John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – a comparison with Penland

I got one good painting out of this, but I think that is pretty good considering it is the first time I have painted in thirty years.

John C. Campbell Folk School is a good place to take a vacation. It is not nearly as intense as Penland School of Crafts. The food at both places is so good that comparison is tough, but I think I liked Penland better for the food. It was set out cafeteria style there and had better vegetarian choices. I was definitely one of the younger crowd at JCCFS, not so at Penland. I was the youngest in my class at JCCFS. The oldest was 89! And JCCFS wins hands down for cleanliness. I stayed in similar buildings built around the same year at both places. My room at Penland was just plain dirty. They called it rustic. JCCFS somehow figured out how to keep all the dust out. Maybe they cleaned harder or maybe they sealed the cracks. I suspect both.

JCCFS wins for relaxation and not so serious students – also for cooking, music and dance. It has shorter lengths of classes so it is cheaper and easier to take the time off work. There is a larger variety of classes. It feels very homey. Penland wins if you need college credit or a intense course of study. It is best for serious artists and craftspeople, I think. It has a bit more attitude. Both schools are stunningly beautiful places. If I had the money and the time, I’d go to both of them with equal enthusiasm as they suited my needs.

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – no public painting for me, please

Yes, I definitely won’t be doing any painting in public, thank you very much.

I knew that when I picked the garden pool next to the dining hall that I’d probably have to deal with a lot more onlookers. But it was exactly the type of scene I want to paint and I knew it would be a huge challenge. I figured that it was logical to give it a try when I had a good teacher there to instruct me. I set up on the bridge to the dining hall, where I got to experience my own personal hell of having every other student in the whole place file by my painting as I guarded it to make sure no one knocked it over.

It was a tough choice, and the teacher ended up painting over most of my work. This bugged me a bit, but I’m trying to make the most of it.

At lunch we decided to create a new school of painting where you set up on a bridge or other structure and hold a brush as people stomp over it. The name of the new style will be seismic painting.

Then after lunch tourists started filing through and asking me questions as if I worked there. I just don’t like painting and being interrupted every minute or so. So I think I’ll be doing it in private from now on.

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – rhodedendron gardens

We took a field trip to the rhodedendron gardens in Hiawassee, Georgia and painted there. I picked a little flower bed with hostas and lots of texture. There was a very pretty light-colored varigated ivy tumbling over rocks. The trouble with this was that everybody wanted to stop in front of me and admire it and discuss it. I concentrated on the hosta so much that I missed doing the rest of the painting. I was so sunburned I got hot and disgusted and quit. But this is one that I think I’ll go back and work on.

I took photos of all the scenes I have worked on so that I can work on them at home.

I have a suspicion that I am not going to enjoy painting in the park, as I had planned to do in Greensboro. The people will drive me crazy.

John C. Campbell Folk School, Slow Food

JCCFS – the secret mission and the blue chair

Today, Barbara demo’ed a landscape outside, which was very nice but I got restless. It is very distracting for me to be around rocks. I kept sneaking large pebbles into my fanny pack and pockets. Don’t know why I feel so secretive about this compulsion. But I went back after lunch and gathered quite a few, since these are the brown kind that I really like the most. I found a heart shaped rock and that made me especially pleased with my secret mission.

After this, we went to an area that had some little gardens and rustic buildings, so there was a good variety of subjects. I talked to Barbara about how it was good for me to loosen up and paint in broad strokes and areas since I have always gotten wrapped up in tight details. But on the other hand, I said, I am drawn to plants and leaves as subjects and want to focus on that. So she suggested a lovely white clematis because white is never white. I agreed that was a good subject but when we got there the only spots I could set up near it were in the full sun or next to a nasty smelling ashtray. So I set up on the porch across from the clematis and focused on an old wooden chair in front of it. The clematis ended up being a nice background highlight.

Early on I was working on the underpainting and I was feeling extremely uncomfortable. Barbara came by and said that she really liked my composition and shapes and that encouraged me. I left the chair as a white rectangle for the longest time while I played around it because I was afraid of painting the slats. Finally I convinced myself that I was here to have fun and if I messed up the painting it didn’t matter. Being scared of what I was there to do didn’t make logical sense. So I relaxed and gave myself permission to paint the slats, or not, whatever. I painted them and they were great. That painting popped after I painted those slats. Then I painted just a few other small details, but nothing like I would have once done. And it was just enough to give the whole thing a little zing.

