2023 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 19 artists that were selected as the 2023 Artists-in-Residence program.  Here is how they enjoyed their residency.

Emily Combs - Myrtle Beach State Park

"I visited Myrtle Beach State Park October 24-31, 2023 and was joined by my husband, mother, and mother-in-law. The weather was sunny and warm everyday. The cabin we stayed in was a perfect blend of modern convenience and comfort with history and knotty pine. One of our favorite things about the cabin was sitting around the fire pit in the evenings. We spent everyday at the beach where we saw bald eagles and osprey and also found shark teeth, a perfect sand dollar, and many shells. We felt like we had the beach to ourselves. We also went to the fishing pier in the mornings to watch the sunrise and explored the forest on a hiking trail. Everyone at the park was the embodiment of southern hospitality. The piece of art I created is made entirely of wood. I wanted it to reflect the beauty of the beach but also show how unique and serene it was to be totally surrounded by nature. Instead of a beach backed by high rise hotels and developments, the beach in Myrtle Beach state park is butted against preserved sand dunes and a huge maritime forest. It’s like a step back in time. I will recommend a visit to this park to anyone!" 


Ben Compton - Table Rock State Park

"Table Rock State Park holds a special place in the lives of so many people.  I am no different, having visited there since my boyhood.  The opportunity to spend a week, now as a senior citizen doing what I love to do, painting beautiful places, was beyond special. 
I call all my paintings REFLECTIONS of a JOURNEY, capturing the memories of people and places.  Realizing Table Rock possesses far more than a painter could possibly capture in a week, I simply did a plein air painting each day.  The journeys to create these paintings have also been shared on BenComptonArt Instagram and Facebook platforms.  After meeting with staff at Table Rock and asking them to select the view to be painted on a larger canvas I have now also completed a studio piece of CARRICK CREEK FALLS.  The four on site paintings are shown below along with the final painting of CARRICK CREEK FALLS."

Facebook - Instagram - Website

Michael Gambrell - Poinsett State Park

"My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our time at Poinsett State Park.  The cabin was equipped with everything that we needed.  Most of all the rangers were very helpful and we enjoyed getting to know each of them.  We appreciate all of the hard work that they do to keep the parks welcoming to all.  If you enjoy an isolated park off of the beaten path, we highly recommend Poinsett State Park.  If you enjoy history (especially SC history), the graves of Joel Poinsett and Thomas Sumter (our nighttime picture) are a short drive from the park."

Facebook - Website

Dave Gombka - Givhans Ferry State Park

"My experience at Givhans Ferry State Park was very fulfilling as an artist. I had a whole week to explore this historic site on the Edisto River. The fall weather and changing leaves made for a beautiful backdrop for creativity. The final shot ended up from my drone positioned over the Edisto River."

Facebook - Instagram - Website - YouTube

Jose Green - Barnwell State Park

"I was hosted by Barnwell State Park as the artist-in-residence at the beginning of the summer. This was a true honor and I enjoyed every minute of it; painting beautiful low country landscapes is my absolute favorite. 
            This state park was so beautiful! The trails, lake, campground, and Artesian well are some of the best highlights. I was truly inspired by the scenery and wildlife. Moreover, there was so much to do while I wasn’t painting , like fish, hike, paddle boat, and observe wildlife. The people there are so friendly and I loved getting to know some of the park rangers.
            The painting I did was a beautiful South Carolina cut out, Bright warm colors went so well with the wood grain. Sunsets look so amazing on pallet wood, and the gorgeous sunsets at Barnwell inspired me every night. I love putting so much time into the small details of my paintings. Details most of the time go unnoticed at first glance, but yet bring the whole piece together. The summer is always my favorite season. Creating paintings that involve wonderful and vivid colors, is one of the best things about the time of the year. It is also time for fishing in big lakes like the one at Barnwell. Or exploring new trails to see the amazing nature we are so blessed to have! Activities like these are what help me be creative and find new imagination.
            I just want to say a huge thank you to Barnwell State Park for hosting me as their artist-in-residence. I enjoy seeing new places that allow me free space to paint, and spend time with my family! If you ever feel a creative block take a step into nature and appreciate the beauty you see. Don’t ever take art for granted and remember our legend, Bob. 
'It's the imperfections that make something beautiful, that's what makes it different and unique',-Bob Ross."

