Painting Trip, Day 9

(Note: once again, I’m a day or two behind!)

L ForkOK, it is Tuesday, September 15, 2015. Ninth day of my trip and Day One of the class with Colley Whisson at Leiper’s Creek Gallery in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.

This little unincorporated village is only a short distance from Nashville but it will instantly take you back in time. It boasts a population of about 650 on 1,100 acres of land.

I am thrilled to be here. I started following Colley Whisson about 3 years ago when I was in Italy. I was looking for inspiration online and there he was. I have been a fan ever since of this Australian artist and never dreamed I would get to meet him, let alone take a class with him.

And today I got to tell him that!

But not before I looked like a complete idiot…

So let’s back up here just a bit.

I was on the computer last night and realized that the clock on my phone and the clock on my computer were different. Hmmmmm….

Turns out I’ve crossed into the next time zone and it is an hour earlier here! Who knew?

I’m glad I found this out before class today!

But I did get up and get ready for class at the right time. I went downstairs ready to pack my cooler and my hostess, Harriet, asked what I wanted for breakfast. I honestly did not want to put her out but she insisted. Soon we were eating Turkey Bacon, slices of fresh organic avocado and for me… an egg over easy with a piece of toast. Harriet brought out her Jack Daniels Whiskey jam for me to try. Yum!

Off I went to class with a carful of “stuff” and a lot of trepidation. New workshops are always a venture into the unknown. We artists have a joke (which did come up today) that when people find out we are painters, their typical response is… “oh that must be so relaxing!”


There is NOTHING relaxing about it. I find it pure hard work. Especially painting en plein air… in other words, outside.

I got to the gallery this morning, got a parking place, and noticed other artists trekking toward the back yard. I followed them and discovered about a dozen people in the midst of setting up easels and spreading out art supplies. And even though I was a half hour early, the space under the shelter was gone. That meant I had to be out in the yard. Great.

It took me four trips to get everything from the car and it was all in a big pile. My feet hurt and we hadn’t even started. I felt at a loss and didn’t know where to start… so I didn’t.

Colley introduced himself and started with a demo. We all gathered round to stand and watch.

My feet were BURNING already and Colley is very softspoken. It was hard to hear him, especially when I am leaning first on one foot and then the other. I had a hard time paying attention.

But others didn’t!

The one thing Colley asked was that no one snap pics of his original reference photos. Photos of anything else were fine, but these are his photos that he has taken and wants to paint from. They are not public property.

Some did not respect that. Colley would take one step back from the easel to turn and talk to us and two people would literally jump in between him and the easel and start snapping photos. Colley couldn’t even turn back to the painting in his own personal space! This, along with the pain in my feet, was really getting on my nerves.

Colley only did “stage one” on his canvas and then we were all to go to our easels and do the same. Everyone dispersed and started painting. Except me.

I still wasn’t even set up and my gear was all out in the direct sun. No way was that going to work for me. I looked around and decided to join two women under the nearest shade tree. I schlepped my stuff to that spot.

Then, before I was even set up, Colley appeared to direct our little section. The other two gals were painting away and I didn’t have a thing out except the blank board I intended to paint on. For some reason I was befuddled and couldn’t get going. Colley walked up and I told him I’m a slow starter. “No problem,” he replied. “I’ll be back.”

I’m pretty sure everyone around me thought, “oh, here’s a live wire! Can’t even get the paints out of the box!” Which is true…

Somehow I got semi-organized and roughed my drawing in pretty quickly. Then I went up to the shelter to Colley’s station and got some of his “medium.” This isn’t something I’m familiar with, but the point of the workshop is to paint like he does. And he invited us to use his supplies because he represents that particular paint company and they give him paint to share with his students to entice new customers.

I got the board covered before noon but it didn’t look very good. Great… now I look unorganized and like I can neither draw nor paint. This is not a good start.

Soon it was noon time and everyone made a mad dash for the “gas station” next door, Puckett’s. What a neat place!

Puckett'sPuckett’s is the cornerstone of Leiper’s Fork. They’ve branched into a couple more locations but everyone says those don’t count… this is the original store that was founded in 1953. It started as a country store where you could get fresh groceries, a home-cooked meal and a tank of gas. And that’s what it still is. Tourists and locals both flock to it.

Puckett's orderStill, this is a little ole country place with one gal manning the grill, one dishing up hot entrees and sides and another girl on the cash register. It isn’t fast. And I was last in line. I thought my feet were plum gonna fall off before I got my turn to order a fried bologna sandwich with mustard. As soon as I placed my order I sank into a nearby chair and waited. And waited.

I began to think they’d forgotten me, but they hadn’t. That’s just how long it took.

Here’s another neat thing about Leiper’s Fork… they have a sort of “mascot.” It’s this vintage sheriff’s car they park around town for visitors to enjoy. I laughed out loud when I saw it and hoped Andy or Barney would be nearby. If only…

Sheriff car

I took my sandwich back to my spot under the shade tree, which was no longer in shade. “We’re gonna have to move,” said the girl beside me. I knew she was right but I wasn’t happy. Schlep all this stuff again? Yes, indeed.

Across the yard we went in several more trips and set up again. I was aggravated thinking how temporary this would be since we were going to have to tear it all down and pack it back in the car at the end of the day. I am not a dedicated plein air painter and I do not have portable or light equipment. And all this schlepping is making me grumpy.

I wasn’t the only one…

After a late day demo by Colley, we were sent off to finish our paintings in the last hour of class. Several of the older ladies were grumbling that they needed to stop for the day. I felt the same but I hobbled back to my spot and willed myself to finish my painting. I can’t even believe I did it, but I did.

Colley came around and stopped abruptly when he got to me.

“Nice job!” he exclaimed. I ignored my feet long enough to say a half-hearted thanks.

Colley must have thought I didn’t believe him because he lowered his voice and said, “I want you to know I don’t give false praise because that isn’t really fair. You have done a very fine job today.”

I smiled and Colley went on. “Workshops are hard and not everyone has a good day in them, you know. So I like to give praise when it is due and when I think someone needs work I’ll acknowledge that they’ve had a rough day.”

We chatted for a couple minutes and Colley moved on to the next girl nearby. I heard him say to her, “You must be having a rough day…”

Well, I guess that got me through the final packing up process because I did get everything back in the car. Then I had a devil of a time getting my own legs lifted high enough to get in the car myself. Good thing I’m staying nearby!

Here’s my painting from the first day of class…

rural Colley scene by Starr

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Patti
    Sep 18, 2015 @ 00:47:36

    Great post, Starr and boy are MY feet hurting just reading this! I have had a lot of experience with hurting feet. You have been a trooper and what a blessing to have this experience. The painting is really impressive! As you come close to the end of your trip, I hope it was everything you hoped for. Can’t wait to hear more. ~Patti


  2. dozernation
    Dec 12, 2015 @ 22:31:04

    why don’t you get one of those collapsible small carts, the kind people wheel stuff around on? you see computers on them often.


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