Recently my family and I enjoyed an incredible New England vacation on Block Island, a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. (More on this soon!)
On our last visit to the Block two summers ago, I visited the Jessie Edwards Gallery where I discovered the work of Whitney Knapp Bowditch. I started following Whitney’s Instagram feed and have really enjoyed her work. She is a prolific painter and adjunct professor who spent her summers on the Block since the 80’s, and now resides in Richmond, VA. She produces wonderful oil paintings and charcoal sketches, many of which are inspired by Block Island.
I contacted Whitney shortly before we arrived this July and she graciously responded. We touched base again after our arrival and made plans to have coffee and paint en plein air together.
How fun it was to connect with another artist and hear about her art career as well as her love for the Block, such a magical and inspiring place!
From left to right: A sample of Whitney’s work from her recent show at Jessie Edwards Gallery; Whitney painting en plein air on Block Island’s rocky coastline; some of my plein air sketches from our Block Island trip.
On our way to New England for our family vacation we overnighted at my brother-in-law’s house. He and his wife Claire own a beautiful historic home in Newark, Delaware. Behind the house is a charming barn which, in addition to storage for the usual yard tools, doubles as Claire’s pottery studio, housing her kiln and wheel for her gorgeous raku vessels.
I created a barn painting from a photo I took last time we visited. Claire and Scott were delighted.
This week began in an exceptionally good way.
I turned 50 and my sweet husband whisked me out of town for a surprise celebration.
First stop: Sky Valley Zip Tours just outside of Blowing Rock, NC. Let's just say that after it was over, I was glad I had done it. But my 50-year-old body was sore from the shaking and tensing I had been doing for the entire 2.5 hours! I was SUPER scared. But I also knew I'd regret it if I didn't go through with it. Check that one off the list! And I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I received a Giving Keys necklace (sweet gift from my daughter’s boyfriend) with the word “FEARLESS” stamped on it.
Next stop: we traveled back to the irresistably cute town of Blowing Rock, enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Storie Street Grille, and then visited BRAM (the Blowing Rock Art Museum). By the way, the museum is now free. My favorite was the Etchings & Lithographs of American Life. 1905-1943 exhibit, featuring work by Thomas Hart Benton, John French Sloan and Grant Wood, among others.
.We headed down the road to Banner Elk to our lodging accommodations; Bruce had reserved a cottage in the River Club at The Lodge at Eagles Nest. After settling in, we enjoyed a walk in the trout stream. Gorgeous! Dinner (complete with live entertainment) was at up at the Amphitheater at the Great Camp. What an amazing setting!
The next day we rode around the resort and on trails with our rented ATV. Quite the adventure! Almost got stuck but thankfully, made it out.
For my actual birthday dinner, Bruce had secured reservations at a highly desireable restaurant. Artisanal in Banner Elk. Absolutely incredible. I don't know whether I enjoyed the meal or the atmosphere more. A rustic barn with an equestrian theme, it is an absolute feast for the eyes and the tastebuds. Talk about elevating food to an art form!
I would say Bruce did an amazing job, wouldn't you?! He certainly made turning 50 seem painless and even quite enjoyable!
Beach Walk, ©Julia Chandler Lawing, 2018
Hope all you moms out there had an amazing Mother's Day and were well celebrated by your children!
I can gratefully say I was. My four daughters made me beautiful handmade cards, each in their own style, presented me with a bouquet of pink and purple tulips, and a gorgeous pair of cornflower blue Hart Studio tassel earrings. I was thrilled! We attended a wonderful service at church, then my husband and I played (I use that term loosely when referring to myself on the golf course!). And enjoyed a nice dinner with my in-laws.
I finished up this painting for my own mother, of her walking on the Sea Island beach with my four daughters. It was actually supposed to be a Christmas gift, but by default, it's now a Mother's Day gift :)
CHARLESTON, SC -- After helping my daughter move out of her dorm room at The College of Charleston a couple of weeks ago (which, I must say, is a creative challenge all its own, due to the lack of on-street parking!), I stayed on for a few more days to attend an art workshop.
Of course, I love painting anytime and anywhere, but painting at the Church of Our Saviour on Johns Island for two days was a highlight for me because I discovered an amazing series of paintings in its narthex. The artist is none other than Mary Whyte, one of my favorites.
I was first introduced to Whyte's work several years ago when I had the privilege of seeing her "Working South" show at the Greenville (SC) County Museum of Art. Whyte is known for her watercolor work, but the series at the church was done in oils. I was told she used child members of the church as her models. The frames were handcrafted by her former husband and are a work of art in themselves, each one with its portion of the Bible verse Isaiah 42:10 inscribed in calligraphic gold leaf. At breaktime, I would stand before them in awe and admiration. My fascination with them also seemed to confirm my recent creative urges to paint more people.
My second favorite thing about the week was exploring Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. For the second day of the workshop, we painted en plein air there. I stayed on and walked the trails (my phone told me I logged over 9 miles that day!), having the best time photographing peacocks, egrets, flora and alligators. Most exciting was hearing two gators bellowing in the creek. Wow! What an incredibly beautiful place.
I was recently honored to contribute to a very worthy cause by donating one of my paintings to a silent charity auction.
OneWorld Health's vision is to see impoverished communities take ownership in a sustainable healthcare model, so that they become empowered to bring about long-term change and tangible improvements in their health and quality of life. Their mission is to provide quality, affordable healthcare to people in need. By the year 2020, they plan to have 20 health centers built throughout Uganda and Nicaragua.
"We are driven by the conviction that we’re all created equal in the image of God, but not all of us are treated equally. We believe that where you are born should not determine whether you have the ability to meet basic human needs like healthcare." -- OneWorld Health0
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA -- As we do every year, my family enjoyed a beautiful Easter on St. Simons Island, where I grew up.
My mother still resides on the island and is a member of historical Christ Church Frederica. We attended the Easter vigils there and at its sister parish, St. Ignatius. The church is very blessed to have floral designer David Lowe (of Edward On St. Simons) as a member, because he creates the most INCREDIBLE floral arrangements both inside and outside of the building.
Got in a little putt putt, beach walking, bike riding, sunset watching, and painting while there. Always a fabulous time! I love the Golden Isles!
Through The Eyes of Unfamiliarity
"Strangers Passing Through" was inspired from a day I spent painting en plein air at a friend's farm in Rockwell, NC, a couple of years ago. Though it was December, it was quite warm, hovering around 70 degrees.--not unlike the majority of this most recent winter!
I read once in a book on creativity how we are more observant in places where we are strangers. I guess that lines up with the old adage, "Familiarity breeds contempt."
May we always have new eyes to see, even those things that we know like the back of our hand.
"We're all strangers passing through a place and time afternoon
Life is but a vision in a window that we're peeking through."
--from Difference Maker by needtobreathe