“A Clean Wilson Creek” / A BearTrailArt.Com Funded Conservation Effort


A Clean Wilson Creek BearTraiArt.com Conservation

A Clean Wilson Creek BearTraiArt.com Conservation



Betseys_Donate_Graphic_WEBThis July 2018, BearTrailArt.com will launch an important fully-funded conservation effort to help address a crisis of misuse in and around one of North Carolina’s most beautiful National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Our kick-off project is a 4″ x 6″ high quality art decal that will be sold in a variety of North Carolina retail locations (to be announced in July), by selected friends of the river, and via the BearTrailArt.com website.http://www.betseysolecountrystore.com/wilson_creek_clean_up.htmlThis July 2018, BearTrailArt.com will launch an important fully-funded conservation effort to help address a crisis of misuse in and around one of North Carolina’s most beautiful National Wild and Scenic Rivers. Our kick-off project is a 4″ x 6″ high quality art decal that will be sold in a variety of North Carolina retail locations (to be announced in July), by selected friends of the river, and via the BearTrailArt.com website.

There are short and long term goals for of “A Clean Wilson Creek”, and components will include direct river clean up; informational signage; assisting with improvements in surveillance and enforcement of existing laws in the Pisgah National Forest, Wilson Creek Wilderness; and an educational outreach and awareness component.

We are excited about the responses received during the planning and inquiry phase, and the and number of individuals and organizations willing to participate in some way. Our first official kick-off event will take place on August 15th, as we have been invited to participate in the GO Grandfather (Get Outdoors) day on the mountain to launch our effort. The headwaters of Wilson Creek originate on the slope of this iconic mountain, and this seems a fitting place for us to begin!

If you are interested in finding out more about “A Clean Wilson Creek”, please consult the information posted below and contact us with questions about volunteering or hosting a retail location.

If you want to purchase decal(s), email us at beartrailstudio@gmail.com and we will get in touch. We take checks and PayPal.  Decals are $5 per at a host location, or $6.50 mailed (for oversized envelope and postage). 100% of all money from the sale of these decals goes directly to the Wilson Creek Cleanup Fund non-profit organization 501c(3)  established by Bruce Gray and Betsey’s Ole Country Store, in Mortimer, N.C. 

Information on “A Clean Wilson Creek”



Tribute to Ron Ranson 1925-2016, Artist, Teacher & Author


Ron Ranson

“The most unlucky generation is the one which couldn’t produce a hero to look up to.”… Amit Kalantri,

The great British watercolorist and teacher Ron Ranson passed away a few days ago at the age of 91. He had a prolific career spanning many decades and remained active as a painter, workshop instructor and author up until recently. I never studied officially with Ron, but greatly benefitted from his books. He had a clean direct style of landscape painting without a lot of “fussiness”, and this helped me to understand what you choose to leave out is sometimes much more important than what you try and cram in to a painting. When I was struggling with watercolor skies early on, I came across his book “Ron Ranson on Skies”. Perfect timing! Around the same time I was studying the design teachings of Edgar Whitney and found his book, “Watercolor the Edgar Whitney Way”. The artists chronicled in this book (who studied with Whitney, Ranson never did) I perceived as the disciples needed for learning to express myself with this wonderful medium. In this era, Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff and Workshop facility became a hotbed of post-Whitney generation instructors such as Frank Webb, Skip Lawrence, Tony Van Hasselt, Judi Betts and many others. I ended up studying repeatedly with two of them, Skip Lawrence and Cheng Khee Chee. This workshop facility in Boone, N.C., became a confluence of watercolor talent for many years and remains so at present. Many of this referred to generation are gone or slowing down however, as new instructors help turn over the pond.

My world of making art has been sewn together by a number of these painting legends like Ron Ranson. At the core of their success was of course, the paintings they were able to produce. However, I soon began to realize their well-crafted teaching personas were equally important. I learned much about workshop instructing and serving as a resource for other burgeoning painters through their example.


