Birds in the Basement of the Bank

For as long as I can remember, through all of school and in every job, I have doodled. If there is paper and pen available then I am probably using them to draw swirls, faces, hands, birds,or a tangle of them all. Some teachers and bosses have been more understanding about it than others, but these days there is enough research on the benefits of doodling that defending the practice is fairly simple. My retention of information is generally very good as is my work ethic. Doodling does not appear to have any adverse effect on my reporting duties.

The only problem has been not paying enough attention to what surface is getting marked on, but as I have gotten older I have mainly overcome that. There is no longer much risk that I will accidentally mark up a library book, a final draft of a paper, or a contract as there might have been years ago. I have not drawn on either of my last two cars and it has been several years since I caught myself drawing a swirl on my daughter’s physical form before we turned it in so she could play sports. I have completely stopped doodling in church, but I still draw a lot at work.

My current job involves a fair amount of waiting on databases and applications to do their thing before I can do mine. The best way I’ve found to fill that time is to add a few swirls to whatever piece of paper is close by. Some are very boring, many are too repetitive (endless variations on a theme that has been pretty thoroughly explored), but some are interesting and become sketches for full grown paintings. They have been more about the process of creating them than the finished product, but still I have the problem of folders full of scraps of paper that I cannot bear to throw away.

Complicated Situation, Ink, 8.5×11, 2018 – SOLD

A couple months ago on a whim I took a doodle that had grown to cover an entire piece of 8.5×11 copy paper and put it into a recently emptied frame. It was sitting against the wall of my room when my father came to visit and he mentioned to me that he liked it and that I should consider including it in my upcoming show. Even though at the time I was not planning to include drawings in the show I thought he might be right. It definitely fit thematically with the rest of the work even if the medium was different. I decided I should include a few more drawings so that it would not stick out as too unlike the others. My evenings and weekends were pretty full of trying to get my paintings finished so I decided that I should experiment with letting my work time doodling be with a bit more purpose.

I brought a piece of the watercolor paper I take on my plein air waterfall hikes with me to work. I slid it under my keyboard and then let nature take its course. Instead of doodling on the edge of reports or in my notebook I just added to the drawing. It grew organically just like a doodle would over the course of the work week. I had to be careful to use the same pen every time and on a couple of occasions when the drawing was going too well I had to move it across the room so it did not prevent me from doing the job at hand. Overall it has been a great way to banish boredom from the basement of the bank and create frame worthy images. By the time of the Nth Gallery show I had four new pen and ink drawings to include and 2 of them (and the doodle that inspired the project) sold!

The others and a new one I have just finished are available for purchase.

Eyeballs in Chaos with Bird, 8×10″, Pen & Ink, $150
Eye on the Sparrow, Ink, 8×10″, June 2019, Sold
Distant Mountains, Ink, 10×8″ , June 2019, $175
Curiosity, Pen & Ink, 9×12″, June 2019, SOLD

Martin’s Creek Falls

Martin’s Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″ (7/20/19)

Martin’s Creek Falls are on the same portion of the Bartram Trail as Becky Branch Falls, just about two miles further along. The trail is thin but well-maintained. The day was not especially hot compared to some of the ones we have been having lately, but there was plenty of humidity. Unlike a lot of the trails I have been exploring this one does not follow a creek or river. It was interesting to notice how different a walk feels without the sound of moving water as you go. The hike was not especially strenuous, but it had been over a month since my last hike. I had a little less breath and a lot more sweat when I reached the falls.

I did not see anyone as I walked in but when I got to the falls there were five or six young people arrayed all around it. I tried out a more distant vantage point but then noticed they were all putting on their shoes. I hovered long enough for them to set out on their way and then found a nice spot right at the foot of the falls to paint. The way the falls face made the light a bit strange. Clouds were moving in and out of the area (though luckily none of them dropped the threatened afternoon shower) and at times the rocks got quite dark and I had trouble picking out the details. This would not have been an issue if I had chosen a more centered composition, but as it is a lot of the intriguing rock formations I shifted the image to include are not really rendered. One other group of hikers passed by while I was painting. They had gone the full eight miles to Pinnacle Knob and were on their way back. I have not attempted a hike that long yet, but they said it was totally worth the effort. Once the weather cools off a bit I might give it a try.

These little butterflies seemed to know how well they matched my shoes.

