Finally, just when we thought we couldn’t take winter much longer, spring sprung, making good on its promise once again. My grandmother traded the brocade drapes on her windows for
Finally, just when we thought we couldn’t take winter much longer, spring sprung, making good on its promise once again. My grandmother traded the brocade drapes on her windows for airy sheers and laid a cotton braided rug over the hallway furnace vent. I traded my indoor coloring books for a drugstore watercolor paint set, the kind with two rows of colors and a red plastic paintbrush that snapped into the center of the tin.
While she went to the backyard to snip tulips, I found a spot in the sunshine on the front porch and carefully laid out my wares: my tin of paints, a stack of paper with a rock on top to guard against the wind, a jelly jar filled with water. I had no shortage of subjects for painting: yellow warblers that came to feed at my grandmother’s bird feeder, tufts of green clover that sprouted all over the yard, golden stalks of forsythia that grew along the edge of the porch, daffodils that swayed in the flower beds, and a soft blue springtime sky hanging above it all.
I was content to stay on that porch all day, dabbing my brush into the oval pools of color, quietly creating my own little landscapes. I didn’t realize that I was carrying on an en plein air tradition, the activity of painting outside popularized in the early 1800s. I just knew that the breeze dried my paints on the paper quicker, that colors showed up more vividly in the sunshine, and that, in the afternoon, my grandmother would join me to rock in her chair and smile as I showed her my work.
This year, spring fulfills its promise again — always, eternal — and although I no longer have that old drugstore pan of paints, I’ll find a way to search for the art outside, to admire the masterpieces created by others.
I’ll find one of those masterpieces on the grounds of Davidson College, in the soaring elm-and-sweet-gum stickwork sculpture created by Patrick Dougherty, a stunning display of environmental art.
I’ll find inspiration in Brevard, in Kyle Lusk’s towering steel banjo in front of the United Methodist church, and in the unexpected portrait of a sunglasses-wearing Beethoven in the alley off Main Street.
I’ll find beauty on familiar buildings, the ones with a story and a history, in the artwork of Hickory native Hunter Speagle, with his larger-than-life mural on the side of Lindy’s Furniture, telling the story of the “Miracle of Hickory,” and in the work of Napolean Hill, whose bold images on the sides of buildings in Warren, Halifax, and Northampton counties bring to light the history of agriculture and industry in eastern North Carolina. Amid the uniform landscape out here, Hill’s murals burst with color and light and energy, and isn’t this what art is meant to do? To kindle a memory, to stir a heart, to persuade and provoke and surprise and mourn and delight. To pull light from the shadows. To inspire hope.
Always and eternal, art fulfills its promise, ready and waiting for us to find our spot in the sunshine and enjoy the view.
Editor in Chief