Facebook - Instagram - Website

Cindy Hailes - Chester State Park

"My favorite thing about Chester State Park was the tranquility. I loved walking the trail around the lake late in the afternoon and early morning when the sun slants through the treetops. Every bend of the trail opened a new beautiful vista. It was difficult to choose just one, but the scene I chose to paint had a very balanced and classic appeal, and the curly stick in the water caught my eye.  I tried to capture the contrast of the bright water and the cool deep shade under the trees, with sparkles of light showing through the leaves. Although I grew up in SC, I have lived in the western USA for many years. Being in Chester was like coming home. I spoke to several other guests at the park who were so relaxed and friendly, and I was happy to see that southern hospitality is alive and well in South Carolina."

Facebook - Instagram - Online Store - Gallery

Greg Hammond - Hickory Knob State Resort Park

"In September of 2023, my wife and I spent a delightful week at Hickory Knob State Resort Park. Drawing on past camping experiences (note: reserve site #13 for your visits), our eagerness to return was immense. HNSP is more than an ordinary campground; it stands as a resort, offering a wealth of activities such as camping, boating, golf, skeet shooting, archery, axe throwing, and immersion in nature. We wholeheartedly embraced the park's beauty and diverse activities.
Our weeklong stay was housed in the historic and beautiful Guillebeau House, a French Huguenot log structure constructed in 1764 and relocated to the park circa 1983. Uncovering the house's history proved as interesting as the park's many other offerings. Bringing along our boat, we enjoyed fishing and boating the scenic Lake Strom Thurmond (referred to as Clarks Hill by native South Carolinians).
I captured countless photos, and chose a captivating sunset over the golf course for my presentation (thank you Ranger Rob for the location). The vivid colors and striking clouds contributed to a breathtaking large metal print.
The staff and rangers exhibited extraordinary grace and accommodation throughout our stay. Our time at HNSP was truly wonderful, prompting us to plan a return for a future camping expedition."

Jonathan Jackson – Lake Hartwell State Park

"Lake Hartwell is an amazing State Park with unparalleled nature and forests. The lake shore is stunning and the silence is such an amazing thing to experience. I was genuinely at peace hearing nothing but the sounds of nature and photographing this beautiful piece of land! Seeing it from the air also allows you to truly appreciate the vast expanse of preserved area for South Carolinians to explore. The cabins are comfortable and cozy, perfect for getting away and focusing on your artwork. I feel lucky to have been assigned this park!"

Facebook - Instagram - Twitter - Website

Jan Lane - Devils Fork State Park

Jan Lane enjoyed exploring Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork in June for her residency. With sunny skies and mild temperatures, she was able to get outside and paint many of the days during the week. When she wasn’t painting, she enjoyed kayaking and swimming in the beautiful clear lake, relaxing by the firepit or on the screen porch. It was so nice to be in nature for a whole week. Lots of photos were taken around the lake and during a pontoon lake tour to get reference material for other future paintings. While her husband was there, they braved the adventurous trip to Jumping Off Rock which overlooks the lake from a high elevation.  This ended up being the view that inspired the final piece that Jan presented to the park.  She thoroughly enjoyed the week and made some great memories.

Facebook - Website

David Mebane - Edisto Beach State Park

"Edisto Beach State Park is beautiful and you never know what bird or animal wildlife will be just around the next bend. I wanted to draw something to show the early morning tranquility of Scott Creek viewed from the dock. I had great opportunities to see heron, egrets, gulls and pelicans and with a little patience get a reference photo for my drawing. My wife and I loved the beautiful sunrises and cool weather, perfect for early bike rides on the park trails. It never gets old pedaling a bike across a bridge just a foot or so above the marsh. How many places let you do that! It was a pleasure and honor to create art there."

Instagram - Website

Steven Nisbet - Dreher Island State Park

Steven spent several beautiful autumn days at Dreher Island State Park in September, 2023. While at the park, Steven took the opportunity to explore the midlands of South Carolina in more detail during his stay with his wife. They were both impressed by the secluded feeling of the park while it has relatively close proximity to some of South Carolina’s most urban areas. 

While at the park, Steven took time to explore hiking trails and most memorable sunsets. He was inspired by the quietness of the mornings when the bird song was most noticeable. He chose a kingfisher as his subject to provide the park because it reminds him of the kookaburra from his native Australia.


