 pieces in the show to me is huge. I submitted for this show 2 years ago and was rejected and rightly so, my work was not on par. In some ways, that rejection spurred my desire to improve my skills so in the long haul it was a good thing. One of the pieces accepted is below. It isn't Arkansas related but I'm posting it anyway.

I-110 Southbound, Los Angeles
14X18, Oil on Canvas

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In California

I just wanted to post a very quick update here. I'm currently in Laguna Beach, California. Seeing lots of great art and visiting lots of great galleries. Went to both the Art A Fair and Sawdust festivals yesterday. I wish we could put on some festivals similar to these back home. Haven't put brush to board any yet but have done some sketching.

I have 2 pieces on the easel back at home from the southern Arkansas trip: Prescott and Magnolia. Looking forward to getting back home and finishing up on these!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Woolum - Before it Rose, Buffalo National River, Searcy County

Woolum - Before it Rose
11X14, Oil on Wood

About a month ago, we went camping at Woolum on the Buffalo River. We got there in the early evening of June 10 which was a Thursday. It was a beautiful evening with the lightning bugs rivaling the stars. I still have it in mind to possibly do a nocturne of the field there at Woolum with the lightning bugs. After the campfire died back, we retired to the tents with a few clouds beginning to build. Later in the night, we were awakened by a downpour that lasted all through the deepest hours of the night. The sky the following morning was clotted with clouds with bright but diffuse lighting. It's what artists usually call flat light because there are few shadows. The temperature was cool and the river was running clear. If it had risen any due to the rains, I couldn't tell. The above painting comes from early that morning. This is the end of a long hole of clear water. During the summer months, the sun rises across this hill and gives some spectacular colors. I got some pictures of that the following morning and may revisit this site again.

After breakfast, we took advantage of the cool temperatures and cloudy skies to ford the river and take off into the Richland Valley to visit one of my favorite spots in the national park, which I'll show later.

The sky cleared in the afternoon and temps went up quickly. Our oldest came back to the campsite and reported that the river was muddy and much higher. Almost immediately after he told us this, a truck from a campsite down the way drove by and stopped to tell us the river had risen dramatically and we should take precautions. They were leaving, we stayed. We walked down to the river and sure enough it was several feet higher. Thankfully, the camping sites at Woolum are a fair bit higher than the river. It had taken probably 10 hours but all the water that had fallen across the mountains had finally gathered itself into the Buffalo. It was a very good thing we left for our hike as early as we did or we would have found ourselves stranded across the river.

When we got home the next day we had a frantic message on our answering machine from my wife's mother. It was then that we learned about the tragedy that happened in the very early hours of Friday, June 11 at the Albert Pike Campground on the Little Missouri River in the Ouachitas. The storm that had awakened us in the middle of the night had passed though the Ouachitas much earlier in the day and stalled out in the mountains. The Little Missouri had risen with fury about 2AM when campers were asleep in their tents. At least 16 were killed. Our thoughts and prayers are still with these families who lost precious loved ones.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roundtop Filling Station, Sherwood, Pulaski County

Roundtop Filling Station
11X14, Oil on Canvas

This is an old gas station in Sherwood. This old place, constructed in 1936, was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008 but it's in a sad sad state. When we went by there, it looked like it had been used by some homeless folks. The front door is about to fall off the hinges and it's full of broken bottles. If it were in a more prominent location, I doubt it would be in the state of disrepair it's now in but the stretch of road it sits on was long ago routed around by Highway 67. You can learn more about it here.
We didn't make it up to Marion County this weekend like we had tentatively planned. We did, however, head down to south Arkansas! It was new territory for the wife and kids. I had been down there before but it was 20 some odd years ago so that barely counts. We got reference picures from 4 counties: Nevada, Clarke, Columbia, and Ouachita. It was a loooong day and I'm not too sure the pictures from later in the day will be very useful since we were all pretty tired and ready to get home. But I definitely got some good material to make hay from in two of those and I'm excited to get to work on it. Not much time for plein air work though while we were out.
Next week, we're heading out to southern California! I'm hoping to meet with a couple of my favorite artists and (dare I dream??) paint with one of them in Laguna Beach!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Long Pool, Big Piney Creek, Pope County

Long Pool, South End
8X10, Oil on Wood

If there's one thing upon which I usually pride myself, it's my sense of direction. Call it male ego if you will but I'm normally possessed of a Magellen-like navigational capability. I must confess, however, that I have been a bit turned around by some of the roads in Maryland. But then again, who wouldn't when a northbound road begins to meander back in the opposite direction taking you in some totally unforeseen direction! Maryland has plenty of those, Baltimore especially so. My usually uncanny ability to keep track of my bearing relative where I started out is usually supplemented by good preparation (i.e. maps!! even if they are mental.) So I was a bit taken aback last Sunday when we found ourselves passing through Pelsor on Highway 7 on the way to Long Pool. I had well before then started to speculate I had missed the left hand turn. Now, I've driven Highway 7 between Russellville and Harrison about a thousand times (not literally that many but it sure seems like it). I was absolutely certain I remembered there being a nice big sign pointing the errant traveler to Long Pool. It is after all a pretty popular spot in the Ozark National Forest. Alas, my memory was dead wrong and thus it was that we found ourselves turning around in Newton County and heading back south. A quick stop at the Rotary Ann overlook provided the direction I needed in the form of a map in the pavilion.

Rotary Ann Overlook

The mistake did give me the opportunity to stop and get some reference photos at the now thankfully defunct Booger Hollow. Booger Hollow...how shall I put it? The name probably tells the tale for most people even remotely familiar with the stigma attached to the Ozarks. It's nothing but a wide spot in the road where some bozo sets up a shop with a strong hillbilly theme complete with misspelled words and, in this case, a two story outhouse. It's typical clientele was the "furriner jes passin' thru." It's exploitation of a dated and derogatory stereotype that can still sadly be seen all over Arkansas. So...here in the very near future, I intend to exploit the joyous failure of some sap's failed business model. Good riddance Booger Hollow!

On down Highway 7, we found the turn off for Long Pool. I had never been out there before and boy was I impressed with this beautiful area I had woefully missed out on during the time I lived in Russellville! Plenty of material for some fabulous paintings here!
This is my first new county since starting this endeavour! Time to celebrate...with some more time in the studio.