Painting Class, Day Two

Note: I am still a day behind. This is yesterday’s post just getting loaded today…

So far I’m tired and the art class at the Greenbrier Resort hasn’t even started yet! I got up early to have a cup of tea, get my bearings and re-organize my art supplies. I had called the class organizer last night and asked just how we were supposed to manage getting gear into the building. She told me to drop things off at the “North Entrance,” go park the car, and someone from the gallery would help me.

Uh… yeh.

There’s just no way to easily transport a heavy, solid wood French Easel, a tackle box of paint and a huge tote of wood panels, mineral spirits, paper towels, etc. Not to mention a hat, painting apron, bug spray, sunscreen, a water bottle and assorted snacks. I was dreading this part of the whole thing.

North EntranceI got to the Greenbrier early, got my daypass and found the North Entrance. Look at this… pretty snazzy for a “side door” doncha think? I pulled up, unloaded my stuff to the porch and went to look for a parking place. Ugh. Nothing to be had. So I circled like a vulture until I found one and then walked back to where I had left my things. Really, it wasn’t that far, but since I haven’t been walking, I was a huffing, puffing mess in no time. And I still didn’t know where I was going.

Plus… I wore decent shoes instead of my tennies and I already had blisters on my heels.

It wasn’t even 9 AM.

I found my way to the gallery – two more trips of schlepping – and they weren’t open. So I parked my stuff and sat on a bench in the hallway. A tufted, padded bench in a very GRAND hallway. I got my breath and waited.

Before long someone came and opened the Gallery and asked if that was my stuff outside the door.

“Yep,” I replied.

“You need to go to the West Virginia room with all this.”

“Do you have a cart I can use?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” said the young girl, “but when the owner gets here, she’ll know what to do.”

“I’ll wait,” I said. I had no intentions of moving another inch in this enormous place without assistance.

Fortunately, the gallery owner was very accommodating. She not only produced a cart, but an able-bodied man to steer it. Off we went through a maze of over-decorated splendor from a century past. I was gawking all the way.

Once settled into the class room, others began to trickle in. Turns out they weren’t particularly dressed any nicer than me – AND they had a ton of stuff, too. The difference was they knew what to do…

Each had pulled up to the front door, valeted the car and had a bellman load their gear onto a cart. Duh.

I complained a bit about my “hike” from the car and lack of convenient parking and one lady said, “I just gave the valet $5 and he parked the car for the day.”

“But there will be a different valet when you go out later and you’ll have to pay him, too!” I observed.

“Oh, it’s worth it,” she replied.

Hmmm. I guess I can walk a few blocks each way for 10 bucks. Even if I do huff and puff.

Anyway, I was settled in and the fun was about to begin. I had read great reviews of the artist-instructor, John Poon, and I was excited to get started.

We went around the room introducing ourselves and John asked each of us what we would like to get from the workshop. Then John told us to pick out a photo from the stack he had on the table and spend 45 minutes doing a quick study painting of it. That way he could observe us. He would be able to tell a lot by seeing how each person approached the assignment.

No one produced anything great, including me. But it was nice to cover a small canvas in a short time.

Soon it was time for lunch. There are several restaurants available and I chose to just walk downstairs with several other ladies to the one called Dorothy Draper’s. Ms. Draper was an iconic decorator who outfitted the Greenbrier in its over-the-top décor. Evidently she was considered America’s most influential “tastemaker” at the height of her career and the Greenbrier has maintained her oversized floral patterns everywhere. Some look rather classic to me. Others are down-right gawdy. I can’t say I’m a huge fan.


The restaurant looked like a princess pink room gone mad. The back of the floral print booths are scalloped with gold finials at each point. Rather like a faux throne. Or a pepto bismol explosion.

Even though this is the “low-end” restaurant that will let you enter in casual attire, I knew it would still be pricey. I enjoyed a $20 hot dog.

Actually the hot dog was $8 and the iced tea was $4. (Wow!) I was chatting when the bill came and the receipt was quite faint. I saw the total was $15.95 and thought, hmmmm… that added up fast! But I just wrote $5 on the typical “tip” line and handed it over. Later when I looked more closely, here was the charge: hot dog, $8… iced tea, $4… Historic Preservation Fund, 78 cents… 20% service charge, $2.40. THEN the line I added the $5 tip to said “extra gratuity.”

The kicker is the bottom of the receipt says, “For your convenience, a service charge has been added to your check.” Evidently they are somehow doing me a favor by serving me an $8 hot dog and a $4 glass of iced tea. I can’t imagine what dinner in the main dining room must cost!

Two of my lunch companions did not bat an eye at this. They both own HOMES on the Greenbrier property. Neither lives there full time. It’s just one of their getaway places. No wonder valet parking is a given. Just part of the lifestyle. A lifestyle I haven’t really been exposed to. Here are some typical cottages at Greenbrier…

Greenbrier cottage

Still, I enjoyed the lunch and the hike back to our classroom. I would love to walk around the Greenbrier to see more of it while I’m here. It is absolutely endless.

