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!

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.

Hemlock Falls

Hemlock Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×13″ , 4/27/2019

Hemlock Falls is on Moccasin Creek near Lake Burton in Rabun County, but with a Clarkesville address. It is an incredibly pretty walk but the falls were not especially spectacular. I think my enjoyment of them was diminished by how many people were out on the trail. I was spoiled by my winter hikes when I often did not see another person the whole time I was painting. That is obviously no longer going to be the case this spring and summer. I am going to have to get up much earlier.

Haven Falls

Haven Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 3/30/19

Haven Falls is right past Glenn Ella Springs Inn. There is wide shoulder to the right of the gravel road and an old (logging?) road to the left. It is just barely over half a mile on an nondescript trail to get to this spot. The pictures I took do not fully capture how lovely this spot is. The cliff is almost a semi-circle of stacked looking rock with a free fall at the top then tiers. I could not find a dry place to sit far enough back to paint the whole scene at once so this is one I will have to return to as well.

Profile in Growth

Profile in Growth, Mixed Media on Board, 11×34″ , 3/23/2019
Initial roughing in with the work doodle the piece was based on

My newest painting, Profile in Growth, reminds me of the wood scrap paintings I used do almost a decade ago when we lived in Dawsonville. It is quite a bit bigger but the color and patterns as well as the lighter more whimsical nature of the piece seem similar. The design started as a doodle in my work notebook that seemed interesting enough to explore further. The painting went very quickly. I did most of it during a couple of marathon phone conversations last week. It seemed like it would be done all in acrylics until the very end when the oil pastels decided they needed to get involved. Though looking at the below pictures the difference does not seem that pronounced I think they add a lot of vibrancy to the piece.

I finished it and added a simple wire to the back in time to take it to this month’s SNC show, but when I get it back I think I may add a frame to give it a bit more depth before my Nth Gallery exhibition. It is painted on an old shelf I found and hangs a bit awkwardly because of a runner along its back. It will feel more substantial (and look more professional) with 1×3″ wood trim around it. I will just have to decide rather to paint it black or try and continue the pattern all around like I usually do.

Tabor Falls

Tabor Falls, Acrylic & Ceramic Marker on Paper, 9×12″, 3/23/2019

This past weekend instead of hiking to one of the well-known waterfalls in the area I did something rather different. I used GPS coordinates to visit one that is literally “off the beaten path.” In my searching for more waterfalls to visit close to home I found Georgia Waterfalls which led me to Hiking the Appalachians and Beyond. Both are great sites that have way more information on trails and waterfalls in the area than any others I’d found. It had never occurred to me to look for unofficial trails to “secret” waterfalls. But once I read about them I became intrigued with the idea of setting out to find them and not being surrounded with the number of people that always seem to be at the Gorge or on popular trails like Panther Creek.

Tabor Falls was the perfect one to try first as it does not involve true bush-whacking and the trail head is only 4 miles from my house. Including both the drive and the hike I was at this gorgeous waterfall in less than 30 minutes! There was a trail to follow the whole way, but it was made up of a forest service road, an old logging road, and parts of several different small trails. Without the clear instructions and GPS coordinates provided on the second website I would have not found it. Other than a turkey hunter who was near the place I parked I had the entire place to myself. The trees are mainly new growth pines so lots of sky was visible most of the walk. The weather could not have been more perfect and the sky did not have a single cloud. I would have been pleased with my walk even if the waterfall had been less than spectacular, but that was not an issue.

Tabor Falls did not disappoint in any way. With all the rain we have been having there was plenty of water to dramatically fall over the 50 foot cliff. The moss growing on much of on the dark stone added to the mystical feel. There was a nice level dry spot for me to set up my supplies and the sun’s warmth and the cool mist counteracted each other nicely. I painted for a little over two hours, had a snack and then headed home. It is still amazing to me how close this waterfall is to my house. I think I will be returning many more times.

Stonewall Falls

Stonewall Falls, Acrylic on Paper, 9×12″, 3/16/2019

After weeks of rain it was great to get back out and walk to another waterfall this weekend. This walk was especially nice because my daughter and her dog joined me. Both of them enjoyed it as much as I did. Stonewall Falls Trail is mainly a mountain bikers’ trail, but my daughter’s cross country team ran it last fall. The drive to the trail head involves a rather long gravel road, but it is along the ridge so there are some views. The trail itself is broad and well maintained. It probably wouldn’t be to fun to walk with bikers whizzing by, but we had to ourselves except for one family of walkers who arrived at the falls after we had been there about an hour.

Eyeballs on Chaos: Submerged

Eyeballs on Chaos: Submerged, Mixed Media on Panel, 16×20″, 2/2019

I am pleased to have finished the next addition to my Painting Eyeballs on Chaos series that I will be exhibiting in July at the Ninth Degree Gallery in Boone, North Carolina. This was my first time using an Aquabord panel and it presented some interesting challenges. I started out with watercolor, totally lost control of the piece and then started using whatever was on my work table (markers, pencils, acrylics, etc.) until it started to cooperate again.