2022 Artist-in-Residence Year in Review:
Every year the South Carolina State Parks Service hosts the Artist-In-Residence program. This program provides artists with the opportunity to gain inspiration from the natural and cultural resources of the South Carolina State Parks. In return for a week-long stay at a state park cabin, each artist produces an original piece of artwork that is presented to the park. This competitive program attracts outstanding artists from all over the state and beyond. Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of meeting the 22 artists that were selected as the 2022 Artists-in-Residence program. Here is how they enjoyed their residency.
KC Christmas - Barnwell State Park
KC Christmas enjoyed her first time at Barnwell State Park. With her husband and mother, she was able to explore a whole new area of South Carolina. She loved exploring the various trails and viewing the local wildlife, including one of the alligators. On arrival, KC immediately loved the various water areas and seeing how the water changed in the different times of day. This would inspire her final piece, which was an acrylic painting of some of the beautiful water plants and a water lily.
Jenny Dilworth - Givhans Ferry State Park
Jenny Dilworth spent a week in October at Givhans Ferry State Park. During her stay, she spent time exploring the park and all it has to offer. The fall colors were nice and she was able to get some nice photos of the cypress and other trees. Jenny, along with her husband, took a canoe out on the Edisto River to get some action shots of popular boating areas. She also spent time with a friend photographing insects, flowers and cabins.
Esther Gambrell - Chester State Park
Chester State Park is a hidden gem in the SC Park System. We went on the water every day during our visit. It's so peaceful, and the moonlight lake tour that the rangers held was very enjoyable. The rustic cabin was perfect for us, and the staff is amazing. We were able to rest and enjoy nature. Thank you so much for the opportunity to enjoy Chester.
Greg Hammond - Givhans Ferry State Park
Greg Hammond is a photographer who spent his residency at Givhans Ferry with his wife. They were excited to visit the park for the first time and a visit in May did not disappoint. The couple was anxious to experience the Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America. Greg said that "in addition to hiking through the park, we took our kayak to enjoy the beauty of the river's flora and fauna." They were fortunate to photograph both Mississippi and Swallow-Tail Kites, a pair of Pileated woodpeckers, snakes, butterflies, lizards, dragonflies, blooming Magnolia trees, sunsets and so much more. "I took so many beautiful photographs, it was tough to cull out my presentation," he said. "I finally decided on a three-paneled panoramic shot of the natural Limestone bluffs as viewed from the river."
Betsy Hughes - Dreher Island State Park
Betsy Hughes had the opportunity to complete her residency at Dreher Island State Park. Betsy stayed in Villa four, where she had an amazing view of the water, trees and brilliant sunsets. She spent her days walking the park, taking photos, sitting at the water and enjoying the villa's screened porch while gathering inspiration for a fabric collage. She says that "by end of day one the creative ideas were flowing and after watching the beautiful sunsets, I knew that’s what I wanted to recapture in my collage. I couldn’t wait to get home and begin picking out the most colorful, bright, and warm fabrics for my project." Check out Betsy's final piece below!
Steven Hyatt - Table Rock State Park
Steven Hyatt, an artist living in Charleston, SC, completed his residency in October at Table Rock. "The fall color was fantastic though the peaceful week in the park would’ve been worth the time in itself.," he said. During his stay, Steven hiked to the top of Table Rock twice. He mentions that one day was sunny and bright while the other was foggy and he was glad to have the opportunity to photograph the mountain under various lighting conditions. "It was almost as though I was photographing two different places, and I think this is key to what the AIR program offers an artist, the ability to more completely know a place in its various forms. A day trip can't do this," he said. Steven used his remaining days to visit other areas of the park at various times of day and under various lighting conditions.
Frankie Kellum - Poinsett State Park
During my Artist-in-Residence at Poinsett State Park, I was able to completely immerse myself in nature. It gave me the solitude to mediate and concentrate on my painting skills without distractions. My Residence allowed time to hike throughout the many trails and kayak on the serene lake. I discovered a Pre-Revolutionary Grist Mill, where I set up my easel and was inspired to paint the fast moving flow of water. Another highlight was watching wildlife in their undisturbed habitat, which included two very small fawns playing in the afternoon rain. I encourage everyone (creative or not) to get outside and experience the calmness of nature. Hopefully, my paintings will encourage people to take a break from everyday life and go on a hike!
