Monday, November 24, 2014

Robin Whitfield art workshop at Sam Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

On the beautiful Saturday morning of 22 November, Joseph and I headed to the Sam Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge where we met Brent Wallace at 11AM for a 7 mile run. After running, we ate a picnic lunch, then we hung around and attended an art workshop put on by the current refuge artist in residence Robin Whitfield. Robin is a unique Mississippi artist who bridges the gap between nature and painting. Although, she is an accomplished watercolorist, she has more recently been working with natural pigments she finds in the habitats she paints.

Robin Whitfield
Robin started the two hour workshop by showing us studies she has done while doing her residency at the refuge. She had these studies hanging on the walls of the refuge cabin she was staying in and explained her artistic process to about 25 of us as we looked around. Although there were a few traditional type watercolor works, many of her studies were done with natural pigments she had found throughout the refuge ranging from mud to smashed leaves. Yes, it was pretty interesting to see the wide array of colors she was able to find and use for her art from only natural materials.

Following the show and tell, Robin led us to one of her favorite sites on the refuge for finding pigments. This particular site was near the Scattertown trail area. With the red clay road leading into the wooded area, the charcoal stained pines, and numerous greens of the undergrowth, this was indeed a good spot for experimenting with natural colors. Basically, everyone started with some watercolor paper and were told to find colors and play. Pretty cool. Grownup folks grubbing around in the dirt, smashing leaves onto paper to make color, and otherwise just playing.

I have to say, I have made inks out of berries, drawn with my own charcoal, and otherwise made pigments from natural things, but I have never actually smashed leaves and/or flowers onto a piece of paper to make color. I suppose this type of pigment may be somewhat impermanent, but it is definitely a really cool exercise in understanding the use of natural color. Also, it is pretty neat to "paint" a picture of something such as a plant using pigments from the plant itself. 

Here are a few of my pigment experiments.

"Ant Man" symbol. The dark brown was from some dark earth, the orange was from a reddish leaf, greens from leaves of a couple of different low growing forest floor plants, and black from the burned bark of loblolly pine. 
A bit of greenbriar (Smilax sp.) with some smaller leaved species of plant below left leaf. The brown was from clay, black from burned bark, and greens from mashed leaves including the leaves of the ones depicted here. 
"Leaf Elf." Green pigments from leaves, black from burned bark, and browns from dirt.
"Vines" done with leaf pigments and charcoal from pine bark. 
"Amorphous stuff" done by pressing the brown insides of a wet puffball mushroom on the paper.  
"Forest" using leaf pigments, soil pigments and burned pine bark.
Awesome little workshop for sure, and I think everyone got a lot out of it. Robin is an enthusiastic sort who clearly loves being out in nature doing art! This spring, Robin will be using her talents to judge the Starkville Area Arts Council Cotton District Arts Festival. Leading up to that, we have invited Robin to have a one person show from early March through May at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership office in downtown Starkville. More on that later!

What a pretty day, and apparently the alligators thought so too, as numerous large gators were lying out in the sun.

Three of the numerous gators seen sunning this afternoon. The one in the middle was HUGE!
Sunset at the Refuge

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Savannah, Georgia - a city full of art and artists

Was in Savannah again briefly the other day to pick up Joseph for his winter break. While he was in his last class of the semester Thursday evening, I meandered about downtown a bit. I especially spent my time in the City Market area, which is chock full of art! I did not have a ton of time, and it many of the artists were done for the day, but I did spend some time chatting with a couple of really good artists while there.

The first guy I talked to was William Kawamena-Poh, an exceptional watercolor artist originally from Ghana. William does gorgeous figurative painters with themes from his native home. I really enjoyed talking with him and getting the low down on how he makes a living doing what he loves best. His talent was obvious, and based on the numerous ribbons from various competitions he has won, I was not the only one to think so. Visit his web site at to view his wonderful works! This guy is the real deal, and its worth the walk upstairs to see his art and talk with him.

William Kawamena-Poh
After leaving William's studio, I headed across the street to the A. T. Hun Art Gallery owned by trippy art dude Chuck Hamilton. Several really cool artists sell their works at the Gallery, but Chuck is the ringleader and he does some awesome art. Not only that, he is quite the keyboard player. When I walked in he was playing away! Yep, Chuck is an iconic figure in the Savannah area, and if you are in town, go visit him. The gallery web site is at and their Facebook page is at

Chuck Hamilton at his keyboard

Friday, November 7, 2014

Starkville Area Arts Council Holiday Showcase 2014 –HUGE SUCCESS

Last night from 5:30-7 PM we had the opening reception for the 2014 Holiday Showcase exhibition here in Starkville, MS. The event was again held at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership office, which the Starkville Area Arts Council uses for gallery space currently. We featured a diverse array of works by local artists. Attendance at last night's reception was SPECTACULAR! Wonderful! Thanks to all who came out. Wall to wall people. This was by far the largest attendance I have ever seen at a show at this venue. And, I believe we sold at least 10 pieces of art! Stephanie Jackson performed amazing classical guitar music in the background, which really lent a beautiful musical atmosphere to the evening. Erin Davies did a wonderful job decorating the area and taking care of food for the reception. Erin even invited some lovely sorority girls clad in festive red dresses to greet people as they came in.  That was a nice touch I thought. And, the winning design of the 2015 Cotton District Arts Festival Poster was unveiled with the winner being Paige Cannon.

This was the first show with the new co-chairs (me and Briar Jones) for arts in public places (AIPP) here in Starkville. One of our goals was to shake things up a bit, as shows the last few years had become "stale" with relatively poor attendance, generally with artists and members of the AIPP committee being the main attendees. Obviously, that greatly defeats the point of having a reception for an art show. So, basically we wanted to invite a wider variety of artists and do a better job about getting the word out there to the public. Inviting more and more artists will give us the ability to be more selective when picking art out for shows, making it more competitive and pushing artists to only submit quality works. In this area, we are headed in the right direction I think. Also, we are now requiring earlier deadlines for submissions so we can have images available for promotional use. This is critical. And, I believe this was key to the huge success of last night's reception. We had material to post on blogs, Facebook event pages, Twitter feeds, Google, for newspapers, mailing cards, posters, and other material. Lots of folks helped such as Mark Wood at Chalet Arts (printing of cards and posters, framing lots of the art), Erin Davies and Jim Turner, who both helped me distribute posters and cards in the community, and the entire AIPP committee who helped with the reception and the hanging of the show. Thanks to everyone who helped put this fantastic show and reception together.

Great show. And, a learning experience. The next ones will be even better. Enjoy these photos from the show.