En plein air: painting in Green Bank’s open air

PLEIN-AIR: LANDSCAPES and sceneries similar to the above can be found throughout Green Bank. This red barn is nestled behind the Green Bank Art Strip and across from the former Green Bank United Methodist Church. C.D. Moore photo
LANDSCAPES and sceneries similar to the above can be found throughout Green Bank. This red barn is nestled behind the Green Bank Art Strip and across from the former Green Bank United Methodist Church. C.D. Moore photo

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

No matter where you go in Pocahontas County, there is always a view – a breathtaking landscape rolling by, just waiting for an artist to come along and capture it. Photographs and the strokes of brush, pen and pencil have all frozen in time a piece of the county’s beauty, but it was the chance – or, perhaps, inability ­– to immerse herself in the open air and beauty of Bath County, Virginia’s scenery that inspired Green Bank artist Kay Gillespie to bring plein air painting to the county.

For those who are not familiar with the plein air painting, it is the act of stepping out of one’s studio and into the beauty of the natural world that surrounds them. Painters are challenged to reproduce what the eye can see, and the unpredictability of being in nature encourages the artist to rely on their senses and surrounding conditions to channel things like atmosphere, sight, sound and temperature into their vision.

“After a rainy weekend put a damper on my plans, I realized that this was something we could do in our county,” Gillespie explained. “We wouldn’t have to go to Virginia to do plein air painting. So, I approached the CVB [Convention and Visitors Bureau] and asked if they would be interested in having a free workshop where artists could come and paint the area.”

Nestled among the natural landscape of Green Bank is the Green Bank United Methodist Church – a church that dates back to 1854. According to what Gillespie has been told by local historians, the Green Bank United Methodist Church was a southern leaning church and upheld many slave traditions of the time. Oddly enough, the northern-leaning Arbovale United Methodist Church was located just a few miles up the road.

The closeness of the two towns – and subsequently, the two churches – created a division among the people, and to add to the artists’ experience, Gillespie has recruited historians Harold Crist, Roger Orndorff and Bob Sheets to share the local history of Green Bank’s landmarks.

“These people are knowledgable about local history.” Gillespie said, “Roger Orndorff is a native of Arbovale and is known for documenting graveyards. He’s a historian all together, but he enjoys documenting the old families and their roots – how they’re connected.

“I thought having these guys would help to give the artists a bit of a feel for what’s happened and is going on. It’s entertaining, as well as enlightening, and it’s enjoyable. When they leave Pocahontas County, they’ll be talking about their experience. That’s exciting.”

In addition to the church, Gillespie has selected a field toward the North Fork of Deer Creek and the barns and buildings along Wesley Chapel Road as locations for artists to set up their easels. Each location will be marked with an “Artists Welcome” sign and is within a mile of the Green Bank Art Strip – the workshop’s central hub.

The workshop does not have a set medium in which the artists have to paint or sketch, but the response to a newsletter she sent out has given her reason to believe that the most popular mediums will be pastels, oils and watercolors.

The workshop will provide a limited number of supplies, but Gillespie encourages artists to bring their own materials – which include canvases, easels, brushes and paints – as well as think about the weather and their own comfort.

The free, two-day workshop is one of the newest additions to the 2016 Cal Price Appalachian Enrichment Series – sponsored by the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Green Bank Art Center – and will take place Friday, September 30, and Saturday, October 1.

Cailey Moore may be contacted at cdmoore@pocahontastimes.com

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