Note: For quite some time I have wanted to visit Dick’s Creek Falls further down Warwoman Rd in Rabun County. However the road that leads to the trail head fords a creek. I would never have even thought to try that in my low slung little red car, but now that it has been replaced with a AWD vehicle I thought I might give it a try. I drove several miles down Sandy Ford road through beautiful countryside and farmland, but when I got to the crossing I could not bring myself to try it. I was out of cell phone range, by myself and I my new-to-me car had been mine less than a week. I could not take the risk of the water being deeper than expected or the current stronger. I turned around and went back to the Warwoman Dell parking area. I need to find an experienced off-roader to look at the creek and my car and advise me if I should attempt the crossing. If not maybe I can find someone with a more qualified vehicle to take me to the trailhead. After I went back to Clayton at the end of the day for a roof top drink and an art opening it felt like every other car I saw was a Wrangler or a lifted truck with crazy big tires.

The ford I did not cross

July 5th at the Nth

Recent Works by Jennifer Herrera, Nth Degree Gallery, Boone, NC, July 2019

Having my first solo show would have been an exciting experience no matter where or when it happened, but being able to have it in my home town surrounded by so many of my family and friends in a gallery space I was part of over 20 years ago was really special. I am so thankful to all the people who supported me in so many different ways. At the risk of sounding like someone who just won an award I want to specifically thank a few of them…

Tony for taking me up to the Nth this time last year and encouraging me to ask for a show, Brian for saying “Yes” before he had even seen pictures of my recent work and answering all my questions along the way, my kids for not complaining too much the nights I painted instead of cooking dinner, Richard for listening to me go on and on (and on) about what parts of the images might not be quite right while they were in progress and for bar-tending, Dad and Suzie for hosting the beautiful pre-show reception at their house as well as all the driving back and forth in crazy downtown Boone traffic, Sophie for helping set up the food, Mom and Rachel for always being there for me even if they had to drive down the mountain after dark, my brother Matt for always being willing to stay till the very end, Rhonda and Johnny, Amy and Jimmy, and Martha for making such long drives, Jenn and Scott for flying across the country! (and also getting more than a fair share of the on and on-ing), Candace and Scott for understanding I needed time off from tattooing to spend in the studio, Mary Frances for not letting me give up on the sculptures that didn’t come out of the kiln perfectly, Richard F and other Nthers for helping to hang the show, and of course thanks to everyone who decided to buy a piece to be part of their collection -it is a such an honor that you want some of my art to be part of your home. I appreciate every one of you!

Becky Branch Falls and Warwoman Dell

Becky Branch Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ (6/15/19)

Warwoman Dell is a nice little recreation area very close to downtown Clayton. There is easy free parking and a variety of trails. A simple little nature walk leads to the small waterfall I painted on 5/31. The Bartram Trail which “follows the approximate route of 18th-century naturalist William Bartram’s southern journey from March 1773 to January 1777” is over a 100 miles long, but only has to be followed about 1/2 a mile up a hill to see Becky Branch Falls.

The Bartram Trail can also be used to access Martin Creek Falls and Dick’s Creek Falls. They are next on my list…

Waterfall at War Woman Dell, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ (5/31/2019)

Perch at the Nth

Perch, Acrylic on Board, 13×25.5″ May 2019, $600

There is now less than a month before my exhibit at the Nth gallery. I have been painting and sculpting pretty consistently and my list of finished pieces is increasing. I went ahead and took 27 pieces to Boone this past weekend to be sure I had plenty of room in my car in July to bring the rest. My goal is to finish my four in-progress paintings and three in-progress sculptures before the end of June. If I stay focused I think I can do it.

I have not been posting my newly finished pieces either here or on social media lately so that that at least some of the works will be seen for the first time there. Even though looking at a piece on a screen is not the same as seeing it “in real life” it could still feel familiar. The idea of them debuting there is exciting to me. It has been hard resisting sharing them as they are completed, but I think it will be worth. However, Perch was seen this past weekend at Catch 22, the Nth Gallery 22nd Anniversary Fundraiser so here she is now.

Holcomb and Raper Creek Falls

Upper Holcomb Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″, 5/25/19
Holcomb Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″, 5/25/19
Raper Creek Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 13×9″, 5/26/19
View of Holcomb Creek Falls from bridge

Being able to paint three waterfalls (as well as do three tattoos) over the three day weekend was a real treat. I know I mention it almost every time I make a post, but there really isn’t anything I find more blissful than walking to a beautiful site and painting it.

The drive to Holcomb Creek Falls’ trailhead was over an hour and involved going up into North Carolina and then back down into Rabun County and a long descent down a gravel forest service road. I was worried that the waterfall I found was not going to be worth all the time it took to get to it, but boy was I wrong. The Holcomb Creek trail is short and narrow but it leads to two dramatically beautiful waterfalls.

