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Blog about the studio, life and travels of visual artist Carly Drew.

Festival of Flowers @ Greenwood Arts Center

Carly Drew

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Catch “Keep It Between the Lines” and “What Has Been & What Will Be” on display at the 2019 Festival of Flowers at the Greenwood Arts Center. The exhibition was juried by Kara Blanken Soper and includes the best of contemporary art in South Carolina. It’s always such a joy to work with Jennifer and all the ladies at the art center!

Holiday Studio Sale

Carly Drew

Carly Drew Tale of the Yeti

My first ever Holiday Studio Sale is now live! You can check out the available work and information in my shop here. I will also be posting updates on Instagram stories throughout the day as well. There is a variety of work in the sale from mixed media drawings to small studies that will make just about anyone on your list happy. All work can be shipped within the US and there is even an option to arrange free pickup/delivery if you are in 30 miles of Landrum, SC.

Clarity in the Cold

Carly Drew


Once the haze of summer has finally let go and the first fire has been lit, the cooler weather sweeping in always brings with it a mysterious sense of clarity. I wrote about it a few years ago and it still holds true. I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly what brings me to such a focused state at this time of year, maybe its the crystalline atmosphere and shifting light that puts everything into a different perspective. Whatever it is, there’s a bit of magic in that cool breeze and a little more drama that sets fire to the imagination, begging to be reckoned with. The incoming flood of inspiration usually coincides with the calm before the storm of next year’s shows and the less than fun aspects of studio work like taxes and planning kick in. Having a few precious months void of paperwork and devoted to making always comes around when I need it the most. The studio turns back into a place of inspiration and exploration, where I can enjoy the process, take risks and respond to intuition. It’s a time to play with new ideas, figure things out and get back into a rhythm that doesn’t have to respond to the world around it for a little while.

Do you have a time of year where you are more inspired than others? Comment below with the time of year and why you think that is, cause I’d love to hear what times of year other creatives feel like they are the most productive!

Frist Museum of Art

Carly Drew

Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

Anyone that keeps up with my Instagram stories already got a peak at some of the highlights from my trip to the Frist Museum of Art in Nashville. The two exhibitions that stole the show were “The Presence of Your Absence is Everywhere” by Iranian artist Afruz Amighi and “Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century.” Both exhibitions were beautifully done and I ended up spending most of the day caught up in all of the exquisite details.

Afruz Amighi,  My House, My Tomb , 2015.

Afruz Amighi, My House, My Tomb, 2015.

Afruz Amighi.  Nameless , 2014.

Afruz Amighi. Nameless, 2014.

Tucked away at the back of the galleries hosting the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition was the Afruz Amighi exhibit. Her work utilizes shadows and narrative to create an immersive experience for the viewer, with the placement and lighting reminiscent of an altar or other sacred space. The shadows almost become more important than the metalwork itself and the richness in the layering gives a kind of peculiar intensity to the installation.

Matthew Ritchie,  A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean , 2014.

Matthew Ritchie, A Bridge, a Gate, an Ocean, 2014.

Next was the “Chaos and Awe” exhibition which had the work of several artists that I’ve never gotten the opportunity to see in person. The over-arching theme was the often sublime collision of the digital space with reality, memory and emotion. It also showcased the variety of surfaces, textures and ways to use paint as a media. The work in the show was quite diverse and it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across Matthew Ritchie, Julie Mehretu, Wangechi Mutu and many more contemporary painters all in one place. Below are some of my favorite moments. You can find the artists name and work info located in the image descriptions.

Sarah Walker,  Dust Tail II,  2008. (Detail)

Sarah Walker, Dust Tail II, 2008. (Detail)

Dean Byington,  The Inquisitors,  2011. (Detail)

Dean Byington, The Inquisitors, 2011. (Detail)

Dannielle Tegeder,  Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence,  2016.

Dannielle Tegeder, Lightness as it Behaves in Turbulence, 2016.

