Ambling around Asheville

Mountain Road

Mountain Road

I recently returned from a productive week – a road trip to North Carolina for the purpose of studying with one of my painting idols, Robert Johnson, who held a workshop at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. You can see more of Robert’s work on the Blue Spiral Gallery site. The 4-day workshop was very comprehensive with students who were beginners to watercolor journaling as well as others of us who have been making journal pages for years. There was much to be learned for me. Robert has a unique method of making value and color “short-hand” notes in the field that make it easy and accurate to match colors that may be painted in journal pages at a later time. He does not rely on or make photographs. We learned how to make a simple system of color mixing charts that correspond to the simple palettes he gave us. For me, Robert’s process enables making a journey daybook page much faster, more accurately, and helps me to identify large color and value areas and to avoid copying endless visual details that often confuse me as I view the landscape in front of me.Colorchart.RJ

In North Carolina, I worked with the class applying the “color shorthand” to a page made on a mountain road near the Blue Ridge Parkway. On the rainy day after the workshop, I returned to the parkway and made a second page that shows mostly the clouds that block the mountain view. After I got home, I made my own color chart that corresponds to my personal palette, and I have made a few pages at a park site near here where the endangered Scrub Jay has been sighted.

As is often the case, it will take time and much regular, repetitive work in order to process what Robert Johnson taught me. I am sure that I will discard some of this new method of working as I adopt other parts of the protocol. Already, a big change that has occurred is my translation of the landscape into a simpler view. I am not striving so much to copy as I learned to do in my medical illustration life many years ago. I think that there may have been a subtle brain shift in the way I now “see.” After all, as Frederick Franck said many years ago, drawing is really about seeing.

I had the very decadent experience of  eating very well in my week in Asheville. The city is known as the Santa Fe of the east because of its focus on art and good food. Each evening of my week in Asheville I enjoyed gourmet meals at five new, trendy restaurants with my friend and Journey Daybook alum, Lois, with whom I studied, We walked. We visited galleries. We experienced a very gentle time of restful work.

I made the following journey daybook page on my last day in Asheville from a scenic mountain view turn-off on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Obviously, it was raining and there were only clouds to view.MPH.Ashe

10 thoughts on “Ambling around Asheville

    • Thank you, Mary Anna, for your rave review of Robert’s teaching. He rates as one of the best in my experience because of his patience, generosity, and quiet confidence in his own methods.

  1. I really liked reading about the workshop, your experiences put and about in Asheville and your grand culinary journey with Lois. Such s fulfilling time you had!

    • I thought of you many times. I have resisted making color charts for ages. You, on the other hand, celebrate them! I have learned and continue to learn so much more about color mixing from the larger chart of my present working palette that I finished at home last week. I suspect you could give a thesis on color mixing!

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