Upper Holcomb Creek Falls

The first one is the bigger and grander of the two, but there was family exploring it when I first arrived so I continued on to the upper falls. It was just about half a mile from where I parked to the observation deck at the second waterfall. Unfortunately the deck had been damaged and taped off as dangerous. The part that was open was too narrow to sit on. I considered crossing the line and seeing if I could sit on the more stable side of the bench but I try not cross that line from brave to stupid. Instead after studying the structure and the area around it I decided to go back and go around and under the decking. I was able to find a comfortable perch on a rock with the undamaged walkway behind me as back support. I painted the falls in my normal way, got a nice visit from a little blue butterfly, and only saw the shoes of two other hikers the two hours I was painting there. When I finished I walked back down the other falls with the plan to just take a few pictures and then head home.

There was no one at the main falls when I got back there and on closer examination it was even grander than I had realized. I did not feel like I could leave without drawing it so I found a shady spot and decided to just do a drawing before I headed home. I used a china marker and only tried to capture the upper half I could see from where I sat. I was basically pleased with the drawing after about an hour, but without color I felt like a lot of the majesty of the scene was lost. Even though it was well into the afternoon and I had lost my shade I decided to go ahead and get the paints back out. I spent another hour or so turning the drawing into a painting but there is still a lot more china marker than usual.

I found capturing the areas where there was less water flowing on the rock especially difficult. I think I need to take the time to do some detail views of wet rock as well as foreground vegetation. Those seem to be the weakest parts of my paintings recently, but overall I was pleased with my results. Two other couples came by and looked at the falls for a few minutes while I was painting, but the majority of the time I had solitude. I was at the site for 5 and a half hours, with about 2 and a half hours of driving time so it was a very full day but a blissful one.

On Sunday I got up and went to the early service at church. For a couple of weeks I have been considering visiting the unfortunately named Raper Creek Falls in Batesville, but was concerned that Google Maps has it listed as permanently closed. It is a 45 minute drive from my house, but only 15 minutes from church so I decided to go ahead and try and visit it in the little window of time between church and heading to the tattoo shop. I am so glad I did. It is a brief drive down the beginning of a forest service road and then a super short (but steep) walk down to the falls. It is not big but it is breathtakingly beautiful. There is a big slab of rock that the water flows along before it falls into a scenic little pool with another large rock outcropping on the side. There was a father and two sons walking up the trail as I walked down but the rest of the time I had the muddy but otherwise perfect little site to myself. For people who find themselves in the Lake Burton/Batesville area I highly recommend taking a minute to check this place out. Just be very careful at the bottom because the mud is very slippery.

This was the quickest waterfall painting so far (just barely over an hour) and the first one with a horizontal rather than vertical format. I would like to return with more time and sit a little ways up the trail to try and capture the upper tier as well, but I am pleased with how much of the site’s essence I feel like I was able to capture in a short time. I arrived to the tattoo shop feeling so relaxed and content that I forgot to be nervous while tattooing. I think the three pieces I did were stronger because of it.

MerMay

Sleeping with Fishes (and in the middle of school!) Ballpoint Pen, 8×8.5″ (5/24/2019)
Look at Minnow! Highlighters and Ballpoint Pen, 8×8″ (5/13/19)
Anchor’s Away! Ballpoint Pen, 8.5×11″ (5/25/2019)
Octopus’s Garden, Pen, 11×8.5″ (5/29/2019)
Solemates! Pen, 7×10″ (5/30/2019)
Riding the Wave, Highlighters and Ballpoint Pen on file folder, 7×7″ (5/14/19)
I guess mermaids have no choice but to ride sidesaddle.
Feeling Koi, Highlighters and Ballpoint Pen, 8×8″ (5/13/19)
General Porpoise and his Mermen could be put to more than one Pacific purpose, Pen & Ink Drawings digitally collaged (5/22)
Juggling Jellyfish! Pen & Ink (& a little Highlighter) 5/23

I am not sure how I got almost to the middle of the month of May before I realized that it is another drawing prompt month. I am late starting but of course I want to play. Like Inktober there are several different prompt lists available but I especially like how Jane Davenport’s list plays with words. Just reading her list made me smile. Since I am starting on the 13th of the month (and it is a very busy month) it is unlikely I will be able to do all of them, but it will be fun to try and draw as many as I can.

Half Sleeve Complete

It has been ten months since I first started work on Scott’s arm. As his apprentice he let me do a lot of practicing. We started on 6/3/2018 and as of yesterday (4/28/19) we can say that he now has a little over half a sleeve fully colored from his shoulder to below his elbow. I wrote a lot about the beginning parts of the process: The First One and First Tattoo – Part Two. Some of these pictures are repeats but it is fun to see them all together to see how much we have gotten done.