The Legend of High Rock Farm ~ Back to the Future

Standing on the rolling hills of High Rock Farm in springtime, with my brother Tom, I was struck by the magnificent view we were taking in.  It wasn’t just this expansive view that caught my eye on Tom’s couple hundred acre farm in Rockbridge County, Virginia, for there was a picture at every turn.  I can certainly understand why my brother decided long ago to move from the Washington, D. C. area, to live in the country.  As we stood there, he told me the story of High Rock Farm and it goes something like this….

“The farm got its name a couple of hundred years ago,” Tom said, retelling the story that the elderly, bewhiskered local historian Ed Patterson told him over fifteen years ago.  Ed was in his eighties at the time.  Tom continued, “High Rock Farm parallels High Rock Road.  At the turn of the last century, there was a huge rock in the middle of a steep section of the road below the farm.  When the farmers needed to travel up the hill along the road in their horse drawn wagon, they could not get their wagon up the road due to the huge rock.  The traveler would stop at the rock, walk up to the farmhouse, and ask the farmer to help him get over the rock.  The High Rock farmer would then take a team of plow horses down to the stranded traveler, attach ropes to the wagon, and haul the wagon up over the rock.  Hence, the name High Rock Road and High Rock Farm,” Tom finished, paraphrasing the lore passed on to him by the now late Ed Patterson.  

Tom purchased the centuries old farm roughly twenty years ago, which included a farmhouse and an old hand hewn barn (still in place), where the horses were kept. The plow horse stalls are huge and tell a story from a long time ago.  “Picture the pace of life of the traveler and the farmer,” my brother said to me as we looked out over his rolling hills.  ‘What a different time they lived in!”

Not all that much has changed at High Rock Farm.  High Rock Rd. is still a narrow, dirt, one lane road; too narrow for meeting cars to get by each other due to sheer drop offs.  The boulder in the road is gone but the slow pace of country life continues.  Cattle still graze the hillside and bales of hay are still rolled.  A small addition to High Rock Farm is the log cabin built by my brother that sits strategically placed, looking out over this panoramic vista and the Beebe farm.  

I wanted to make this painting a significant piece, 30” by 40”, to capture the grandeur and the feeling I felt when standing there with my brother.  The strong sunlight was hitting the not so distant Allegheny mountaintops, spreading warmth along the treetops, and pouring over the rolling hills.  Spring was coming quickly, with the white Locust trees and Dogwoods blooming.  The wild Hickory tree buds were a little behind the lavender flowered Black Walnut tree.  

High Rock Farm couldn’t have a better caretaker than my brother, knowledgeable about every species of tree and vigilant in maintaining the historic barn and property.  For Tom and his two boys, High Rock Farm has become the family farm. The legend lives on!

Gathering in the Meadow ~ Billy Goats!

Driving around Lexington, VA, I stumbled upon these Billy goats gathered in a meadow.  There were actually many more.  Maybe thirty of them!  As I approached them with my camera, they grew more interested in me.  First they turned and stared at me.  Then they started walking toward me, perhaps looking for me to feed them.

Goats are smart animals and are extremely curious.  Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to have them staring at the viewer of the painting.  They are also known to dig under fences, jump fences and do whatever they can to escape captivity.  They will eat almost anything.

I love the irony of the farms maze of fencing in the background; meanwhile the wily Billy goats are seemingly roaming free.


I also love the freshly painted and well-maintained red barns and outbuilding.  The Sycamore tree on the right was just beginning to bud leaves, indicating springtime in Virginia. 

As this winter is turning the corner toward longer days and greener pastures, I enjoyed painting this little landscape.  I’d love to hear what you think of my painting and if you think Billy goats are as cool as I do!

Producing a New Body of Work ~ The Cumulative Effect!

It seems like just yesterday that I started my first Virginia landscape Springtime Weeping Willows.  Then came Resting By the Brook, Morning Light, followed by two small pastoral scenes, Grazing Hillside and Greener Pastures.  Most recently I started a large (30’by 40”) rolling hills painting with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.  When I started this series I wasn’t sure whether I would enjoy it enough to stick with it.  Sometimes I paint a subject and that one time is enough.  This time, however, I have fifteen future paintings in my head from my last trip to Lexington, Virginia and I just can’t paint fast enough. 

All of a sudden, and not really suddenly at all, I have produced a new body of work.  It’s a slow process, one painting at a time, but it feels good to see them all side by side and to feel productive.  Each painting evolved from the previous painting.  I started out using broken color (an impressionistic technique) in a tight manner with Springtime Weeping Willows.  With Resting By the Brook I decided I wanted to use the same technique but make each color application bigger and more visible from a distance.  It creates a whole different look.  I also wanted to create a tonal appearance, with a yellowish/golden hue to the sky and a landscape that was in harmony. 


Next was Morning Light which I wanted to have fun with it, making it more contemporary.  The springtime wildflowers made me think color.  As I mentioned in my Morning Light blog, I used a palette knife and created almost a mosaic pattern in the water, taking the idea of bigger more visible applications of color to the next level.


Morning Light was a large painting (30” by 40”) which made me want to do a couple of small ones next (12” by 12”).  After having gone to the palette knife and the mosaic pattern I had the desire to go back to a more realistic, traditional style (without much “broken color”).

What is exciting to me are the endless opportunities of subject matter that I enjoy painting.  Virginia is somewhat surprisingly holding my interest as a painter.  I’m hoping to turn this small body of work into a large one!  Thanks for following my journey!

Let’s Go Get Lost ~ Always Looking for New Material!

Knowing that I need more photographs with new subject matter for painting throughout the winter, I asked my wife if she wanted to go explore the Virginia countryside around Charlottesville.  We’ve always enjoyed our photography outings, whether it was along the coast of Maine or now in Virginia. 

For me it goes all the way back to childhood.  My Aunt Eleanor used to drive me around neighborhoods when I was a very little kid in her VW Bug.  She told me I used to say to her “Let’s go get losted”.   I would stand up in the back seat (before seatbelts and car seats) and hold onto the loop hanging from the roof, as she would drive around endlessly pretending we were lost!  LOL

So recently we packed a cooler, popped the dogs in the car and headed west toward Charlottesville.  It’s a little over 2 hours from Williamsburg.  Knowing that there are rolling hills, beautiful countryside, horse farms etc… I figured I should be able to get at least some paintings out of the trip. 

Well, we didn’t get “losted” because we had GPS, MapQuest print outs and the iphone Siri to talk to and ask questions! :-) We drove around rather aimlessly searching for several hours and didn’t have much luck until near the end of our search.  Fortunately, along the way we found a good NY slice of pizza at Fabio’s Pizza in Charlottesville to hold us over and keep us from getting cranky. :-)

Here are some of the photos I took from our trip.  They aren’t what I was looking for but I think I might be able to get a painting or two out of them.  They are all from the Trump Winery outside of Charlottesville which we stumbled upon.  It has tremendous acreage, beautiful rolling hills, a pond and vineyards.  It would be a wonderful place to set up the easel and paint plein air.

It was a long day on the road and I’m glad to be back at the easel! 

I would love to hear from you as to which of the images you like.