Bridge at Kensington

Bridge at Kensington

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cold Mountain

Yes, this is the same Cold Mountain that was the subject of the book and movie of the same name. Cold Mountain is west of Asheville, NC, close to the western edge of the state and within sight of the Great Smoky Mountains. (Smokies in the distance in the left photo.)

My sister, Sandy, connected me with the man, Ron Clark, who has set up the last two golfing vacations she and my brother-in-law, Bob, have spent in Western North Carolina. Ron is one of the nicest, friendliest guys you'll ever want to meet. No wonder; Ron has combined doing what he loves with where he loves to be -- he loves to golf and he loves the North Carolina mountains. So promoting golf in the mountains is as normal for him as breathing.

When Sandy told Ron I was a painter and was going to NC to paint, his reponse was "She has to paint Cold Mountain." Ron took time out of his super-busy September schedule (October is a huge tourism month in NC for the fall color season) to meet with me twice. He and his wife have just started to build their dream house in the mountains in Clyde, NC, the spot from which these paintings were painted and photographs taken. They looked for three years to find the highest building site they could find (above 4,000 ft.) and waited another three years until they found the right log home design and builder. To give you an idea of just how awesome their site is, you look down on the medical helicopter that flies by every afternoon to the local hospital.

After meeting Ron in Clyde and following him up his mountain, I got started painting about 4 p.m. on a sunny Monday afternoon. To say it was breezy is a given; it's pretty much always breezy at this elevation. My first piece that day (left) shows a narrow slice of the view of the valley below and the Smokies beyond. As I set up I thought I would try and capture a wider section of the valley, but ended up narrowing it to get the most interesting juxtaposition of the mountain peaks in the distance. I also decided to include more sky than I have in previous paintings to create a greater sense of depth.

I spent about two hours on this first piece, until the light had changed so much I was done whether I wanted to be or not.

I turned around and was excited to see how the setting sun was changing the colors and shadows on Cold Mountain. (photo above right)

The mountain looked so sculptural I decided to put my brush down and use a palette knife, not my typical way of painting. I had to mix up more paint anyway, so not mix up even more? And the 6 X 8 in. canvas seemed much too small, so I painted this one on a 9 X 12 in. canvas board I had in the van.

The light was changing rapidly, changing the color of the sky and increasing the shadows so I worked very fast, finishing this piece (above left) in about 30 minutes. At that point the light was so incredibly beautiful and different from what I started with that I didn't want to stop, so I grabbed another 6 X 8 in. canvas, told myself I had 15 minutes and I had to work with whatever colors were left on the palette.

Truth be told, this last one (right) is probably my favorite from the day. Minimal brush strokes, interesting color and simplified shapes. The photograph is more blue than the actual painting; the rear range of mountains are more gray-blue in the painting.

Not only was I anxious to catch the last light to paint, I was anxious to have enough light to clean up and get my gear back in the van. When I was there in September the builder had just started to stake out the house in preparation for building. Translation: there was no electricity and no lights, except those twinkling below in the valley. While I knew I could slowly feel my way down the mountain road, I wanted to leave myself a little dusk to light my way. I've included a photo of dusk just before I left. Watching the sunset from this height, I realized I had not seen the sun set in the mountains yet this entire trip. What a glorious range of colors!

For those of you who would love to golf in the Western North Carolina mountains, visit Ron at He's also got some great photos, many of which he took himself, on his website.

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