It has been for me a year rich in travels, and we’re not yet halfway through. I’ve been painting throughout California, in New England, New York, the deep South, and just now I’m back from Tennessee where I spent a week painting and teaching color theory and plein-air techniques. My dear students were good enough to put me up in a B&B, which turned out to be a large house which I had all to myself, overlooking a small private lake. There was a screened porch where I’d sit in the late evenings and watch the lightening on the horizon, or the bats, owls, and opossum as they’d gather and search for food in the humid night air. There was also a farm dog there, an old collie mix who was probably in her last year. She was my porch companion, and slept on my welcome mat at night. She wore no tags, but at some point I started calling her Charlie and she didn’t seem to mind. I didn’t know it yet, but she was to be my guide on the journey that would become this month’s selected moment of beauty.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll fast-forward through a great week of painting, laughing, and good times spent with friends new and old. Past an unforgettable evening in an antebellum home and an authentic catfish fry where I was convinced that the tail was a delicacy (I still think they were serious about that, by the way). The scenery and painting conditions were great, and I did at least six or seven paintings which I really liked. In addition to posting them on the “New Works” section of my website I’ve also created a special preview page with all of my paintings from the trip, including one with roosters and even one of a tornado I saw off the Natchez Trace on my (wrong) way to the airport. The image above, “Blackbirds at Leipers Creek”, was done after class one day on the charming and picturesque Creekview Ranch where the workshop was held (Thank You Haden and Jimmy!!). Every one of us found much inspiration on this beautiful land.
On my second-to-last night as I sipped my beer on the screened porch I saw something I hadn’t seen since I was six years old… lightening bugs. Just a few. But the next night there were dozens of them, floating in the heavy ground-fog down by the lake. There was a waning gibbous moon hung low in the east which provided just enough light that I decided to go down to the lake and walk among them. Charlie didn’t want to get up from her comfortable spot on the porch, but I reminded her that you get only so many summers and she ought to make the most of moments like these. She grumbled and got up slowly, and I grabbed my beer and set off through the mowed grass and fog with her at my side.
The fog gave the fireflies little halos, so that they looked much like tiny japanese lanterns on invisible strings. There were two colors of lights, pale blue and a vivid gold. I stopped at the edge of the lake and caught one in my cupped hands. They have a smell, fireflies. I had forgotten that. One whiff of that acidic, earthy smell transported me to the last time I had smelled it when I was just six years old living in the suburbs of St. Louis. Suddenly I was staying out late with my brothers while my grandmother made braids of purple clover flowers and told stories about the old days. Nostalgic, and lost in a fog of time and light I turned to Charlie to bring me back to the present. She gave me a smile and looked at the lake, as if thanking me for bringing her out there in the fog, and I released the lightening bug as we headed back toward the house. The lightening was getting closer and Charlie was smart enough to want shelter. I’ve got a painting of this started on my easel right now, I’ll post it if I figure out how to finish it.
I have one more workshop I’d like to do at the end of this month. It’s at a beautiful B&B up on Vancouver Island. If you’re interested in a great week of learning and taking a great trip to some spectacular and unspoiled country, you can learn more at my website on the Workshop page. If you think you’d like to join us, let me know soon as the dates are approaching (June 30-July 3). It will be a small group, no more than six or seven students, and they’re charging in Canadian dollars so it’s a relative bargain.
I hope to see you all out and about at all the wonderful cultural events going on in Southern California this summer as we seek together those splendid and elusive moments of beauty.
David C. Gallup
See more work at www.dgallup.com