Black Balsam trio

Not too long ago, I was wishing I could go for a hike in the mountains. I have two school age kids with no long weekends in sight, which meant that taking a trip to the mountains was out of the question. I had to come up with another plan so I decided to go on a hike through memory lane instead, and dug up some photos of a hike we did in June while visiting family in Asheville, NC. We had planned to hike in Pisgah National Forrest, but all the trail heads were packed with cars. Up, up, up we went, until we hit the Black Balsam trail, and our journey was rewarded with a beautiful walk through the woods to some incredible views. The sky that day was the most stunning, vibrant blue - pure cobalt, right out of the tube. I always think of that color as "San Francisco blue" because it reminds me of my days working in that beautiful city, and the sky I saw every time I looked up from my desk.

 The Road Ahead 16 x 16" Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

The Road Ahead 16 x 16" Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

I worked on these three square paintings of varying sizes simultaneously, and came to think of them as the "Three Bears."  I've been attracted to square canvases for landscape paintings lately. I like the composition challenges of working with squares, and I enjoy tackling a landscape in a less traditional way. I'm sure i will paint a landscape on a horizontal canvas someday, but for now, its always a square or a vertical that draws my interest.

The part of the trail in The Road Ahead is the steep rocky part of the trail that lead to the pinnacle. As I struggled up this part of the trail, (mentally committing myself to a more rigorous exercise regimen when I returned home), i kept my eyes on my feet as I went to be sure I wouldn't loose my footing. When I reached the top, I looked up and was stunned silent by the magnificent view. Sometimes, the more difficult a challenge is, the more satisfying the reward.

 Nature's Heart 12 x 12" Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

Nature's Heart 12 x 12" Acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

Nature's Heart, (aka Baby Bear) is the view from the top of the trail.  I took many photos from the top of the hike, and this one struck me with its vast contrast between blues and purples of the mountains and the deep greens of the forest below. The title comes from a quote by John Muir - "Keep close to Nature's Heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." Hiking always brings me a sense of calm and peace, so this quote seems to fit the mood of the day perfectly.

 Follow Me 24 x 24" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

Follow Me 24 x 24" acrylic on gallery wrap canvas

Follow Me or "Papa Bear" is from the trail back to the car at the end of the hike. We were all calm and content as we slowly made our way back down the mountain. Each of us enjoying the views and the easier downhill slope of the path. I don't often paint figures, but for this painting, I was intrigued by the way the figures fit into the curved path, and echoed the blues in the sky.  

I'm not sure I'm completely done with the Black Balsam hike, but for now, Its time to move on to some animal paintings. Now that it is winter, and too cold for me, I may revisit these warm sunny hiking photos again.

Happy painting!