Patrick Krohn - Poinsett State Park
Patrick Krohn completed his residency at Poinsett State Park in October. He did such an awesome job describing his stay, we decided to let him tell you how it went!
One of the joys of being picked as an artist in residence for the South Carolina parks system is the freedom to explore for a whole week. I have a full-time job and the ability to concentrate on my photography for so many days straight is a wonderful opportunity.
I was very happy to be selected to stay at Poinsett State Park. My family has camped there a few times, but it has been a few years. I remember the extensive amount of hiking trails throughout the park. I worked with the Park Manger, Emily Nicholson, to choose a week in the fall to try to get the changing colors. Picking mid-October proved right on. The leaves and temperatures kept changing all week and allowed me to photograph many different scenes.
From the first evening I arrived to the last morning there, I was out photographing this beautiful park. My daily routine was to get up early enough to be out before the sunrise. I would take a break for a few hours to edit the morning images and go for another short hike with my wife. I would be out for a few more hours in the evening to catch the light. One evening we rented a boat to explore the lake and photograph the trees from different angles. I would then spend the night editing more. All told, I think I created almost 4,000 images that week – or about 570 per day.
On the last morning, I sat down with Ranger Nicholson to look over the 60 photos I had picked as my favorites. I had her pick two since there were so many, we could not just pick one. She and I chose a photo from a very cold morning when the fog was rising off the lake. I was glad that was one of the photos, since it was my favorite from the whole week. The other is of a leaf that fell on the moss-covered railing of a bridge on the Laurel trail.
Overall, this was a great experience for me. And I am very grateful for being picked for the AIR program this year.
Sarah Mandell -Dreher Island State Park
Sarah Mandell spent her 2022 Artist-in-Residence just outside of Columbia, SC, at Dreher Island State Park. She spent the week hiking, exploring, observing and creating art. Sarah says she watched the sunset from her lake-side villa each day, which was also a peaceful place to create fiber art & paintings surrounded by nature. Dreher Island is a large park, she says, but most of it is lake. Although she didn't have a boat, she could see why so many people visit just for fishing. "The park is on a series of islands in Lake Murray and so there’s an enormous amount of shoreline, countless coves and plenty of peninsulas," she said. During her stay, Sarah created 11 needle felted landscapes, one mixed media fiber art landscape, two small paintings and two series of painted pendants that were all inspired by the natural beauty of Dreher Island. Sarah "loved the way the color of the lake depended on the sky, and one of my favorite color observations was the shock of orange at the shore where the water meets the red clay." She really enjoyed her residency this year and says that South Carolina is a beautiful state with so many parks to visit. Sarah said "I can easily find inspiration in all of them!" Check out her video below from her blog and a picture of Sarah with her final piece for the park.
Steven Nisbet - Santee State Park
Steven Nisbet spent a week in April at Santee State Park. While at the park with his wife, they did a boat tour of Lake Marion, where Steven says they were very impressed by the osprey population. One of the things he enjoyed most was riding his bike on the bike trail. "Everyday I rode my mountain bike on the bike trail. Some days twice. That was my favorite thing to do there," he said. The couple also did some geocaching while at the park as well as took the opportunity to drive to other nearby parks. Steven said that his residency gave him the chance to explore parts of the state he hadn't seen before. As his final submission, Steven provided two pieces; a Crested Flycatcher in watercolor and an osprey in charcoal, seen below.
Bethany Plonski - Hickory Knob State Resort Park
Bethany Plonski spent her residency at Hickory Knob State Park in May. She was very grateful to have uninterrupted time to focus on photography, and the park gave her some beautiful territory to explore. During her stay Bethany and her husband enjoyed hiking and birding during the days and watching the sun set over the reservoir in the evenings. One of the highlights of the week was finding an active osprey nest, which was a joy to visit and observe each day. Bethany presented the park with two large prints of sunrise and sunset scenes taken from her favorite spot at the edge of the reservoir.