Ron Ranson Watercolor / Cliffs of Southern Oregon

In the early 2000 era, I had the pleasure of meeting Ron at a Cheap Joe’s Trade Show here in Boone, NC. We were both doing product demos directly across the hallway from each other. I had not been teaching all that long, and here I was across the hall from the world renowned master! I really thought that was something. He was a very nice man and took the time to talk with me about my work and life. We should all be so lucky to paint up to 91, or maybe beyond. Thank you Ron Ranson and hope you are enjoying those beautiful skies you painted! (Bio Photo from his FB site and “Cliffs of Southern Oregon watercolor)


Still Before the Storm / Ron Ranson

Group Exhibition Opening – August 27th, 2016 / 5-8pm

Group Show Invitation

Join us for a reception this coming Saturday, August 27th 5-8pm at Blowing Rock Frameworks & Gallery to say farewell to Summer 2016 & te view new work from Wes Waugh, Jason Drake, Pat Pilkington, David Starbuck and Lita Gatlin, and Robin Wellner. We hope you can make it for the event! Beverages & Lite-fare provided.

Location and Directions:

Blowing Rock Frameworks & Gallery (Food Lion Shopping Center)

7539 Valley Blvd.

Blowing Rock, NC 28605 / 828 295-0041

Website & Directions

Wes Waugh – Juror’s Statement

Juror's State

When asked to serve as a juror for an exhibition, I like to provide the participants and organizers with this overview. Many painters are often curious as to how a juror reaches his or her decisions about award selections, particularly the balance of subjective versus objective influence and decision-making. First, there is no set formula and very little written information on the subject. This is my personal philosophy that I have developed over the years with guidance from my own teachers or colleagues who also serve as jurors. The  link below will open a PDF that provides this information.

Wes Waugh – Juror’s Statement

Noyes Capehart Long – An Artist’s Reflections


Defiant Warrior, 2004 (Private Collection) Noyes Capehart Long

“It stood there like a defiant warrior, girded in the splendor of the silent autumn day.”

In 1998 I participated in a week long workshop in Banner Elk with artist Noyes Capehart Long. I had been introduced to Noyes by my teacher, Joe Miller, and was intrigued by his work and processes, especially his mixed media approaches. With my graduate work I had discovered the work of Carl Jung, and had become very interested in the connections and crossroads of art, psychology and archetypes. When I first discovered Noye’s artwork, I immediately identified his art as a manifestation and melding of these three areas. For me, it remains very unique in this consideration, a personal bridge of sorts that I constructed where visually, Capehart equals Jung I suppose. Noyes also effectively incorporates a literary component with his visual imagery, and this reinforced for me the important role that journaling and a free-association method of creative writing can play in the development of artwork.

During that week in Banner Elk, I learned to view making a painting, as Noyes refers to it, as an idea; one brought to fruition by tools and mediums that the idea calls out for. An artist who subscribes only to formulas and constantly uses the same tool box for all projects and efforts may not be listening carefully or paying close attention to the task at hand.


My Father, 2008 (Private Collection) Noyes Capehart Long

“The first time my father saw my works on exhibition, he moved cautiously from picture to picture, as if afraid they might begin speaking in unknown tongues.”

One of our challenges early in the week was to develop a painting completely from an emotional idea, rather than from a visual construct, such as a photograph, sketch, etc.  This was initially a struggle accompanied by significant resistance for most of us. However, it resulted in an “ah-ha” moment of sorts and I began to understand where the true strength of any good painting originates.  I reflected back to the childhood experience of listening to the spring frogs while fishing late into the night at our lake cabin.  “Frog Song” emerged almost magically, once this idea was affixed to the task.


This past week I had the opportunity to spend an hour with Noyes, our first time visiting in a few years.  As always, our conversations inspired me and brought about a creative energy that often seems to go dormant in the winter months. As an artist, the winter in Boone often has me waxing a bit nostalgic, and much of the work that Noyes creates fits well with this mode. Noyes is now 82, has completed four novels in addition to a joint exhibition of paintings this past year, and is now doing some research on an upcoming book I am most excited about. For me, he is the epitome of an artist and role model, mining the vein of creativity to its fullest.


Below is the preface to the UNCTV.Org documentary (view by clicking the image) that you may enjoy watching.