Back in class, John gave a rather long lecture with slides on “values” – which is the lightness and darkness of the paint colors you use. And now I could see what a good teacher he really is. The information was quite eye-opening and not quite like anything I had heard before. It will take me a bit of practice to learn it, but it is good stuff that should help me a lot.

Then we painted again, trying to use this new information. And this is the frustrating part of any workshop… trying to do something new and just making a mess. It always happens.

When the day ended, I trekked back to my car and drove the 10 miles back to Lewisburg. As I was going through the small downtown I noticed an open parking spot right in front of the Stardust Café. Everyone had recommended this place to me, so I took the spot and went in.

Stardust cafe

The place is small, but charming, and has a very good chef. The service was great and my plate of Sicilian Pasta was huge. I boxed up more than half of it to go because it will make a perfect lunch tomorrow. I’d much rather take my lunch than try to eat at the Greenbrier. In spite of what they call their “impeccable standards” I find it all very pretentious. No more $20 hot dogs for me – although I CAN say I had one at the Greenbrier Resort!

So it was a good day and I learned a lot. Now all I need is a glass of wine and a hot bath in the lovely clawfoot tub back at my room. And tomorrow is tennis shoes only. Darn the blisters!


Day One of the September 2015 Painting Trip

Note: this post was written yesterday but I didn’t have time to get it posted. It’s a day late and I have so much more to write!

Well, after a long hiatus, I am getting back to painting again. The urge continues to hit me every once in a while and off I go. Three years ago it was Italy… now it is the Midwestern USA.

A couple months ago I got a longing to take a really good workshop and began to search for one. It was trickier than I thought to find something within my budget. Most of the ones I really wanted were in arty hot spots that were very expensive and/or too far away. And I really don’t want to pack art gear to fly. I have enough trouble getting myself through an airport as it is.

However, I am infamous in my family for getting super-sleepy while driving. No matter how short the trip! Love of the open road? Not me…

Still, I found two workshops that I thought I could get to and inquired about them. Both were full. Drats.

But a short time later I got a notice that one class had an opening if I wanted it. Even though it was my second choice, I jumped on it. I was excited to have it booked.

Then… the other class opened up as well! Oh no! I’d already sent my deposit to the first one and there was no going back. Sooooo … I booked it, too! Turns out one is the week after the other and they ARE within driving distance of each other… for a normal person. It’s gonna be a stretch for me.

And that’s how I spent a couple weeks gathering paints and brushes and prepping several sizes of panels to paint on. Next was finding accommodations.

Have you heard of the website called AirBNB? Let me tell you, it is fabulous. You plug in your location and up comes a network of people who rent out rooms in their home in the style of a Bed and Breakfast. The descriptions are great, there are reviews and pics of everything, and you can find rooms cheaper than the local chain motel. I found charming places with private rooms and bath near where I needed to go. Voila!

Finally Labor Day arrived today and I was packed and ready to go. It was no small feat as I am an “over-packer” and can’t seem to quit it. Add art gear to that and there was almost no room for me in the car!

Today was sunny and hot but I had a small cooler beside me and a clipboard of Mapquest directions for every twist and turn I was about to drive. Now the trick would be to stay awake.

I set off from home with a cup of black coffee and no breakfast. I had to drive just over 5 hours to the far side of West Virginia, so I wanted to go an hour and a half before I stopped. Then I could get brunch.

About 40 minutes from home I felt my eyes getting heavy. I HATE this feeling in the car. And I really don’t know why it always happens but driving just seems to lull me to sleep!

I began to talk to myself and then to sing. Loudly. “Summer ti- ime! And the livin’ is eaaazzzyyy…” It helped a little. I cranked up the air and blew it toward my face. That was better. I reached in the cooler for a piece of string cheese and worked on that for a while. Finally, the sleepiness passed.

I was so proud of myself I started to think about what I was hungry for. Breakfast. Waffle House. Eggs and those crazy smothered, covered & scattered home fries. Oh yeh. Surely I would see a Waffle House soon and get my reward for driving myself through the sleepies.

But there was no Waffle House. In fact, things were getting pretty sparse in the foothills of the Appalachians. And I was getting mighty hungry. Oh if only I had some Doritos and a Diet Coke out of the trunk! The crunch would keep me going!

Eventually I saw a truck stop. Not one of the big glam fancy places. Just a worn looking local deal, but it seemed like the real thing. I swung in. Surely they would have eggs and hash browns. Otherwise it would be a pit stop and I would keep going.

Indeed they had what I wanted. “Whatcha drinking, hun?” asked the waitress, an older gal with a streaky blonde pony tail, rolled up faded jeans and slip-on scuffed tennies. “Diet cola,” I replied. And I grabbed a greasy menu to make my choice.

