Brookside Reverie.... or My First Real Plein-Air
On a beautiful November day a few years ago, I was privileged to hike all over a beautiful little island taking my time exploring the nature and old structures that were a part of Camp Brookside. The rocks, soil and plant life are uniquely diverse on this small, enchanting morsel in the New River. Camp Brookside had been vacant for years and was recently purchased by our national parks to use as an environmental education and small retreat center. My husband was asked to serve on the board to help get the camp up and running and they were having a major planning session on location (in the dining building) and I got to tag along! The group gathered the night before with an orientation hike and fun around a bonfire and then slept in the newly renovated cabins.
I woke up on the frosty morning and walked out of the cabin and could not wait to explore the island to find a place to plant my easel for a few hours and try my hand at plein air painting. I had taken a weeklong workshop the previous spring because I had always wanted to paint outdoors like the painters of old but could never quite figure out how to put anything on a canvas in the amount of time that daylight would allow. The workshop taught me much that I was anxious to put into practice and this was my opportunity.
After breakfast, I spent the morning exploring and taking pictures. There were so many scenes that would make great paintings and I loved it all. In fact, I did use one of my pictures as reference later to paint my view of the early morning sun hitting the old water tower in the camp.
(Pictures below - painting in progress with reference photos on my easel & finished painting)
However, when I trekked along the river, I knew that was where I wanted to spend the afternoon. The sun was shining on the roaring water, higlighting the whitecaps and waves along the gray and rust colored rocks. By afternoon, the mountain would be in shadow on the other side of the river. After lunch, I bundled up (including my gloves with the open-ended fingers) and found my spot.
It had actually reached the low 50’s which is pretty amazing for November and I found it very enjoyable out in the fresh air. Time went quickly, and after just a couple of hours, I had a pretty good representation of the scene.
There was some plant-life and highlights that I had trouble placing in the wet paint, so I added some of that detail back in my studio after the paint had time to dry.
This painting was so different than my studio paintings which are much more detailed that I didn’t think it was good enough to print or try to sell so I just took a picture with my phone so I’d have the memory. However, people who saw it were very complimentary, and I needed a small piece to add to my work in a gallery that represents me, so I decided to put a frame on it, take it in, and see what happened. It was there just a short time when I got a report from the gallery owner that it had sold. She said that when the lady saw it, she got quite excited and said that she knew where it was, that she had grown up going to Camp Brookside and just had to have it. I was amazed that in Charleston, many miles from the location of the painting, someone recognized the exact place along the exspansive New River! Later, I got a nice email from the owner telling me of her gladness in finding this piece and what it meant to her. Knowing that I had created something that touched someone’s soul in such a way makes what I do feel meaningful brings me such joy!
Camp Brookside is truly a unique place for nature. If you’d like to know more about it, click here: Camp Brookside Environmental Education Center
Here, I will put in a plug for the Friends of the New River Gorge National River and all the wonderful work they do helping our parks. I’ve enjoyed working alongside the other members on a work project at one of the parks, and a lot of their endeavors are raising money to keep the parks beautiful and accessible for all. For more information or to donate, please click here: Friends of NRGNR
Both of my Camp Brookside original oil paintings are sold, but prints and notecards are available here: Check out my prints!