I am very happy with this painting and if I don’t do another thing right while I’m here I will consider it time well spent because of it.

Conversation with Nell tonight was very satisfying. We have a lot in common and I think that I have made a friend.

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – Monday evening

Much better ending to the day. I dragged myself to class after a somewhat tearful break after lunch. Turned out that after I left that morning, the class had changed its mind about where and when to meet and they were gone. Fortunately there was another woman in the same fix and we found them. We painted a pretty landscape but it was not really what I would have picked. I was smarting from the morning experiences and irritated that my new plein air easel legs kept coming unattached from the box and banging me in the back of the knees as I walked. I was contemplating the money I spent on this easel contraption as well as becoming aware of how much more I spent on art supplies than I needed.

It was a rather humbling experience – I have long held a somewhat snotty attitude about painting vs. fine craft. Reverse discrimination, I guess. The simple act of mixing paint with the palette knife was surprisingly hard. I had to relearn the basics of setting and cleaning up. Plus I’m painting with big brushes when I’m used to getting down to tiny details.

My painting was okay but I was not particularly impressed with it. At least it was an accomplishment of sorts and I figured my nerves were better by the end of the day because I had gone through the basic process once. Dinner went through with no flagrant screw-ups, and I sat beside my instructor and had a nice conversation with her. In the evening, folks downstairs in Keith House jam, playing bluegrass and old-time music and we listen from our bedroom upstairs.

I called Sandy tonight. It is our 18th wedding anniversary. That is very hard to believe. I think that he would enjoy this class.

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – Monday class notes

Pink ladyslippers off the trail


Class – Expressions in Oil
Instructor – Barbara Perrotti

Books recommended:
Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light and Color by Kevin McPherson
Painting the Impressionist Landscape by Lois Griffel

Good exercise: Paint colored blocks in pure “crayon” colors in different lights.

Opposites vibrate next to each other.
Reflection of sky on water (foreground) Cools to warms
Keep your painting inviting you back
Stop before you’re finished
Begin with abstracted shapes and work to the level that you’re happy with

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – just ignore the stoned chick

So I happened to be near the front of the lunch line, and they have a separate table with the vegetarian food already laid out. There was paper covering the dishes. I marched right up and removed the paper, got my plate, and began serving myself. Someone behind me said, “Um, m’am, we usually wait for the blessing before we serve our plates.” I turn around and everyone is standing around the tables.

I wonder what shade my face turned – would that be cadmium red or alzarin crimson?

It will be difficult to make myself go back into the dining hall. It’s hard enough having to sit with a bunch of strangers pretending to be a “people person” but now I have intensely embarrassed myself two meals in a row. This is my problem, not theirs. Everyone has been extremely nice.

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – It must be Monday

Evidence that I should not go out in public before 9 a.m.

Woman at table: “So where are you from in N.C.?”
Me: “Greensboro.”
W.A.T.: “North Wilkesboro.”
Me: “Greensboro.”
W.A.T.: “North Wilkesboro.”
Me: “No, Greensboro.”
W.A.T.: “North Wilkesboro.”
Me: “No, I’m from Greensboro.”
W.A.T.: “We’re from North Wilkesboro.”
Me: “Oh.”
Me: “I’m from Greensboro.”
W.A.T.: “I know.”

John C. Campbell Folk School

JCCFS – Sunday night

(I’m typing in my notes from John C. Campbell Folk School. While I was there, I didn’t have use of a computer. What bliss.)

Trip here wasn’t as bad as expected. The part I dreaded was actually the best part. I put on k.d. lang Torch and Twang and belted out songs to calm my nerves through the rainy Nantahala Gorge. Leaving home was the hardest – had to go around the block and check the coffee maker and then go back to check that I locked the doors.

Bob told me yesterday that Nell from our church was coming here to take banjo, but didn’t know when. Well, I got to my room and her name was listed on the door. I might know 3-4 people at my church by name. She is one because I felt a real connection with her during one of the two “circles of wholeness” I participated in, and because I think she is thoughtful and cool. So this is an excellent development.