Later, after two eggs, bacon, home fries and a biscuit with sausage gravy, I was refreshed. I didn’t eat it all, of course. I’ve still gotta lot of driving to do!

mountainsBack on the road I soon crossed in West Virginia. A little while after that I was on the turnpike. Up and down through the mountains I went. Not a straight inch of highway anywhere. In fact, I discovered that W VA, the Mountain State, is the only state that lies completely within the Appalachian Mountain region. Nearly 80% of this state is covered in hardwood forest. No wonder John Denver dubbed it “Almost Heaven.”

wv_new_river_gorge_bridge_allNow that I was no longer sleepy I was enjoying the drive immensely. Soon I came to the New River Gorge area. I had been here once before to go white-water rafting – an adventure that scared the bejeebers out of me – and I looked over that marvelous bridge at the rapids below. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to cross that engineering marvel in one swift minute at 60 miles an hour and not worry about going overboard! I’m an artist, not an athlete!

I did make one more stop to get gas and stretch my legs and then it was on to the final hour of driving to my destination. I had booked a room in a small bungalow in Lewisburg, about 10 miles from where my art workshop will be held at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. It would have been nice (and convenient) to stay at the Greenbrier, but it was exhorbitant.

The Greenbrier offered a “special” to class participants… 3 nights for the price of 2. All yours for $951!

That’s crazy talk. No can do.

My directions took me straight to the sweet little bungalow and my hostess, Lynn was out working in the yard. I could tell immediately that I would be right at home.

Lynn gave me the “tour” while I decided what had to come in out of the car. Her house is so cozy I could move right in. Very Craftsman in style, and her touches are so eclectic and charming that I just smiled to look around. She is one of my “tribe.” That I know.

I took a break in my room and made sure I could get on the internet (I AM an internet junkie, you know.) Then it was time to check things out. I decided to drive the 10 miles over to the Greenbrier to be sure of where I would be going in the morning. And boy am I glad I did!

Lewisburg is very small – less than 4,000 population. And the 10 miles over to White Sulphur Springs on Route 60 is cut right out of the side of the mountain. You are in the heart of things here. Rock ledges rose and fell on either side and modest little homes dotted the landscape. I began to wonder how something as grand as Greenbrier got to this remote place.

Turns out it was all about “the springs.” Wealthy folks have been coming to this area to “take the waters” since 1778. The Greenbrier sits on 10,000 acres and boasts 710 rooms, 10 lobbies, 40 meeting rooms and a convention center. It is a National Historic Landmark.

When I came upon the main entrance gate, the grounds suddenly became masses and masses of flowers. But you can’t just drive right in. There is a uniformed guard in the gate house that will inquire why you are there. I explained that I was checking it out as to where to go in the morning for the art class. He gave me a pass and let me through but told me not to pull up under the front awning.

As I went back the drive the trees opened up and the first view of the immense building was spectacular! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more majestic sight. The white façade against the backdrop of the immaculate grounds in the mountain setting was simply stunning. I’m pretty sure I gasped out loud.


Then I noticed the parking. Or should I say the lack of parking. Luxury cars were lined up in a single row on both sides of the entrance but were roped off. When I began to come back around the drive I saw a parking lot off to the side but it had a sign proclaiming “valet parking only.” Evidently much of the parking on the grounds is valet only.

I stopped at the gate house and handed the guard my pass. “I’m confused,” I said. “How will I get my art supplies into this grand place?”

“Well,” he replied. “You can drop them off at the front, then go park over there,” and he pointed across the road from the entrance, “and take the shuttle back to the resort.”

“Oh great,” I thought. “I am not that organized so I’m going to have to repack everything and I’ll still look like a schlep going into this place.” Because on top of that, they have a dress code! I’m not sure how far it applies to people coming in for the day, but it’s pretty prominently displayed. For instance, people are only permitted to wear swimsuits and robes in the actual pool and spa areas. The dining areas do not allow tank tops, short shorts, sweatpants, cut-offs or baseball caps. Children over the age of 10 are expected to be dressed the same as the adults.

The more casual dining rooms allow “resort wear” – collared sport shirts, dress slacks and walking shorts. Then there’s Business Casual – but jackets are suggested for men. IF you wear denim it should be “well-kept and in a dark shade.” However no denim is allowed in the Main Dining Room or in the Casino Club after 7pm. Think James Bond…

So now I’m worried. I had planned to wear capris with decent-looking tops and tennis shoes for comfort. I’m not currently used to standing all day to paint. Now what?

At any rate I’ve got to condense my gear and spiff myself up and I’m not quite sure how to pull that off. Hopefully I’m not the only one in this predicament.

Meanwhile I am enjoying this lovely home I am staying in. Lynn has a “star curtain” of LED lights on her dining room window and she left it on for the night so I could find my way to the bath. I was so delighted with the look of it that I got out my camera and took a photo in the middle of the night. I have to find one of these star curtains for myself!

star curtain 1

So, time to get ready and see if I can get myself transported to the Greenbrier in one manageable piece. I feel like I’m off to OZ…

star curtain 2

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