“At the end of the day, as they put away their quills and brushes, they realized anew that art is but mere illusion” 

In January of 2008, Director Morgan Potts and a film crew from UNC-TV spent three days in the High Country filming and interviewing me for a planned Our State segment on my Private Diary Series, scheduled for release in June of that year. A major portion of filming was done at a selected site between Boone and West Jefferson, a deserted house that I have painted several times during my forty years of residence in Watauga County. This superbly done 10-minute segment below, directed by Potts and filmed by Mike Burke, won an Emmy Award…. Noyes Capehart Long


Access Noyes Capehart Long Website



Halloween 2015, Dia de los Muertos and Jak


Sometimes, I have no idea how I get myself in to things. For example, how did I end up with a desert habitat in my print studio? To house and protect a number of cacti up to 5′ tall from the Boone winter perhaps? It’s a long story. It involves High Country friend and artist Jill Harman Smith, who was close friends with a talented and prolific glass artist, Jak Brewer. Jak passed away after a period of declining health last July 2015. Jill and her husband Brian cared for him during his final months. They are working hard to settle his estate and take care of his belongings in a manner that would greatly please Jak, I am sure.DSCN1781

I never met Jak, but have learned a lot about him that fascinates me. Besides being incredibly talented and passionately devoted to making art (including mediums other than glass), he was quite a character it seems. He studied at Penland School in the early days and was a founding member of the Glass Art Society. He set-up homesteading in a hermit-like fashion on a beautiful and secluded large tract of property here in the mountains. He hand-built his home and studio in the 70’s, starting with a geodesic dome, and then as a maze-like series of cabins (after heavy snows caved in his dome following a monster storm). The perfect circular stone foundation of his dome still stands as a monument overlooking a winding stream in deep woods. It is a peaceful place to visit.DSCN1777

He also built a pond, landscaped his property with fruit and asian tree species, and eventually constructed a multi-roomed glass and firing studio separate from his home. It is a museum of books, clutter, artifacts, political protest signs, collections, art, and attempted art that spans 40 years. In other words, it is exactly the kind of place I love to hang out. He also loved his cacti and other plants and some of them dated back to the 70’s. It was up to Jill to find them a home, and that is where I came in. She zeroed in on me as a gardener, fellow plant lover (and maybe fellow eccentric like Jak) and she knew that I would be easy prey I suppose. I am a sucker for a heartfelt-artist story and I guess we’re sort of a brotherhood-sisterhood that have to look out for one another.




DSCN1775Maybe we are like an odd-ball, leftist Order of Masons. I never have really known what the Mason’s do even after reading the DaVinci Code, but my Dad told me they had a secret hand shake and could recognize one another if stranded on the side of the road by striking a certain pose. I don’t guess he really knew much about them either. He was more of a Moose Lodge guy. Artist’s don’t really need any of those rituals. We all just emit some kind of “vibe” it seems, one that is immediately apparent to other artists. It may also be one that serves as a strong repellent to certain other folks making the hair stand up on the back of their neck.  To get on with the story, I ended up with the cacti and numerous other plants. My friend Zack, in the ASU Bio department, took a few of the rescues off my hands. But, I can’t part with the key players in Jak’s life: Fishhook Jak (fish-hook barrel cactus) and Slim San Pedro. Also, a few others I guess such as Fishhook’s small progeny that fell off during transport…oh, and a 5 foot Euphorbia, aloe, fern, spider plant, the list unfortunately goes on…

Fishhook Jak and Slim San Pedro

Fishhook Jak and Slim San Pedro

YuccaJakI decided to go ahead and make the best of the situation and combined some of Jak’s raw glass work, some of my Dia de los Muertos art from San Antonio, and some high-tech plant lighting to help them feel more desert-like when it is -15 in January. It seems to create a David Lynch kind of landscape just in time for Halloween. I hope they all make it through the winter. In fact, I hope I make it through the winter given what my wife and family has to put up with. I may end up spending a lot more time with them than planned.



Smudge Harman Smith, Jak’s buddy at the edge of the pond

I have a feeling that there may be more “Jak” tales in my future. Jill and Smudge indicate there is much more work to be done to continue this story. I look forward to it, Jak’s place is a magical kind of place. A link to Jak’s Bio and associated article with the the Piedmont Craftsman website is below. You can also find Jak Brewer’s work on Google with an image search. It is quite beautiful. Stay tuned. Happy Halloween 2015!

