There's something magical about the woods -- places that offer chances to hike, fish, and marvel at the wonder of nature. It can even inspire people to get in touch with the inner-artist that lives within us all.
The Wilderness Society is extending an invitation for people to tap into that part of themselves by joining renowned artist Robert Johnson May 12-15 for a three-day workshop at the Wildacres Retreat Center in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Limited to just 18 people on a first-come, first-serve basis, the "nature journaling workshop" is designed to give artists of all abilities (or even lack-there-of) the opportunity to see some of the state's most beautiful places through new eyes. The focus on observation, drawing, and painting techniques will take place on field trips to explore ecologically-rich areas that The Wilderness Society has identified as "Mountain Treasures" worthy of permanent protection.
"Participants will learn new tools for connecting to the natural environment," says Johnson, who lives in the Mt. Mitchell valley and whose artwork is featured at Asheville’s Blue Spiral 1 Gallery, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and the Ramsey Library of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. "It won't be the end product that matters. Even if people just do primitive sketchings, they'll still have an experience in the natural world. It's a great excuse to get out in the woods."
The Wilderness Society's Southern Appalachian Program Director Brent Martin hopes that experience lasts long after people leave the workshop.
"We're hoping people come explore Wilson Creek and the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and leave with a desire to be advocates for these lands," Martin says. "That's the mission of The Wilderness Society -- to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places."
Martin adds the fact that workshop participants can experience these moments with one of North Carolina's most beloved artists makes it all the more special. Johnson is known as a visual storyteller whose rich works celebrate sacred places and the intricacies of the natural world. His pencil and watercolor sketches made in the field are the backbone of the studies and paintings later made in his studio.
The workshop for the artistically-inclined is the first of two experiences The Wilderness Society is leading. A writer’s workshop is scheduled for this fall, led by environmental activist, poet and author Janisse Ray of "Ecology of a Cracker Childhood" and "Wild Card Quilt" fame. Anne Raver of The New York Times said of Janisse Ray, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.”
"There's a huge artistic tradition in North Carolina," Martin says. "It's a part of who we are. Our story-tellers, poets, musicians and artists help integrate us into the lands we love."
Workshop Details and Registration: To enroll and make a deposit, contact Jill Gottesman at The Wilderness Society at (828) 587-9453 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Accommodations at the Wildacres Retreat Center, meals, and art materials are included. Cost is $490 per person based on double occupancy, and $600 per person based on single occupancy. No previous artistic experience necessary. Moderate physical ability is required as students must be able to walk a few miles on rugged terrain.
Image: Green Knob. Drawing by Robert Johnson.