These artists sometimes go outside to find their inspiration, and that recently led them to a farm with llamas, ostriches and a zebra.
In Johnston County, a small group of artists come together once a month to paint, usually inside with a still life or model. But at least twice a year, they head outdoors, which led them last week to Bent Creek Farm near Four Oaks.
Two ostriches bobbed their heads behind a chain-length fence. Off in a field, a zebra grazed with a donkey. And nearby, three llamas and a horse found ways to keep cool: One llama stood under the shade of a tree, while the other two waded into a pond to sink their feet in the cold mud.
“It’s fun, and it pushes the skill level because it takes a different set of skills to paint outside than painting in controlled conditions,” said Jane Kate Brown, one of the group’s members.
The group, which can range from 10 to 20 artists, used to paint at Orchard House Booksellers and then at its successor, Melody’s Cafe. Since Melody’s closed, the artists have been gathering at First Presbyterian Church in Smithfield.
Georgia and Wayne Adams own Bent Creek Farm. Georgia Adams said they pick up animals here and there, often from friends nearby who raise exotic animals. The couple used to have a water buffalo and a belted Galloway cow, whose wide white stripe around its middle made it look like an Oreo cookie.
They keep the zebra, Dobby, with a donkey for company and because the two can breed and have a “zedonk,” Georgia Adams said.
Laura Lee of Benson set up her easel under the shade of some trees near a barn. She painted the barn as a horse and llama ambled in the field between her and the building. “I just love being outside, and you can see the colors and shadows,” Lee said.
Surrounded by fellow artists, Lori Hamilton of Smithfield painted at a table, using a nearby blue door as her subject. “Friendship. Experience. It’s good practice. It’s something new and different,” she said.
Hamilton said she and the other painters feed off each other and teach each other techniques. She said the farm was eye candy. “It’s gorgeous and you have a lot of different things to paint.”
Plus, painting such beautiful scenery is a way of honoring the land, Hamilton said. “It’s Johnston County,” she said. “There’s a lot of places in this country where they don’t have this kind of land.”
Judy Boyette photographed a cow with her smartphone and brought it with her to the table of artists. The photo allowed her to paint a target that wasn’t moving, but she could go back if she needed more inspiration. Boyette used charcoal to show the cow standing lonely in a field.
Boyette likes when the group ventures outdoors. “You get to see parts of the county you may just ride by,” she said. “Now I’ve gotten to see the ostriches and zebra. I had no idea there was a zebra in Johnston County.”
Artists interested in joining the group should call Jane Kate Brown at 919-965-9785.