Ellen Richardson Conner - Lake Hartwell State Park
Ellen Richardson Conner wrapped up her residency at Lake Hartwell State Park the first week of November, which turned out to be the perfect time to view the fall colors! Ellen said the park staff were super friendly and recommended some of their favorite spots for scenic views throughout the park. She spent the week hiking around the park and viewing wildlife with her husband, Greg. Ellen's camera got a workout, as she took nearly 1500 photos during her stay. Her favorite time of day was sunset and she says she had some amazing views from her camper cabin during the evenings. Overall, it was incredibly peaceful, therapeutic and restorative week, she says.
David Schuppert - Devils Fork State Park
David Schuppert had his residency at Devils Fork State Park in October. During his time at Devils Fork, David enjoyed the beauty of the park, waterfalls along Lake Jocassee, and relaxing each evening on the screened porch of his villa with a cup of coffee. David and Rowdy, the park manager, had decided on a 24"x36" acrylic painting on canvas but after exploring the park, decided a larger horizonal painting would better capture the vast open expanse of mountains and water. "To me that was the essence of Devil's Fork State Park," said David. Eventually, he settled on an evening view looking out over the water from one of the boat ramps. David took a few reference photos of his inspiration and had nearly completed the painting within a week of his stay. The painting will soon be framed and returned to the park that inspired it.
Beth Melton-Seabrook - Myrtle Beach State Park
Beth Melton-Seabrook enjoyed a late fall visit to Myrtle Beach State Park. During her stay, she spent time painting the beautiful coastal scenery. She says it was nice to have a few quite days to paint and explore. Beth spent a lot of time walking on the beach collecting shells, enjoying the salt air, hiking and relaxing. Beth's final piece is inspired by the cabin beach access trail.
Allen Sharpe - Table Rock State Park
My long time photography partner, Jenny Dilworth, and I had a great time visiting Table Rock State Park. We had weather problems the first 2 days, but on day 3 the sun came out and we had beautiful blue sky weather with a few nice clouds. Our photography was focused on leaf color that was near peak during our visit. We concentrated on the “Table Rock Formation” and areas around the lakes. The park rangers were a great help, providing us many suggestions as well as a few specific requests. The CCC built cabins are very comfortable, well equipped and located in quiet areas of the park.
We met a number of visitors in the park. There were many day hikers on the various trails as well as a number of campers. Several campers told us they make an annual visit to Table Rock during leaf time. We are planning to visit again next fall.
Casey Shoub - Edisto Beach State Park
Casey Shoub is better known as the Upstate Outdoor Adventurer but was given the opportunity to explore the low country at Edisto Beach State Park in May. Casey spent his stay hiking, biking, paddle boarding, kayaking, campfires, fishing, meditating and enjoying the beach. He enjoyed visiting the Environmental Learning Center, viewing wildlife and capturing the park with aerial and ground cameras. Casey said it was difficult to decided what to choose for his final piece but was inspired by the patterns of the marsh, colors of the sky and the quietness of the morning watching the sun come up not far from his cabin.
Judy Thomas and Scott Vrana - Oconee State Park
Scott and I had the pleasure of being co-artists-in-residence at Oconee State Park in the Blue Ridge in Mountain Rest, SC in October of 2022. I am a botanical artist and Scott is a nature and landscape photographer. The park staff were kind and accommodating. We found so many aspects of the park to be inspirational, but mostly we were blown away by the natural beauty of Oconee, it’s lovely lake, marvelous hiking trails, and the stunning fall foliage. It was the best fall color we had ever seen! So many vistas and landscapes for Scott to explore with his camera and so many beautiful fall plants for me to draw: purple-blue gentian, salmon-pink sourwood leaves, red tupelo with blue-black fruit, and the yellowing American persimmon tree with bright orange fruit. It was this last tree that has inspired my final mixed-media piece for the residency. Scott took over 600 photos- I think it will be difficult to choose one for his residency contribution! Of course, the landscape with the vibrant fall color will inspire his choice.