Pedro Barbeito,  LHC Red from The God Particle,  2014

Pedro Barbeito, LHC Red from The God Particle, 2014

Barbara Takenaga,  Black Triptych (Blaze),  2016.

Barbara Takenaga, Black Triptych (Blaze), 2016.

Pat Steir,  White Moon Mist , 2006.

Pat Steir, White Moon Mist, 2006.

Anoka Faruqee,  (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85,  2013.

Anoka Faruqee, (Left to Right) 2013P-83 (Wave), 2013P-68, 2013P-85, 2013.

Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011 (Detail)

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011 (Detail)

Corinne Wasmuht,  Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL , 2011

Corinne Wasmuht, Bibliotheque/CDG-BSL, 2011

Wangechi Mutu,  Untitled from Tumors , 2004.

Wangechi Mutu, Untitled from Tumors, 2004.

Wangechi Mutu  Untitled from Tumors , 2004. (Detail)

Wangechi Mutu Untitled from Tumors, 2004. (Detail)

A Few Days in Nashville, TN

Carly Drew

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The fact that I haven’t been to Nashville before this trip is a real shame and I have to say it’s hands down one of my favorite big cities in the South. I loved the laid back vibes, all of the amazing food and that it’s one of the few places that country music still reigns supreme. Didn’t quite get to see (or eat) all of the things on my or that everyone on Instagram recommended, but I’m not too worried because I know I’ll be back again soon. Read on to see all of the places I went and maybe get a little inspiration for your next trip to the Music City.

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COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME & HATCH SHOW PRINT | I figured I had to do at least one of the big “touristy” things while I was here and fighting the crowds for this one was worth it. It was fascinating to see a lot of the moments, instruments and outfits that have shaped the history of country music over the years. As an old school country fan, navigating the exhibits made it painfully evident how far mainstream radio (let’s be real here - pop) country really is from those early roots in Appalachian folk and blues. Let’s hope that a few of the artists that are still writing songs with strong narratives are able to take back the reigns towards those roots. Attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame is Hatch Show Print, which was a cool little stop to look at recent show posters and get nostalgic over that familiar printshop smell (those of you who know, you know).

BAKERSFIELD NASHVILLE | When theres a good taco place somewhere, that’s usually where I’ll end up at some point and luckily these tacos did not disappoint. It was also a great place to escape the stifling heat of August and enjoy a refreshing mezcal cocktail.

TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL & NASHVILLE FARMER’S MARKET | After walking several miles I decided it would be a great idea to walk even more and check out the Nashville Farmer’s Market. Luckily it wasn’t too far from the hotel and I got to mosey around the State Capitol down to the Capitol Mall State Park. At the Farmer’s Market I picked up lots of fun little snacks to try for a light dinner and sampled a couple of the local wineries. Then I spotted Jeni’s Ice Cream and figured I’d treat myself with some of my favorite ice cream after all that walking.

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FRIST ART MUSEUM | After a quick breakfast of a chai latte and quinoa bowl from Frothy Monkey, I walked over to the Frist Museum of Art and spent an unexpectedly large portion of my morning browsing the exhibitions. I also had an amazing talk with a receptionist that give me some inside details on the best places to visit while in town. I won’t go into too much detail here since I’ll be devoting an entire post on my experience at the Frist, all on the work I saw in the museum and my thoughts on the exhibitions.

GALLERY HOPPING | After leaving the museum I continued on my art filled day by gallery hoping the rest of the afternoon. Stopping at the 21c Museum Hotel galleries, Tinney Contemporary and The Rymer. All of which had wonderful and incredibly different work.

DINNER @ HUSK NASHVILLE | Later that evening we made reservations at Husk Nashville to experience Chef Sean Brock’s take on Southern food specific to the area around Nashville. Having spent several years in the high end restaurant industry I have to say one of the things I enjoyed most was the sense of humor and combination of high/low that ran throughout the menu. I also applaud Brock and his team for not simply rehashing the same tired old recipes that “define” Southern food and culture, instead they choose to highlight the ingredients that are engrained in the region by adding little twists that toy between comfort and contemporary. I’ll have to make it a point to add Husk Greenville to my list of local stops.

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BISCUIT LOVE | Of course I was gonna find my way to a fried chicken biscuit! Usually these types of places can be pretty over-hyped and despite the line out the door, I was very impressed with this little breakfast spot. We were through the line much quicker than anticipated and enjoyed our morning shot of caffeine while waiting on breakfast to arrive. Both biscuits were amazing - the Princess had hot chicken and the East Nasty had sausage gravy and cheddar (I mean how can you go wrong?). Definitely arrive hungry and be prepared to skip lunch, but it’s more than worth it.

SHOPPING | Fueled by fried chicken and coffee, some shopping was in order at the boutiques around the Gulch neighborhood. After not being impressed by all of the tourist trap boot shops the previous day, I made a beeline straight for Frye and Lucchese. A new pair of daily wear boots has been on my list for quick a while now and I’ve been struggling to find a new pair that ticks all the boxes. There aren’t many places in Greenville to drool over all the leather goods, so needless to say I was in boot heaven the next few hours and found way too many things to add to my wishlist. There’s also Urban Outfitters, Two Hippies and several other shops close by.

FOOD TRUCK FAIR & MUSIC | That evening we walked around the city taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway and a small food truck fair down the block from our hotel. We also enjoyed stopping to listen to the variety of artists playing music in every nook and cranny.

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FIVE DAUGHTERS BAKERY | We saved the best for last and picked up a box of Five Daughters doughnuts for the road. When I asked for recommendations on Instagram, this was the number one suggestion and these doughnuts are hands down the best Ive ever had. In fact they've officially ruined all other doughnuts for the rest of my life. Just sayin’.

GARDENS OF BABYLON | This place is a plant lovers playground and is a great place where you can find some more unique additions to your plant collection. Since we had a 6 hour drive ahead, I restrained myself and only bought two ferns, a cactus (that later decided to attach itself to my thumb, so we didn’t get off on a good foot), some small pots and a really cool metal hanging planter. This is definitely one of the places that I will happily go out of my way to get to next time I’m in this neck of the woods.

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DRY LEVEE SALVAGE | COOKEVILLE, TN | I’m one of those people that will always make the most of being on the road and has to hit any places I have bookmarked along the way. When I was out in Cookeville last winter there were two places I didn’t get the chance to swing in, the first being Dry Levee Salvage, an antique and reclaimed goods store that has some really unique finds. They had some beautiful pieces of reclaimed and salvaged wood for sale as well as a great selection of antique tools. This is a place I’ll always stop in out of curiosity.

JOHNSON GARDEN CENTER | COOKEVILLE, TN | Oops I did it again….yes the second place in Cookeville was another plant store. Not quite as epic as the last one, but much larger and with a lot of more variety than you would find at most garden centers.

WHITE DUCK TACO | ASHEVILLE, NC | Tacos are one of my three main food groups. No seriously, I could literally eat tacos for every single meal of the day (as evidenced above), so I have to admit I was not impressed with White Duck. Maybe it was just an off day or maybe it was just all of the amazing Nashville food, but this was a little bit of a meh note to end the trip on.

Hope ya’ll enjoyed the rundown of all my Nashville adventures! I have so many places that I didn’t get to on my list for next time and can’t wait to head back to the Music City for round two. What are some of your favorite things to do, see and eat in Nashville?

Tubing the French Broad River

Carly Drew

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It's that time of year when summer starts coming to an end and the beginning of fall starts creeping up and to celebrate these last few days of summer we went tubing with some friends down the French Broad River in Asheville, NC. A little time on the water is one of the best ways to keep what's left of those summer vibes going and a lazy afternoon on the river is a great way to get in a little R & R before plunging headlong into the craziness that is the pending holiday season. Pair that with a few stops for ice cold beer, some food trucks and a little good company, you’ve got a nice relaxing afternoon in the mountains.  

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TIP | Don't bring a lot of stuff and use a waterproof case. I used this Pelican case, which is just big enough for an iPhone, I.D. and a little cash with some extra room to space. It also had a hook for a carabiner, so all I had to do was clip it on one of the tube straps and forget about it. 

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ZEN TUBING | We didn't want to put a whole lot of thought into the process and Zen Tubing took a lot of the logistics out of the mix by shuttling us straight to the drop in point. I call that a win.

NEW BELGIUM | Not sure why I haven't been to New Belgium in Asheville yet, but they had one of the most interesting selections of sours on tap and I wanted to try the all. I'm not usually one for fruity beers, but after a few hours baking in the sun I needed something a little more refreshing and the Mural Agua Fresca Cerveza hit the spot along with a fried chicken sandwich and avocado slaw from the Root Down food truck

SALVAGE STATION | Then we floated down a bit more before stopping at the Salvage Station to escape a pending storm. Honestly the storms themselves aren't much of an issue (just pull off to the side), but be forewarned it gets a little chilly after a long day in the sun. We took the opportunity to  enjoy another round and listen to some live music.

WHAT TO DO AFTER | By the time we got home we were so tired and relaxed that all we really had energy to do was make nachos and binge watch some Parks & Rec on Netflix.

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Keep It Between The Lines

Carly Drew

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"Keep It Between the Lines" is based off a photo I took a few years back at the only gas station in Tigerville, SC. This drawing allowed me to focus on patterns as well as the hard edges of perspective and softer, more atmospheric components of the landscape and early morning light. Sometimes its nice to strip away all the excessive layering and line work to play with basic shapes in a composition. Below are a few more detailed shots of the drawing. 

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Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain & Ivestor Gap

Carly Drew

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A few weeks back we woke up at 4:00am, loaded our day packs in the truck and to drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway in the dark to hike Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap loop. It's been several years since I've been on the trail at Black Balsam, so the trip was long overdue. At an elevation of a little over 6000 ft. Black Balsam and the surrounding area have always been one of my favorites, especially considering how distinct the landscape is from where we live in the lower mountain elevations. The wide-open grassy balds offer a different hiking experience than many of the more heavily forested trails in the area and provide some incredible views of the Southern Appalachian mountains. Another great thing about the elevation is that temperature is about 15 degrees cooler, so it's a great break from the sweltering heat of late summer. Below I'll break down a little more information on each section of the trail and at the end give a few tips for hiking this trail and others in the immediate vicinity. 

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Overall the hike barely broke 5 miles total and if you start the loop from the Art Loeb Trailhead, you'll get the hardest part of the hike out of of the way first. We parked the truck in the parallel parking at the base, but you also have the option of more parking and restrooms further down the road at Sam Knob. The beginning part of the hike climbs fairly quick and is pretty rocky terrain, but once you get to the top of Black Balsam things level out so you can really start to enjoy the views. There's nothing like watching the mist slowly clear from the valleys below and see the clouds start to open up as you amble along the trail in the early morning hours. While we enjoyed the Black Balsam portion of the trail, the downside of this section was that there were a lot of people camped along the trail up and on top of the summit, so there wasn't too much peace and quiet. Also if you plan to photograph sunrise remember that even though you are at a higher elevation (meaning the sun is visible earlier), it can be pretty hazy in the morning due to the typical humidity of summer in the South. We were surrounded by mist the first part of the hike and didn't get a clear line of sight until a little later that morning after we moved on to other parts of the trail. 

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The Tennent Mountain portion of the loop hits more of that isolated backcountry feel that we love, but unfortunately didn't have time for this day. In fact the other other noise we heard were the birds chattering away in the blueberry bushes and coyotes periodically calling out to each other across the valley. This portion of the trail was a haven for cedar waxwings, brought in by the impending crop of blueberries. Another great thing about this elevation is that the rhododendron come to full bloom in June and there were actually still quite a few blooms when we were here in July. In several areas of the trail these bushes are quite high and the trench is fairly deep and a little dark, so navigating this part of the trail gets a bit tricky. I would highly recommend wear sturdy shoes and make sure to keep your eyes on where you're walking to avoid twisting an ankle.

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Where the Art Loeb trail meets the Ivestor Gap trail is where we decided to turn back and complete the loop to where we left the truck. There's a large rock at this junction that is a nice stopping point for a snack and to take in some more sweeping views, including both Looking Glass and Shining Rock. The Ivestor Gap trail takes you back towards civilization through cathedrals of pine trees decorated with more twisting rhododendrons. A large section of this trail belongs to a creek bed and is often saturated with water after heavy rain, so as I mention below, waterproof shoes are a nice luxury to have in this stretch. The closer we got to the Sam Knob parking area the more people we passed heading out or even just set up to paint plain air or read along the trail. We completed the loop at about 9:00am and I won't lie, it's a nice feeling to get in a 5 miles before most people have even gotten out of bed on the weekend. Plus the early morning hours often provide more opportunities for dramatic light and wildlife sightings than later in the day, talk about a win-win.

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  • Arrive early. This means you beat out a lot of other people and gives you a lot more peace and quiet to enjoy the hike. 
  • Spray your clothing. In the summer the grasses and bushes are quite high, so I recommend wearing pants and spraying clothing the night before with a Permethrin spray to ward off any ticks and other nasty insects. 
  • Wear pants. The grasses and brambles you walk through in some areas will easily scratch your legs and a lot of the vegetation is soaking wet with dew in the early morning hours.
  • Waterproof Shoes. On a similar note a lot of the trail has deep trenches and creek beds that collect water, so waterproof shoes will help keep your feet dry in the muddy terrain. These are currently my favorite light trail shoes of choice because they do a great job of keeping my feet dry in wet conditions like these. 
  • Watch out for campers. Summer is easy camping weather and the summit usually has a lot of people camped out. The day we went there were at least 10 different groups scattered across the summit that had been camped out the night before and some of them were still dead asleep as we were hiking through. 
  • Keep tabs on the weather. Summer storms can roll up quick in Southern Appalachia, especially at higher elevations. Be conscious of the weather and always have some rain gear just in case.
  • Be aware of wildlife. I feel like this is a given, but a large portion of the trails are covered in blueberry bushes in late summer that attract a ton of wildlife to the area. Keep your eyes open and ears open. We saw two bears as we were driving back home on the parkway.
  • Watch for off-shoot trails. The top of Black Balsam can be a little confusing because there are several smaller trails that turn off that main one to explore the summit. Stick to the one that is most defined in order to stay on the Art Loeb to Tennent Mountain. 
  • There will be off-leash dogs. One of the main reasons we don't take Tennessee with us on heavily trafficked trails like this one is that there will always be someone with a loose dog or a small dog on a retractable leash. Now this is something that we are conscious of because Ten and I had been attacked by loose dogs twice while living at our previous house, which means she is extremely wary of meeting new animals, especially ones that come up and invade her space. If you have a dog that is similarly cautious, be forewarned that there are pretty high odds you will run into someone that is working off the knowledge that their dog is nice to everyone, but is possibly not taking into consideration that your animal might need space on the trail.

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Hope you enjoyed these tips and reading about our most recent experience hiking the Black Balsam, Tennent Mountain and Ivestor Gap Loop in the Pisgah National Forest. We're planning on heading back up this way in September for the Graveyard Fields Trail. This will be a new one for me so if anyone has any tips or recommendations for this trail let me know in the comments below!