I have painted 4 waterfalls between the last time I posted one and the one I painted yesterday afternoon in Union County. Two of them are on canvas and two on paper and for various reasons they just don’t seem quite done. I will write more about them and the process of finishing them when they are ready to post, but yesterday as I set out my goal was to not only paint a waterfall, but to have a finished piece before I hiked back out.
Blue Hole Falls is a small waterfall on the trail to High Shoals Falls. The trail head is off Hwy 17 about half way between Helen and Hiawasee in Union County. It is about an hour drive from my house but only 30 minutes from church so I packed a change of clothes and left right after service. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain and my car did great doing its first small ford. The parking area was incredibly full when I got there but I found a place of the side of the road, got changed and headed down the path. It is a fairly steep descent with a lot of switchbacks. It took about 20 minutes to get to Blue Hole Falls which I think it one of the most beautiful sites I have visited. It feels straight out of a fairy tale. There were only a couple of people there and I was tempted to sit right down and start painting, but I felt like I needed to see the other water fall first. It was less than 10 minutes to get down to High Shoals Falls. They are much taller and more dramatic, but there were tons of people climbing and wading around them. I took a few pictures and decided it would be a place best painted in the fall or winter when less people are interested in swimming.
When I got back to the Blue Hole spot there was only one other person there. A woman was sitting way over to one side reading so I chose the other side. I could not see her and I don’t think she could see me. I set up to start my picture and had about 15 minutes of bliss before the people started arriving. And they did not stop. Families with children from several different countries showed up to swim and enjoy the day. Then a small film crew filming what they keep referring to as “the montage” of young actors playing in the water. They did not ask me to move but they were fine with using every other bit of space.
The fairy tale mood could not withstand all my company, but I actually was still able to focus on my painting and try and create a picture that captured what the spot looked and felt like without the crowds. Several times people tried to speak to me about the painting and I did not even realize I was being addressed at first. I guess after 18 years of motherhood I am pretty good at tuning out background noise. At the end of two hours of painting I had a piece I was really quite pleased with. I think this is my favorite one, though it may be tied with the one of Becky Branch Falls. I think it is possible that having to focus on ignoring portions of my surroundings might be good for the painting. If I had been asked a month ago if I could enjoy painting surrounded by people as much as when I am by myself I would have said no way. However 3 of the last 4 sites I have painted have had crowds. The experience is different of course, and I do not get into the same deep contemplative state as when it is just me, the trees, and the falling water, but it is still delightful. I am so thankful to be able to keep having such joyful experiences.