I longed to capture that ridge of blue, illuminated by the morning light. It was the days of the Blood Moon. At night rooftops glowed in dusky hues as the moon did rise, casting light through the pines. Perched high atop the Road to Heavens Above, I settled into my home away from home. Earlier on the day of my arrival I dedicated the afternoon hours to become acquainted with the logistics of things, unpacked my paints, papers and studio necessities. The sun drops like a rock at sunset. I’d planned to capture it through painted sketches in gouache for both sunset and sunrise each day. Before my week at Penland, I’d meditated on various points in purpose for my time spent there. I dedicated a small black unlined notebook to charting out lists, my projected goals and practical intentions. On one page I wrote a realistic list of the works I hoped to accomplish; and in contrast, I penned the many others that would undoubtedly follow. I designated a page for each day to briefly record events, and experiences, separate from my journal.
The liberation gained as one travels deeper into the mountains removes the constraints of daily life. The separation of arts process from chosen obligations first shocks the responsible spirit. Separation anxieties ensue and wreak havoc on the conflicting convictions to go and retreat or to remain in place. To take that forward step, placing one foot in front of the other and keep climbing is to accept that you may be able to return to things just as they were, however, aware that you inevitably will return changed.
I felt homesick before I left home. I don’t think I’ve ever known that sensation. I travel often and trips to North Carolina have been constant throughout my career. Those closest to me know that whether I’m in Alabama or North Carolina, I’m very much at home. This occasion, however, seemed peculiar and quite different. I’d committed to retreat from everything, devoting myself entirely to my art for a while. I kept communication with the outside world extremely limited by intention. Aside from greeting a passing fellow-in-residence or a brief pause to chat over the shared experience, I found solitude and devotion to process amid the highland silence.
Art is Life Expressed – Sarah West, owner of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art