We were really impressed with this park. We balanced our time at the park creating art and hiking. Our favorite trail was the Oconee Trail, the gentle ups and downs were fun to hike and the splashes of fall color were intoxicating! We also liked the Chestnut Trail, despite the story of the loss of these beautiful trees. We walked the Waterwheel Trail and walked twice daily around the Lake Loop Trail, with its pretty wetlands boardwalk. I would love to return when the rare and beautiful Oconee Bells are in bloom. We enjoyed a few side trips, one to the Oconee Station Historic Site and Falls.
The lovingly refurbished cabin on the lake preserved the feeling of a Civilian Conservation Corps structure yet was carefully modernized with everything we needed. I think our favorite spot in the cabin was the screened porch that overlooked the lake with fall trees reflected in it. We actually enjoyed being disconnected from the internet and the busy world, reading and talking at night after dinner. We are grateful for the South Carolina State Parks Artist Residence Program for this opportunity and look forward to visiting Oconee or another SC park soon!
Margaret Vetter - Cheraw State Park
Margaret Vetter stayed at Cheraw State Park in May. During her time at Cheraw, she and her daughter kayaked the lake. Margaret said it was so beautiful and peaceful!
John Walters - Santee State Park
John Walters of Witzel Art recently completed his stay at Santee State Park in November. During his time at Santee, John enjoyed the lake and fishing. He was inspired by the beautiful fall colors of the cypress trees and their knobby knees for his oil on canvas painting.
Gerogia Walters- Little Pee Dee State Park
I completed my residency at Little Pee Dee State Park and stayed in their little rustic cabin. This cabin, while simple, has everything you will need to be comfortable. I truly enjoyed my simple stay. On the next to the last night of my visit, I was sitting around my campfire watching my sweet potatoes cook in the coals when something buzzed my head, almost knocking my hat off. I jerked my head up just in time to see the back end of a barred owl as he turned up onto a tree limb nearby.
Dinner was quickly forgotten.
I raced to the cabin to grab my big Canon lens and camera and quickly unlocked my truck to get the Feisol tripod. My heart was pounding with excitement. Finally, after all the state parks I’ve stayed at, I finally see an owl in one. Lurching myself off the deck to the ground I scan the location where I had seen my subject perch.
Yep. He’s still there.
For the next 2 hours I watched as squirrels chased him from tree to tree. They were relentless in their pursuit of a predator that was a danger to their home. Then the birds joined in the battle of protecting the home front as screams of war bounced off the green canopy shading my camping spot. I watched the drama with amazement, sometimes even forgetting to take pictures.
Right as the last of the day’s light speckled only the clouds on the western horizon, he gave a “Who cooks for you” call and flew off into the darkness. It was in the lingering silence that I thought I heard a squirrel exhale relief.
Meg Winnecour - Edisto State Park
We drove across the bridge in a hair-raising thunderstorm: rain bucketed down onto the vast expanse of lime-green marsh, and there was no division between dark water and dark sky. It felt surreal, like we could be swallowed up by the ocean at any minute. We were electrified!
Later, back at our cozy cabin at Edisto Beach State Park, all the lamps on and tea in our mugs, we settled down at the big pine table and painted the experience, each on our own panel.
I brought my 13-year-old daughter, Juniper, who is also an artist, with me, and together we had an artist residency. It was magical for both of us.
We spent our days riding our bikes through the forest and to the beach to swim, and each afternoon we came home to digest our morning’s interactions with the island and paint. We would work until dark, painting en plein air for part of each day.
The most magical afternoon, however, was when we rode the forest trails to Spanish Mount, which is a Native American shell mound alongside the Wadmalaw River. A 4000-year-old trash heap for the indigenous people who lived there, Spanish Mount is a sandy mound covered in a thick crust of shells of all types. The ground there is tiled in sun-bleached oyster shells. Juniper set up in the cool shade of her namesake tree on the point looking out over the marsh and river to draw, taking in the history and significance of the place. I worked to capture her in the shade of the tree from another spot on the bank. I drew the landscape on my primed panel in India Ink, and once back at our cabin began to lay in color.
We both look back so fondly on our time together on Edisto. We felt close to each other and close to nature in all its wild forms that week, and we carry wisps of our experiences with the wind and tides in us still.