Piedmont Craftsmen Jak Brewer Bio

One of Jak's pieces, now at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (photo by Jill Harman Smith)

One of Jak’s pieces, now at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia (photo by Jill Harman Smith)

Jak Brewer, photo courtesy of Highland Craft Guild and Jill Harmon Smith

Jak Brewer, photo courtesy of Highland Craft Guild and Jill Harman Smith

Wes’s Instructional Videos: Cheap Joe’s YouTube Channel

Cheap Joe's YouTube Channel

Cheap Joe’s YouTube Channel

I have a number of informational and instructional videos available on the Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff YouTube Channel. I am not a big fan of watching myself on video, but some of the info I have presented seems to have been helpful to aspiring watercolorists. The first two videos provide a BIO overview of my evolution as an artist and a tour of my studio. They are a bit lengthy, so if interested in watercolor tips and instruction you certainly have my permission to skip these!  You can access these video titles from the links below:

















Inspiration Needed? Check Here:

One of the greatest things about art and artists is the sheer diversity of both. While there is no shortage of “social media” negatives, one of the big positives, at least for me, is the opportunity to view art and converse with artists from all over the world. If you are the least bit like me, you may scroll through a multitude of painting images and all of a sudden one of them practically knocks you off your feet. For whatever reasons, we “connect” and want to know more about the work and the artist. That is kind of a magical thing really, because it is more often than not, inexplicable. The images/artists posted here reflect those personal experiences for me. I suppose you could consider it my own “Best of Show” gallery.  I may also post appropriate quotes or notes of interest about that particular artist. If the artist is living, I always make an effort to ask for their permission to use the image in a post, and I will always reference their website at the very least.

I occasionally come across other inspirational resources that may not be directly related to painting or visual fine art in general. I enjoy sharing some of these with my workshop participants and this seems a good venue to post these images or links. I have found that all (or most) art or creative endeavors share similar processes, especially as to how experience and share motivational energy. Maybe a few of these will also be powerful for you, but it might be even better to start your own collection to draw from when you are feeling the need to gain a new perspective or just re-charge your batteries.

Ocean Park 24 / Richard Deibenkorn

Ocean Park 24 / Richard Deibenkorn

“In a successful painting everything is integral, all the parts belong to the whole. If you remove an aspect or element you are removing its wholeness.” Richard Diebenkorn / Ocean Park 24

Foggy Morning Maine / Thomas Schaller

Foggy Morning Maine / Thomas Schaller

A masterful watercolor!

Foggy Morning – Maine (Owl’s Head Harbor)Thomas W Schaller – Watercolor.
18×24 inches – 11 Nov. 2015 / image used with permission from Tom.

Cheng Khee Chee Koi Demo

Cheng Khee Chee demo of Koi using saturated wet process (middle stage of painting)

I have had the fortunate opportunity two study with Cheng Khee Chee on two occasions. My first opportunity to closely observe his “shape-lifting” process from a saturated abstracted background is something I will always remember. I finally understood that timing (patience) and observation were as critical as any of the other components we study and obsess over.

Joe Miller Artist and Motivational Master

Joe Miller – Artist and Motivational Master

I suppose it is humanly possible to become a successful artist without being greatly influenced and encouraged by others along the way, but I’m not sure I could ever fully embrace this belief. And, who would want THAT kind of success?  Learning to paint is tough.  It is easy to cash in your chips, and shove all of those supplies in a closet until you can pawn them off on some future niece or nephew that shows artistic promise. This man has literally helped thousands of people hang in there through the early phases of the learning curve. He does so with humor, compassion and with a little “reality therapy” thrown in to the mix.  He also helps them acquire great supplies, which is no small part of the equation. This is my favorite photo of Joe Miller, my #1 teacher, mentor and friend.

