A good friend of mine is preparing to backpack the Appalachian Trial. Last month, over the long weekend after Thanksgiving, I accompanied her on her “shakedown” trip where she tested a lot of her new gear and her cooking methodology. We camped on her mountain property near Mount Pisgah, near Brevard, NC, Jane in her fancy Hennessey Hammock, and me in my REI quarter-dome tent. Having backpacked through the Smokies and in New Hampshire, I know that much of any backpacking experience is consumed with ordinary survival — food, clothing, and shelter — and this trip was no exception, with nighttime temperatures in the low 20’s (F). Jane cooked on a lightweight backpacker’s alcohol-fueled stove, and I had my minimalist pan support with dry Esbit fuel, to rehydrate and heat our dehydrated food and make tea. But we weren’t that far away from town, so even though we were “roughing it”, our evening meals were accompanied by good wine. Each evening we would go for another walk, as if our mountain trail hikes had not provided enough exercise for the day, and then we would talk in between handfuls of “gorp” for dessert (good old raisins and peanuts) before crawling into our sleeping bags for the night.
The mountain imagery was overwhelming. Jane is a fine art photographer, so spending time with her doubled the opportunities for the mountain splendor to imprint on my soul. If there is a simple purpose to producing one’s art or vision, it may simply be to point out the beauty/order/harmony we see and to share it with those who might not have noticed. I learned a lot about the limitations and capabilities of my iPhone camera.
I came home with my head and heart overflowing with the mountain colors and shapes. Having only recently begun my return to oil painting, I was surprised to find myself wide awake and compelled to paint at 4:00 the very next morning after we got back. By compelled, I mean that there was no option not to paint — it felt like a dam would break if I didn’t get an image made. This happened twice in that week following our adventure, forcing me to focus my sleepy eyes 2 hours earlier than my usual wake-up time. I painted the 8×10″ canvas panel very quickly, finishing before showering and leaving to be on time for my day job. Above are my paintings which of course contain the colors and memories of my experience more so than the photographic references below.
Most of my images are available for purchase. Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot