Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods

by Doreyl  

Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl At ColorFest Downtown Sylva Western North Carolina, USA, 2010
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods
Doreyl Ammons Cain, Creating Art in the Woods

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Please remember to put my art workshops on your schedule for 2015!To make a reservation or request information click on the comments link above. Below is the calender of my beginner & intermediate pastel painting workshops for this year- 2015 from 2-5 pm every 1st Saturday:

"Based on creativity, this nature oriented workshop will help you gain trust in your own talents and abilities. Using a unique layering technique, you can discover a whole new world of color and creativity!" says Doreyl Ammons Cain.

Open to beginners and artists that want to learn a new technique: To register for the April 4 workshop contact Doreyl Ammons Cain on-line at or call 828-231-6965 for more information. A $36 materials fee covers all art supplies needed for the workshop. Hope to see you here for the workshops, it is always great fun to create art together!

Am busy working on arts grants for my next 2  mural projects!

First is "Golden Threads" a mural celebrating the past, present and future of 'Shindig on the Green' mountain music event at Pack Square Park in Asheville, NC. The mural will be placed on the outside wall of Pack's Tavern, a historical landmark in Asheville's beautiful downtown area. Will be working with the Folk Heritage Committee to produce this 6' by 24' mural. What an exciting mural project!

“Little Place” is an art mural project that I am passionate about. "Little Place" artwork tells the stories of a whole community of people. This project brings together the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center (SVCAC) and Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA), two non-profit organizations whose mission is to preserve and honor Southern Appalachian Mountain heritage through the arts. Using art to honor the people and nature of the southern Appalachians has been my mission as an artist since returning home to the mountains of Western North Carolina twenty six years ago. Bringing this mural art to the public’s eye will bring many benefits to the small village at Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center and Graham County. This project will stretch my abilities as an artist and bring an artistic challenge, which is so necessary for growth. Will be updating as this progresses!

My greatest desire is always to benefit someone with my artwork, raise the spirits, turn a bad day into a good one and to raise awareness of the benefits of creating artwork for yourself. My murals are intended to put art before the eyes of everyone, so these benefits can reach more people! The mural below was done for the Cumberland Gap National Park.

Attend an art class in 2015 and feel the enjoyment of creativity! My classes are the first Saturday of every month starting in April.

Is creating your own art on your list of goals for 20015? One way to start is to attend an art workshop by a local artist!

Mural Artist Doreyl at Nature's Home Preserve, in the Blue Ridge Mountains


Been cleaning out my house to make room for 2015! Also setting my vision for the year and "getting more people involved in art" is my goal. Why? Because we are all creative and using our creativity will bring a happier more peaceful world! This is my purpose for creating public art, murals, art for books and on Facebook. Now, how can I reach more people with this message? Maybe you can help by sharing this with your friends...
Above is a panel from my mural 'Majesty of Mountain Heritage' which celebrates our Native, African and Scotch Irish American heritage.

Christmas in the Mountains churns up great memories of snow, sleds, snow cream and hot apple pie!

The Dillsboro Mural story The story of the founding of Dillsboro is most unusual. Very little has been written about it, so at first finding information about Dillsboro was difficult for mural artist, Doreyl Ammons Cain. Beginning in December 2012 with the help of George Frizzell, Head of Special Collections at the Hunter Library at Western Carolina University; Tyler B. Howe, Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribal Historic Preservation Specialist and Amy Ammons Garza, Co-Founder of Catch the Spirit of Appalachia, the story finally unraveled.


"William Allen Dills was captured during the Civil War and was sent to prison in Camp Douglas Missouri. He found some books on numbers at the camp and studied about surveying. Once released he returned to Jackson County, where he became the county surveyor, met and married Alice Enloe. Together they built a home and farm overlooking Scotts Creek and the Tuckasegee River. In 1882 the first train into the area stopped on the Dills farm. So many people came that William laid out a whole town around where it stopped to service the visitors. The Jarrett House was the first hotel built and he laid out the rest of the town with streets and lots and established a mail line with covered wagons that traveled twenty one miles over a dirt road and Cowee Mountain to Franklin.

Meanwhile in the neighboring Eastern Band of Cherokee reservation, 3rd Principle Chief Nimrod Jarrett Smith (Tsaladihi.) was making great changes for the Cherokee as well. A well-educated and well-spoken man, he was fluent in both Cherokee and English. He was elected Principal Chief in 1880 upon the death of his immediate predecessor, Lloyd Welch. He exercised unprecedented influence among the Eastern Cherokee working actively for official US.. government recognition for the band as a tribe under federal law and was successful. He was also chiefly responsible for the incorporation of the Eastern Band as a legal entity by the North Carolina legislature."

William Allen Dills, his wife Alice Enloe and Chief Nimrod Jarrett Smith are honored in this mural which has taken Doreyl Ammons Cain nine months to complete. During this time she wrote grants to help fund the project, put the project on Kickstarter twice and appealed to the community for donations. A plaque honoring those who contributed is being attached to the mural.
The unveiling of the Nineteenth Century Dillsboro mural "On Hallowed Ground" will take place on October 5, 2013 at 10 am to open ColorFest, Art & Taste of Appalachia in Dillsboro. Eastern Band of Cherokee Principle Chief Michel Hicks will be on hand to officially unveil the mural, storyteller Freeman Owl will share stories about Chief Nimrod Jarrett Smith and Doreyl Ammons Cain will share her mural story. Cain says " This mural, "On Hallowed Ground"  truly reflects the spirit of Appalachia, one of creativity and courage!



Everyday We Become More

Each generation has it’s own unique flavor. No matter where you’re from, what you do, there’s something special about the world during your lifetime. The Revolution, the Civil War, ‘Big Depression,’ the Flappers, War Babies, “Flower Children, Viet Nam, The Tsusami... the list goes on. We’re all learning. When looking back a throughout my past, I wonder at the changes, the person I’ve become and the changes yet to come.

My life began at the base of Horse Shoe Rock in the Little Canada section of Jackson County, NC. Delivered naturally by a relative at home, I grew up living in the backwoods and exploring nature. By other’s standards, my family were poor mountain folks, yet I didn’t know life any other way. My Dad taught me that I could accomplish anything, if I really wanted it. I believed him and went on to work my way through college and on into a Masters of Arts in a special major, Biological/medical Illustration at the California State University at Long Beach. The arts became my life and tremendous rewards came through my chosen advocation. With every step in my world of art, I became more.

Today I have moved full circle back into living close to nature and creating large art murals about our beautiful mountain heritage. During my research about this area of the Smoky Mountains my eyes have opened even wider to the deep legacy we share here. Our roots intertwine with those who have paved the way and with every passing day we become more.

Some of those who lived here in the 1880’s are a part of my new mural “On Hallowed Ground.” One such person is Eastern Band of Cherokee 3rd Principle Chief Nimrod Jarrett Smith (Tsaladihi.) A well-educated and well-spoken man, he was fluent in both Cherokee and English, although he had learned Cherokee as a second language. He was elected Principal Chief in 1880 upon the death of his immediate predecessor, Lloyd Welch. He exercised unprecedented power over and influence among the Eastern Cherokee working actively for official U.S. government recognition for the band as a tribe under federal law and was successful. He was also chiefly responsible for the incorporation of the Eastern Band as a legal entity by the North Carolina legislature. In 1887 he was host to ethnologist James Mooney during Mooney's first visit to the Eastern Band in western North Carolina. In that year Mooney observed a Green Corn Dance that became the last such ritual enacted by the tribe for over a century.

The following was published upon his death in the Franklin Press, Aug. 9,1893 - Vol.VII, No.43 : “Chief Smith was the most prominent member of the Eastern band of Cherokees. He was born in Cherokee County about 50 years ago. He was pretty well educated, quite intelligent, a man of honor, and made friends among the whites wherever he went. To form his acquaintance was to become his friend. He was a man of splendid physique, straight and majestic in build, while his hair hung in jet black curls about his shoulders. He was one-fourth withe. He leaves a wife, and two sons and three daughters. He was a prominent Mason, and was buried with Masonic honors at Yellow Hill on the 5th inst. He was a good man, and the Cherokees will mourn his death.”

The unveiling of my mural “On Hallowed Ground” will take place on October 5, 2013 at 10 am to open ColorFest, Art & Taste of Appalachia in Dillsboro. Eastern Band of Cherokee Principle Chief Michael Hicks will be on hand to officially unveil the mural. Very appropriate, for Chief Hicks has achieved much for the Eastern Band of Cherokee and with every step forward, will become more.

Painting and Planting

Life is tough and wonderful all at the same time. Even though planting my spring garden is grueling, sweaty work, I love watching the tiny plants push their heads up through the earth. Even more, enjoying fresh, delectable tomatoes, squash, green beans, sweet peas and sweet corn during the summer months just makes warm mountain days extra special. Of course it takes more work to pick the vegetables, wash them and prepare them from scratch. You could say, what you remember as wonderful takes a bit of effort to produce, especially those creations that mean a lot and make a difference. Life is a ‘roll up your sleeves and get to it’ proposition.

This is especially true of the process of creating art in the woods. My yurt studio is a scene out of a movie script of utter chaos. Huge art boards nearly touch the 11 foot ceiling. Several levels of ladders face the boards, while a tiny stool sits near the bottom. Nearly 50 brushes ranging from tiny bristles to large flat sables and horse hair, all lay scattered as I use them. Like picking up pieces from shattered glass, the painting develops on the boards into balance, harmony and clarity...quite an adventure.

Creativity is a labor of love that once experienced, becomes a passion. Everyone can experience painting and planting, with some work. That’s why my art workshops for 2013 are entitled " "Discovering Your Hidden Artist." They happen the first Saturday of the month— 2 PM- 5 PM, Nature’s Home Preserve, Tuckasegee, WNC

This pastel art class is inclusive, yet sets you on a journey towards greater learning. You’ll experience the adventure of painting with pastels the nature around you. Creating a quick composition through placement of dark and light colors and simple shapes you’ll learn the basics in the use of pastels, color, composition and finishing detail. During inclement weather, the workshops are conducted in my Yurt studio at Nature’s Home Preserve. Weather permitting there is possible hiking involved and each person will complete a Plein Air or still life painting in every class. Some of the techniques covered are: spontaneous composition, working with complementary colors, figure painting, botanical drawing, landscape and still life painting. The fee is $36 each class with all materials furnished. Open to beginning and experienced art students.

Every day, I paint!

Making progress on painting the Dillsboro mural.  Every day is a new experience with color, harmony and perspective. Above are a few details from the mural, "in progress of course!" You can check in on my new Facebook page: Muralist Doreyl, to comment and/or have a conversation!


Ablaze with Life!

It’s remarkable... the stories, the creative spirit and shared heritage here in the mountains. To capture a small part of it is quite an accomplishment. Both my sister Amy Ammons Garza, storyteller and I, visual artist are dedicated to telling the stories through art and words.

Keeping warm inside my yurt studio has been a challenge throughout the month of February and is getting somewhat better this March. Yet, through all this I’ve been painting a large mural to honor that creative Appalachian spirit; it’s called "On Hallowed Ground.." Based on my rough pastel sketch, the mural is beginning to take on a life of it’s own. The sketch has helped me get started, yet the finished mural will be decidedly different! The two main characters in this pictorial epic into the 1800’s are a Dills couple, William Allen Dills, founder of the town of Dillsboro and his wife, Alice Enloe Dills. They sit at the top of a mountain overlooking the patchwork town of Dillsboro. The town is ablaze with life! Another interesting person who sits overlooking the scene is Col-lee, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Chief of the 1830’s. He looks so colorful, so interesting. What a tale he could tell!

“On Hallowed Ground” is an art mural project that tells the story of Dillsboro, North Carolina. Using art to honor the people and nature of the southern Appalachians has been my mission as an artist since returning home to the mountains twenty two years ago. Bringing this art to the public’s eye is extremely important, so large sized murals placed in public venues have become the true artistic expression for me. This project is already stretching my abilities as an artist and bringing an artistic challenge, which I am diligently working through.

About Doreyl Ammons Cain

Running the Blue Ridge Mountains as a child, examining bugs, sliding down rough rocks tumbling with water and delighting in the colors of nature all transformed me into an artist. As early as 4 year old I drew birds with a stick in the sandy road in front of our cabin. The backwoods became my laboratory and the mountains my inspiration.

Fascinated with nature, I grew up to become a Biological-Medical Illustrator, working my way into a Master of Arts degree from California State University at Long Beach. Returning home in 1990 after 30 years in California, I've loved the past 25 years of creating spontaneous artwork along side my sister, Amy Ammons Garza-storyteller. We co-founded Catch the Spirit of Appalachia (CSA), a no n-profit group planting the seeds of heritage through the arts in the Southeastern United States and beyond. Online at

Today my husband Jerry and I live on a nature preserve which we pioneered throughout the past 15 years, creating a sustainable life-style for leaving a small footprint on the earth. We've found peace here in the solitude, protected by rows of mountains.  It's the perfect spot for creating art for children's books and for my own line of limited edition fine art prints & note cards. The first Saturday of every month artists gather on the preserve to take part in my painting workshop called "Finding the Hidden Artist" and they too find their place in nature here.

As a speaker I am co-host of CSA's "Stories of Mountain Folk" radio show and as an author I write a column called "Art in the Woods" & have written three creativity art books (the latest called "Learning to Fly") and co-authored "Catch the Spirit of Creativity." As an artist I am also a passionate muralist honoring the mountain folk and the beauties of nature.

Please click on the numbers below or catagories to the right to find out much more! Also click on: to view a few pieces of my art.

You can find my artprints gallery at

Listen to "Stories of Mountain Folk" at and purchase a book at


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A Few Less Wrinkles

by Doreyl  

A Few Less Wrinkles

Intuitive Gardening

Grandma Retter plowed her garden in early spring, intuitively planted her vegetables in mid-spring and started harvesting foods from her garden by early summer. I remember how delicious the foods were: potatoes fresh from the earth, green beans picked and cooked the same day, honey robbed from Grandpa Tom’s bee hives, milk still warm from Old Betsy and churned butter kept creamy fresh in the spring lying deep within the cool banks under gnarled roots.

An unstated respect for the earth and the food that came from it represented everyday life in Grandma’s time. This clear understanding of our reciprocal connection to the cycles of nature rarely exists in today’s modern world. With life-styles tied to technology and a fast pace, our nature connections may wither and finally decay. Many children forget, or never learn about where their food actually comes from- some would believe restaurants or local food markets are the source.

In today’s economy starting your own garden or joining a local community garden group may become a necessity. Some of the resources needed can be found at your local Cooperative Extension Office to connect with assistance in gardening, health and nutrition, community development, food preparation and preservation and more.

A community garden is any piece of land gardened by a group of people. Community gardens are as varied as the neighborhoods in which they are located. They can be found at schools, parks, housing projects, places of worship, vacant lots, private properties or anywhere there is open land and lots of sunlight. Each is developed to meet the needs of the people who come together to grow fruits, vegetables, flowers, herbs and other plants on common ground. A community garden can be any size or shape, ranging from just a few raised beds to two or three acres.

Community gardens bring people together. They provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the gardeners or the produce may be donated to the hungry. Some focus on education, or on nutrition and exercise, while others may sell what they grow for income. Some simply provide a place to share the love of being out-of-doors and gardening. A good book for starting a Community Garden is "Eat Smart Move More North Carolina: Growing Communities through Gardens" This is a planning and resource guide for anyone who is thinking about starting a community garden.

If your interested in starting your own home garden there are many ways to get started. First of all an idea about what you want the garden to be is a must. There are many types of gardening techniques, The Raised Bed, Succession Planting, Vertical Gardening and Interplanting, but that’s another story. I am partial to my Grandma Retter and Grandpa Tom’s intuitive planting.

The truth is we are relentlessly tied to the earth’s cycles and knowledge of this is essential to a healthy life-style. From the beginning my husband Jerry and I have taken on stewardship of our land at Nature’s Home Preserve here in Western North Carolina.. This is an extremely creative life-style. Working with Permaculture principles and recycling, we are doing our best as a couple. Yet all of this is not quite what Grandma Retter and Grandpa Tom would do. They worked long hours tilling the soil and growing all the food they needed. The Appalachian heritage of this region has a creative spirit that can be honored but never reproduced. We can only keep it alive with our stories, memories and building our own style of connections to the cycles of life on this earth.


Winter Mural Painting

Its been cold and wet here in the mountains for months now, yet I’m not blue. One of the reasons is my passion for painting murals. Every day of this winter’s cold daze, I’ve been painting a commissioned mural, in panels, for the new library in Sylva, North Carolina. The mural is called “Cakewalk” and it tells the story of the way the mountain people here in the Blue Ridge Mountains helped out their neighbors. When one of their neighbors needed help, the whole community gathered for a Cakewalk to collect money for the one in need. The women baked cakes you could only dream about, the men set up in a large barn or community place and numbered spots for people to walk around. Local musicians came to play their music and the walk for winning one of those cakes ‘to die for’ began.
Each panel of my “Cakewalk” mural has special characters, like ‘the fiery fiddler,’ the courting boy, the moon eyed guitar picker, the young mother lovingly holding her child, the boy child with his pockets full of frogs and many more folks of the mountains during the early 1900’s.
One of the ways I stay happy, no matter what’s happening in the world, is to take a trip to my creative side while painting. This is where my young, fun side still lives. After a few minutes of drawing or painting and I get up to stretch my legs and glance in the mirror; I’ve lost ten years of wrinkles! That’s an inexpensive spa treatment and what a simple way to feel young again.

If you’re a person that says “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” think again. You do. One of the ways you can discover your art abilities is by taking a beginner’s art class. In particular, my beginning art class, “Opening Doors to Creativity,” which is located here at Nature’s Home Preserve in Jackson County in Western North Carolina. The workshop takes place inside my Yurt Studio. A wood stove fire will keep you warm while you experiment with color, drawing and new ideas. It’s great fun and you’ll walk away with a finished piece of art and a few less wrinkles!

Click on Photoblog:   to see pictures of the first three mural art panels, not yet finished but in-progress and look to the right for more to read about!


Pictures of Life

by Doreyl  

Pictures of Life

Life is truly an adventure. While we’re living it, life may seem like a stream of everyday affairs, but when we look back, it is a grand experience. Like the feelings of excitement I had when my hand scribbled on a piece of paper and an image appeared. Since then art remains an adventure into the unknown for me. Each painting has a life of it’s own and sparkles with newness.

Telling stories with art leads to creating much more than a piece of “decorative art,” the art becomes “larger than life.” When art becomes large, it becomes a mural and  it tells a story about people, their environment, their lives, customs and heritage. Larger both in size, concept & content, the mural then is placed in a public place so everyone can experience the story.  The perfect example that draws millions of people to see it every year is the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains stories of the every day person reflect their rich heritage. My sister, Amy Ammons Garza, storyteller, always say “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Many a good mountain story tells of events “larger than life.” The artist painting a storytelling mural creates art that honors the every day person, event and/or nature. It educates the public about their heritage, community and the world, while enhancing the quality of life. In order to accomplish this a mural must be placed in a public arena for everyone to enjoy and learn from.

This public art can “show history in the making.” and customs of today. Our mountain heritage can be honored through murals. Western North Carolina Craft History, Decoration Day, Cakewalks, Mountain Music, Covered Dish, Planting by the Signs, all are stories of creativity born of necessity. Today these customs hold a place in our hearts and a call out for a challenge to credit these treasures.

In order to tell a story that grabs attention, a mural must have excellent composition, brilliant color and “Surrealism.” This gets back to “larger than life.” Surrealism speaks of life as an adventure, adding to the reality of the moment a special spark and character.

These storytelling pictures of life are created to last many decades both outside or inside. When I paint a mural it’s done with the use of the finest archival acrylic paint with an over-coating of clear protectant that guarantees rich color for hundreds of years. These mural art mediums require only a soap and water cleaning once a year to maintain the clarity and beauty of the artwork. Weather treated wood is the most suitable surface for these ‘state of the art’ acrylics.

A mural only happens after research into the history of the event, idea to be painted- century, styles, customs and each phase of the artwork starts with rough art sketches before starting the actual painting.  Approved roughs are then graphed for easier sizing to the larger size. Once sized the painting begins. The finished painting will take on a life of it’s own and varies from the idea roughs. When the painting is finished 3 coats of clear protectant is applied. The color becomes richer with each application.

The next stage in the life of a mural becomes placing it in the proper public place. Murals can fit outside in a natural environment, on heritage trails, city parks and inside or outside public buildings. A mural can be painted directly on walls, ceilings, building sides or painted on panels that are placed within structures or walls. They can be a part of a 3 dimensional sculpture or actually be the sculpture itself.

Mural art can record history and place value on the event, people or community it is placed in. These pictures of life can draw many people to view the glory of it’s grand adventure. Here in the mountains one such mural will be placed in the new Jackson County Library. This art tells the story of Cakewalks of the early 1900’s and honors this tradition that still continues throughout the mountains in the present day. I am pleased to be the person that creates this painting that has a life of it’s own and sparkles with newness.
Click on Photoblog: - pre-mural rough drawing “Cakewalk”  by Doreyl and look to the right for more thoughts & feelings!

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Moon Pies & Art

by Doreyl  

Moon Pies & Art

Images from my years past mostly show up as food or art. Since most of us remember only what we liked best, I guess it makes sense that I’d see Moon Pies and a carton of milk mixed with a Van Gough painting. When I reached fourteen my Dad decided to move us away from the southern Appalachian Mountains down into the Piedmont Belt of Greenville, South Carolina. Times were hard then and the only money I ever saw was my lunch money for school. The Scotch in me didn’t want to waste this hand full of change on a hot lunch, so I bought a Moon Pie and a carton of milk and saved my left over money. I sat on a curb outside the cafeteria and looked at beautiful paintings in my art history book as I relished my meager lunch. The memory of dark chocolate coating over marshmallow squeezed between two layers of crunchy yellow cake and an iced cold carton of fresh, creamy milk is as vivid now as it was then. A full course fine dinner would not have tasted better. Maybe it was the art that made the Moon Pie such a delicious memory.

In this spring of 2011 food and art are still creating unforgettable images for me. Living in the woods at Nature’s Home Preserve gives me a chance to grow my own fresh food in a garden and paint large art in my yurt studio. Tilling the earth, placing tiny seeds in the freshly turned soil and jumping for joy when the fragile vegetable leaves push their way up to reach the sun are all making new image memories, yet the most rewarding is the taste of the new vegetables. Spring also fills my artist’s eye with myriads of vibrant color. Wildflowers cover the ground where there once lay brown leaves and trees become burdened with blossoms. The air swarms with fragrant scents, birds and insects, while the ground moves with newly awakened worms, rodents, lizards, frogs and ground squirrels. Even our koi fish swim on top of the pond water, awakened from their winter hibernation... such rich images.

Overflowing with so many delicious pictures, I make my way to my yurt studio to paint them, so they’ll last forever. Using pastel sticks I quickly transfer the colors and feelings of my experiences to roughly finished paper. Pastel dust settles into the grain of the paper and my fingers move the colors around until an image comes forth and balance is achieved. This process could take minutes, hours or days. If the image grabs me, it might make it’s way to being painted with acrylics on a much larger scale, even a mural. This gives me as much pleasure as the bite of a Moon Pie did in my fourteen year.Throughout the year 2011, I’ll be painting my murals at festivals around performances around the Southeast. A full array of my fine art prints and notecards will be available for purchase as well.  Stop by and we can share  memories. Also you can visit Nature’s Home Preserve and attend one of my “Pastel Painting in the Woods” art workshops. It’s the first Saturday of each month from 2pm till 5pm. Call 828-293-2239 or go to for more information.

To see some of my art click on Photoblog:

Please look to the right to find more to read about!

Painting Workshops

by Doreyl  

Painting Workshops

A Scarlet Tanager flew across my pathway as I walked the old logging road at Nature’s Home. Stopping to watch this brillant red and black bird, I marveled at the nunbers of new birds finding shelter here. Each year different types of animals and birds decide to make Nature’s Home Preserve their home. This year our lower greywater pond has become a refuge for hundreds of strange new frogs. Each frog has a unique croak and range from the size of a pea that is mostly all mouth to a giant soft baseball sized lumpy toad. The pond, though small, holds an uncountable array of life forms and has become quite beautiful. A dark green lilypad mostly fills the pond, so the insects and frogs have a great landing pad. The pond is totally alive with color, shades and movement. This same kind of creative energy goes into creating a work of visual art, so these woods, Nature’s Home Preserve, has stimulated the artist in me and has become my studio.

Creating artwork brings you into a world beyond day to day chores, a saving grace when faced with troubles and worry. The sheer joy of creating something new strengthens and renews my spirits. With this in mind I’ve begun planning my annual Spring Pastel Painting Workshop here at Nature’s Home. Figuring to share my fourty years of experience with pastel painting along with the stimulating aliveness of the woods, I put aside the first Saturday of every month during the warm season for the workshop.

Discovery of something previously unknown or unseen gives a keen feeling of accomplishment and delight. When hiking our nature trails searching for an inspiring scene to paint, discovery is constant. During spring weather washes of clear color lightens the landscape with wildflowers like Fireweed, Bleeding Hearts, Pink Lady’s Slipper and the Kelly green of tender new leaves. Wild birds, so intent on feeding and building their nests, stay in position so you can sketch them. Even squirrels stop their nosey chatter and sit still on tree limbs to study the growing forest. Students of pastel painting become students of nature in these workshops.

To view nature undisturbed gives the most profound esthetic experience. No wonder people still attempt to capture this natural beauty on paper & canvas and have since recorded human history. So far in this series of workshops, art students surprise themselves at the creativity that bubbles up with each encounter with a wildflower or distant mountain scene.

At four years of age I took my first artistic stroke. I broke off a stick and drew birds in the sandy dirt road that wound it’s way up to our mountain cabin. For hours at a time I studied the wings of butterflies, crawdads in the creek, the fireflies’s flickering lights and every wildflower within my short grasp. These Smoky Mountains filled my young heart. Now, as a much more experienced biological artist and avid hiker, I still wander the mountains and study the splendor of the millions of living species around me.
This series of Wildflower Pastel Painting Workshops is a way to welcome others to this unexplainable special experience in the woods. You don’t have to be an artist to come,  just realize that everyone is creative and you are too!

To see some pictures of my art click here:

The workshops are the first Saturday of every month from 2:00 till 5:00 PM. To make a reservation call 828-293-2239 or go to and email me from my website.

Yurt Sustainability

by Doreyl  

Yurt Sustainability

As I look out the triangular window of my yurt studio, the light dims and the surrounding mountains begin turning a royal blue. The Blue Ridge Mountains covering the horizon change to splashes of color, adding inspiration to my evening of creating art.

Turning to look around,  my gaze follows a sea of art covering the soft walls of my yurt studio. My thoughts turn to when my husband Jerry and I built the yurt deck and settled into this cove in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Having a great desire to live simply, become sustainable and to give to, not take from, the earth- the yurt totally fit my need for a creative art studio. First of all, there is no reason to rip up the earth to setup a yurt. The Mongolians, over 2,000 years ago, in Central Asia knew this when they developed their portable homes called “gers.” Our Americanization of the word “ger” has changed the name to yurt. The Mongolians built their ger homes to withstand the high winds of the Turban Desert, the snow of the Tian Shan Mountains with the versatility of design for constant movement to more fertile grounds. The Mongolians believe that the spirit of the house is contained in the door threshold and it is a great offense to step directly on it. The interior walls are decorated with Persian rugs, wall hangings with colorful scenes and soft flat pillows for beds. All of the Mongolian’s wealth is displayed in their ger, making their homes strikingly beautiful.
Architectural Digest magazine calls the yurt an “architectural wonder,” for the yurt is remarkably strong (without a central post in a circular structure), yet lightweight and portable. The yurt is considered one of the strongest and most resource efficient structures ever designed.

Americans have brought to the simple round beauty of the yurt design even more refinement... an opening skylight, tall walls, large windows and high quality weather resistant cotton canvas walls. It stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer and the structure can collapse down into a size small enough to fit easily into the back of my pickup truck. Yurts (gers) were built 2,000 years ago for a simple life-style that embraces nature. Today many Mongolians still live the same way, as do my husband Jerry and I.

Back here at Nature’s Home Preserve in the Appalachian Mountains, my yurt studio fits into the hillside on stilts which hold up the pine deck. The yurt nestles into the lush forests with little disturbance to the natural environment. During the day light filters through the walls and windows creating an uplifting space to be in. The soft, white walls and ceiling gives the feeling of a giant, comfortable pillow. Painting art in here is a natural experience. Peace within this structure allows my art to come to the art board spontaneously.

These backwoods have changed the way my art has expanded. Once an illustrator of finely detailed biological and medical drawings, I now am open to the freedom of large paintings that tell a story of the people and culture of these mountains. Inspiration swirls around me, throughout the yurt space and lands right on the surface of my paintings. I have now become the folk artist, honoring my heritage, thanks to a Mongolian structure gone Appalachian!

To see pictures of some of my art click on Photoblog:

PacK Rat

by Doreyl  

The wind screamed and moaned , whipping around my Yurt studio without rest. Like a ship at sea, the walls of the yurt moved with the wind. My husband Jerry & I paid little attention to the turmoil outside, for we were deeply engrossed in our highly competitive ‘Upword Bound” Scrabble Game. This being our favorite game to take our mind off the weather when winter stops for a visit in these mountains, we kept focused on the words.
“I challenge that word!” says Jerry. “ There’s no such word as ‘sylvan.’
“Oh yes there is,” I replied with gusto. “ we’re living a ‘sylvan’ life-style right now!”
Jerry pulled out the dictionary and looked for the word.
“Oh, no!” says Jerry. “I lost my turn. Here it is. Sylvan means “living in the woods.”
We laughed together and continued our game.
For the past eleven years Jerry and I have homesteaded in the woods of Tuckasegee, Little Canada section of Jackson County in western North Carolina, USA, on our nature preserve called Nature’s Home. It hasn’t been easy. In the woods you give up the idea of the TV commercial’s idea of “Mr. Clean.” We learned to be comfortable with lots of dirt, friendly insects, rodents, wild birds and marvelous little hairy creatures who’s footsteps we hear on the roof at night. It’s what you call “living in a sylvan society.” The rules are different here in the woods than in the society of towns and cities. You learn about the different species of every kind of creature instead of the human kind.
Talk about a small footprint, here at Nature’s Home many different species of rodents make their home. Always on the defense, their dark eyes sparkle with life and their furry bodies constantly adapt for speed. One of the cutest species, the Golden Deermouse, is named for it’s golden colored fur. Shy and secretive, you rarely see this good looking mouse. To find it you need to look in the branches of shrubs, vines and small trees. Sporting a strong flexible tail, the Golden Deermouse curls its tail around twigs and branches to keep balanced when sitting high up.
Meanwhile, down below, the Pine Mouse makes its home just under the leaf layer on the forest floor. Adapting to a burrowing life-style for safety, its tiny ears, short stubby tail and short fur make the digging process easier. It’s fur lies flat against the body when rubbed in either direction which helps when backing up in tight quarters.
On up Nature’s Home road at Moonshine Gap you’ll find the Southern Lemming Mouse. This short-tailed mouse’s fur grows so long and shaggy, you can hardly see it’s ears. This curious type of mouse eats the seeds from the tops of tall grass. Having to trim the grass in the middle to reach the seeds, the mouse leaves behind neatly stacked clipped grass stems. Because snakes, foxes and hawks take them in large numbers, the Southern Lemming Mouse is extremely cautious and hard to find. How you know they’re around is to follow their criss-crossing run ways through the grass and find the neatly stacked grass stems.
Inhabiting rock crevices and rugged mountain slopes here at Nature’s Home, the Eastern Woodrat ranks as the most unusual mouse of all. Almost humanlike, the Eastern Woodrat’s habits have earned it the nickname “Pack Rat.” The Woodrat collects all sorts of unusual objects and debris and hordes them in its nest. Their nests can become quite large, sandwiched between rock crevices. They prefer shinny things, like nails, bits of foil, coins, paper clips and broken glass. Remarkably, where ever they take an object, they leave something in its place. Backpackers have found acorns and pinecones in their pockets replacing lost keys and coins. Is this a sense of fair play for exchange? No one knows. When you’re hiking at twilight you can get glimpses of them; they look like a normal mouse but have a longer hair-covered tail and more conspicuous ears.
Our cats, Smutt and Ashe, know even more about the rodents than we do. They keep them at bay from our yurt “ship in the wind.”
Living in a Sylvan Society does help your word skills during the winter months. When it’s snowing outside we’re nice and warm inside our yurt, with our Scrabble board close by.

Click on Photoblog:   to see "Pac Rat," one of my art prints. Then look to the right for more to read about!

Use What You Have

by Doreyl  

Years ago in the Western North Carolina mountain community of Tuckasegee there were ministers of good will. Some called them missionaries. The closest one to our family home was Mrs.Farmer. She gathered used clothing discarded by the wealthy folk, and would offer them to needy families. When Mother received a large bag of clothing she took the articles apart and resewed them to make my sister Amy and I beautiful dresses and my brother David shirts and pants. Fine fabrics of linen, cotton, silk and velvet were transformed into skirts, shirts, dresses and pants we could wear to school. Overjoyed with our new treasures, we’d dance around, modeling our fine fashions. This was one of my first experiences of recycling and I became hooked on it.

There’s hardly anything more rewarding to me than reusing and recycling. Even today I love to go shopping at consignment clothing shops like REACH and Goodwill. It’s like treasure hunting, every now and then I find a finely crafted jewel-like article of clothing that I could never find in the regular stores.

Here at Nature’s Home Preserve My husband Jerry and I take recycling to it’s extreme. One of the most exciting innovations is to come up with a new system for reusing water in a creative way. This growing season Jerry designed a way to soak our garden with reused water. As a result of his work, our garden has grown much larger and tastier vegetables than last year. By hooking a waterline from the run-off valve on our Koi Fish tank, the fish water gravity feeds down to our garden, instead of falling on the ground. This reused water is full of rich nutriments from the fish, so it becomes a healthy organic fertilizer for the garden, as it waters the garden. This is recycling at it’s best!

Our compost systems also recycle waste over time, into rich new earth for gardening both flowers and vegetables. Our greywater ponds recycle household water into plants around our fish ponds and other pond water overflow goes into the trees and wildflowers.

Nature is the master recycler. From Autumn’s color comes falling leaves and fruit to fuel the growth of trees and wildflowers in the spring. Summer creates fresh green leaves so the earth’s inhabitants can breath and the plants can produce seeds for regrowth. Winter preserves the fallen seeds with warm blankets of snow and frost so they can slumber and rest before their work begins in the spring. Like clockwork, new life bursts out each spring to begin again. All of life moves in circles; creating, growing, fading then renewing.

It must the Scotch-Irish in me that shouts out “create, don’t waste!” This year I’ve stepped closer to being a good gardener and I’m creating new pictures of what it’s like to recycle.

To see some of my art click on Photoblog:

Kayaking the Waterways

by Doreyl  

Since time eternal, nature has inspired a sense of awe. Every natural event has had some special meaning to native cultures and has been carefully honored. Life education for the natives has depended on knowledge of the elements. This has remained true throughout our human history until the advent of the mechanical age and since then this knowledge has diminished. Yet wisdom gleaned from nature is endless.
One of my favorite ways to explore and contemplate nature is kayaking on the many lakes and waterways near Nature’s Home Preserve, my home in these mountains. The quiet of a still mountain lake brings a sense of peace known only in these clear waters. A kayak paddle makes only a slight swish as it dips in and out, moving the kayak swiftly and smoothly through nature’s plenty. The unimaginable diversity of living creatures and growing plants on the earth astonishes me. When I step out on land and bend down close to the ground to study just a tiny spot, millions of bits of life lie before me. I turn to the sky and see brilliantly plumed birds, butterflies and inserts taking care of their business on a clear spring day. In my “Sibley’s Guide to Birds” book there are 537 pages of birds just in our North American continent. In Newcombs’ “Wildflower Guide” 463 pages of wildflower variations just barely covers the Northeastern part of North America. It would take thousands of pages to show most of North American wildflowers and a lot of those flowers grow here in the Appalachian Mountains.
This spring I’ll be making time for kayaking adventures exploring more of just my little part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Around the streams and lakes flowering trees cover the mountainsides with every shade of color and the air with a sweet fragrance to be envied by perfume makers. Purple Violets, pink & burgundy Trillium, snowy white Hobblebush, magenta Spring Beauty and bright green “fiddleheads” of ferns carpet the ground. No wonder these mountains are home to so many artists and writers; we all attempt to describe the beauty with words and paint.
Nature teaches patience. Everything worthwhile takes time to develop and grow to it’s full potential. Nature’s cycles of growth and regeneration give us stability and reliability in a world speeding ahead recklessly. Our work at Nature’s Home Preserve seems to move with the cycles of natural change and evolution. Like the Native American cave paintings which feature horses, birds, buffalo and other symbols of an ancient life-style which honored nature, we’ll take care to remember our natural heritage.
Living in the woods keeps me aware of the timeless wisdom that permeates the forests. I’ll patiently live here, explore it’s waterways and learn how to capture some of it’s revitalizing harmony.

See Photoblog:  for my art piece, "A Shared Moment" on the waterways.

Mood Glasses

by Doreyl  

Mood Glasses

It’s amazing that the moment our mood changes our world changes. Colors that were once warm and bright change to cool blues and grey with one sad or fearful thought. We literally paint a picture of our day before it begins. Our eyes take directions from inside and the world looks the way we feel. We wear eyeglasses tinted to the colors of our experiences.

As an artist I’m always looking to see with new eyes, a way that is ‘creative.’ Knowing seeing is an inside job, I practice painting from different points of view. Like wearing three types of glasses, I put on one pair to see the whole picture, another pair is tinted to the mood of the painting and the final pair are reading glasses for up-close detail. While painting I step back from the art board constantly to see ‘the whole picture.’ This phase lasts throughout the process of the painting. When it’s time for color mood adjustment I put on my tinted glasses and the very last part of the painting is left to my reading glasses.

The ‘whole picture’ in artistic terms consists of harmony, balance, color, tone and positive & negative shapes. Spontaneously covering the whole art board quickly with color lets my creative side shine. The best media for this process is acrylic paint because it dries fairly fast. Also, in my zest and enthusiasm the need for overpainting is a fun part of the creative experiment and acrylics are great for this. The newer acrylics have solutions to vary the drying time to your own preferences, so your creativity can take over. Your paintbrush becomes a magic wand. When you paint spontaneously you open doors to greater creativity and begin “seeing with new eyes.”

My art students hear these words over and over “You are the creator of a whole new world inside your painting. You are the painting and the painting is you. The external world is not involved, just your interpretation of it.” The students put on their tinted glasses and paint a mood that speaks volumes with color. Of course, some instruction about warm and cool colors, complementary colors and intensity of color comes into play, along with a handy color chart.

Putting on reading glasses too soon can bring out a creative block that can be hard to overcome. Detail is meant to be used as the final phase of a painting. One key to a great composition is where the detail is placed. The viewer of the artwork can feel it’s wonder when their eyes are directed by the painter’s use of detail.

The ability to paint a whole new world is a handy tool to have. This talent is inherited by every human and used by a those who have a desire to ‘see with new eyes.’ If you have this desire you are invited to attend my monthly painting workshop here at Nature’s Home Preserve in Jackson County, Western North Carolina.

To see some of my art click on Photoblog:

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