George Bellows National Gallery image

George Bellows Exhibition at The National Gallery, September 2012 / painting “The Big Dory”

On a lengthy flight Joe Miller and I got in to one of our deep discussions, and he made a remark that really stuck with me: “No matter how hard we try, it seems our egos always get involved with our art life in some way or another”. Sometimes I get a little full of myself. Maybe I have pulled a pretty decent painting out of one I thought destined for the scrap bin, or perhaps I start reflecting on my “body of work” and begin to feel a bigger than healthy sense of accomplishment. A sure fire remedy for the big head is to go visit a historic gallery during a major exhibition. I had the opportunity to see the George Bellows exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in D.C. in 2012. I pulled the following notes from my journal, and reflect on this experience of viewing emotionally intense, massive oil paintings in room after room of the Gallery. A sure-fire dose of humility comes from time committed to such an exhibit; the work of a rare and prolific master artist. I left very inspired, but also felt that the only thing we really had in common was a shared middle name (Wesley).

“The George Bellows exhibit was mind blowing for me. Mostly familiar with his grim early 1900’s boxing club paintings, I was amazed at the design, color and the large scale of his body of work. What he accomplished by his death at age 42 from appendicitis (in 1925) was amazing. I left needing to learn a lot more about George Bellows over the coming years, and I guess that is what art museums are all about. A side note: In 2005 Bill Gates purchased Bellow’s 1910 “Polo Club” for $27.5 million. Also, a big reminder that photos and digital images of paintings are not paintings (a finger pointing at the moon, is not the moon). We must see the real thing to fully appreciate art and the artist!”

Geoffrey Gorman / Red Fox

Geoffrey Gorman / Red Fox

I discovered the work of artist Geoffrey Gorman in a gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona a few years back. His animal sculptures are created from natural materials, discarded metal, manmade material scraps, and found objects fascinated me on a number of levels. They seem to embody the spirit of the animal with great sensitivity, they are very unique as art objects, and they would appear to be fun (though challenging I am sure) to create. He is a great observer of animals and the natural world, and also draws inspiration from writings and poetry, which he often posts along with images of one of his works. I hope to be able to take a workshop with him at some point down the road. Here is a poem by Mary Oliver that Geoffrey posted along with this image:

I found a dead fox

I found a dead fox
beside the gravel road,
curled inside the big
iron wheel
of an old tractor
that has been standing,
for years,
in the vines at the edge
of the road.
I don’t know
what happened to it –
when it came there
or why it lay down
for good, settling
its narrow chin
on the rusted rim
of the iron wheel
to look out
over the fields,
and that way died –
but I know
this: its posture –
of looking,
to the last possible moment,
back into the world –
made me want
to sing something
joyous and tender
about foxes.
But what happened is this –
when I began,
when I crawled in
through the honeysuckle
and lay down
curling my long spine
inside that cold wheel,
and touched the dead fox,
and looked out
into the wide fields,
the fox
There was only myself
and the world,
and it was I
who was leaving.
And what could I sing
Oh, beautiful world!
I just lay there
and looked at it.
And then it grew dark.
That day was done with.
And then the stars stepped forth
and held up their appointed
fires –
those hot, hard
watchmen of the night.

by mary oliver

(image and info posted with the permission of Geoffrey Gorman)

David Bowie Audi Ad 1990's

“Never mind the stares – If I’m going to do something that could be provocative or artistically relevant, I have to be prepared to put myself in a place where I feel unsafe, not completely in control. I have no fear of failure whatsoever, because often out of that uncertainty something is salvaged, something that is worthwhile comes about. There is no progress without failure. And each failure is a lesson learned. Unnecessary failures are the ones where an artist tries to second guess an audience’s taste, and little comes out of that situation except a kind of inward humiliation”. David Bowie (1947-2016) R.I.P & Thanks for the great music.

I began listening to David Bowie around age 15 (1973!). He enabled me to understand the important conceptual relationship between the “artist persona” and the creative results, whether it be manifested in music, painting or any number of other mediums. He also demonstrated that art transcends gender, and for me this promoted an open-mindedness toward others regardless of my perceived levels of their masculinity or femininity. Looking back, I think this was a unique perspective for a teenage southern male to have at the time. I have referred to this passage in my workshops for many years now. I think it emphasizes the importance of a developing artist to be willing to confront fear, fail in their efforts, and to never submit to prioritizing the pleasing of others over the weight of being self-fulfilled by your efforts.