Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Plein Air Sketch to Studio Workshop Report

Outside the Arts Center

Last week, our travels took us to the quiet mountain town of Blue Ridge, Georgia.  Blue Ridge is about 90 minutes north of Atlanta.   You wouldn't think it was so close, what with the bucolic nature of it.  Farms, apple orchards, meandering creeks, plus a historic depot that hosts the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which is an authentic steam engine that hauls vintage passenger cars (and tourists, some of which also qualify as vintage) along the scenic Toccoa River.

End of the day, reference material and more

I had two reasons for coming.  First, I was to serve as the award judge for the Southern Appalachian Artist Guild's (SAAG) annual national exhibition.  Second, in conjunction with the exhibition, I was to teach a "plein air sketch to studio" painting workshop.

The moment I arrived in town, I was whisked off to the Blue Ridge Mountains Art Center to judge the show.  Earlier in the summer, I'd served as the juror of selection, and it was a real pleasure to now see the pieces in person.  (I had selected them from digital images.)

Inside the exhibition hall

At the Center, I spent about two hours examining the works, which included paintings, photography and three-dimensional works such as sculpture and assemblages.  I must have walked a hundred miles, wearing down the carpet.  It was a difficult show to judge because of the variety of media.  In addition to Best of Show, I was allowed to give three prizes to the 2D works and another three to the 3D works, as well as six Honorable Mention ribbons.  Prizes were substantial - Best of Show was $1500 with First Prize, $1000 - and so I took my job very, very seriously.  (I feel another blog post coming on regarding the judging of shows.  Stay tuned for "View from the Bench!")  That evening, SAAG had a monthly meeting at which I spent an hour touring members around the exhibition, saying a few words about each piece and explaining how I judge.


The next day, I led a large group of students on an adventure - gathering reference material outdoors in the form of color studies, annotated pencil drawings and photographs so we could return to the studio to create finished works based on the material.  We had a little cloudy, cool weather the first day, and even some rain the second.  The village of Blue Ridge offered a great variety of subject matter and motifs, which gave us a lot to work with.

The final day of the workshop, I attended the opening reception for the SAAG exhibition.  I was asked to say a few words on the judging process, and I noted how difficult it had been but what a pleasure, too.  Then, I got to have my picture taken with the award-winners.  It was a great evening all the way around, and many people (not just the award-winners) complimented me on my selections.

I want to thank our gracious hosts for their hospitality at their wonderful cabin in the North Georgia mountains.  I also want to praise SAAG and the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Center for the great work they did in coordinating my workshop and hanging the show.  Everyone did a wonderful job!

Now, it's off to St Augustine, Florida, for a three-day workshop sponsored by the First Coast Pastel Society.   More to come!

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