Patrick O'Brien - Santee State Park

"My family and I had the opportunity to stay in one of the water front cabins at Santee State Park for a week in August. The cabin was perfect for us.  It was very comfortable and offered an amazing 270 degree view of Lake Marion.  We spent our week exploring the park by foot and bike, rented a boat to explore Lake Marion and enjoyed dining at local restaurants around town.  My daughter and I particularly enjoyed getting up early to photograph sunrise.  We got some beautiful sunrise shots in the process.  We also enjoyed eating ice cream and playing Head Bandz at the camp store each afternoon.  I thought the bike trails were especially fun.  Well maintained and a good fun ride for almost all skill levels.  My biggest take away other than the natural beauty was watching local South Carolinians using and enjoying the park to fish and exercise.  State Parks provide access to natural resources that otherwise might be unavailable. Thank you for allowing us to enjoy Santee State Park as much as we did.  We had fun and learning about a part of the state that we were unfamiliar with."

Instagram - Website

Douglas Piper - Cheraw State Park

"My wife and I love to travel, but it was not until this residency that we got to experience Cheraw State Park. I loved the history here that it was the first state park in South Carolina. We got the opportunity to come down at the end of October as the beautiful tree leaves were all changing. What caught my eye were the Cypress trees and the orange color that made them seem to be caught on fire. I knew after seeing them that I needed to capture that moment into a wood block print. While out there I did numerous sketches and began transferring those to blocks of wood. Because of the amount of detail and length each block takes I was only able to begin carving on the first key block with 3 more blocks to come. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to go there and take in the park, nature and create. I cannot wait to finish this piece and get back out there in the other seasons and see what beauty is highlighted."

Facebook - Instagram - Website

Kristin Rahn – Colleton State Park

Kristin spent a week exploring Colleton State Park and the surrounding area. 

"I was thrilled to have an entire week to focus on nothing but photography, eating and sleeping. I did a lot of research for other parks, nature preserves, and wildlife management areas online, by asking birder friends, and getting advice from a female photographer who had just spent a few months in the area. I ended up with a very long list of places to visit, far too many for a week. To make a plan, I put everything in a Google map then prioritized based on distance from the state park, level of recommendation from friends or my own experiences at the venue, the weekdays the location was accessible, and how much wildlife versus landscape opportunity there would be, as I prefer wildlife photography."

Unfortunately, the Edisto River was at Flood Stage when Kristin visited Colleton so she made the most of her residency photographing the local area. She traveled a good bit and experienced a lot of early mornings, so early that she had to unlock and relock the park gate she says. 

 "My favorite spots were the rookery at Magnolia Plantation and Audubon Swamp Garden, Beidler Audubon Swamp Forest, and The Center for Birds of Prey. I would have liked to been in the area when the azaleas were blooming but my schedule didn’t allow that."

Overall, having a solid yet flexible plan of what she wanted to shoot laid out on the map was extremely helpful. Kristin says, "I was thrilled with the images I got in terms of quality and species. The rustic cabin was great too - the bathhouse was steps away, and the cabin itself had AC, a great outdoor area, and a nice view of the river." 


Alex Salmon - Oconee State Park

"Spending a week as the Artist in Residence at Oconee State Park was a fantastic blend of capturing the park's natural beauty and immersing myself in the local atmosphere.  Collaborating closely with the park staff, I aimed to showcase Oconee's diverse landscapes through my photography and videography.  Throughout the week, I dove into the surroundings, using my skills to convey the park's tranquility and the various recreational opportunities it offers.  Interacting with the local community and engaging with visitors added a personal touch to the experience, making it meaningful for all involved.  In essence, my time at Oconee State Park was a powerful connection between art and the environment. Through visual storytelling, I strived to capture the spirit and significance of this natural gem, leaving behind a narrative that resonates with both park visitors and the broader community."

Facebook - Instagram - Twitter - Website

Oconee Station State Historic Site

David Schuppert- Givhans Ferry State Park

"My residency was November 3-10 at Givhans Ferry State Park. Prior to my visit, I spent time researching the park and listening to what people had to say about their visit. I was anticipating my visit with excitement to find a scene that would portray my feelings about the park. I enjoyed talking with the helpful staff and spending hours walking around the park at different times of the day. While it probably was expected that I would do a painting of the Edisto River, since it is a key characteristic of the park, I felt there was more to the park than just the river. Sitting out in front of the River House under the trees and watching the birds, I had a sense of the tranquil nature of this place. It was a serene place; a "natural retreat" to sit back and enjoy. The painting I did was a morning sunrise along the road into the park, along with this nice little meandering path, and I felt this scene gave the feeling of the park. I put a cardinal in the painting who is kind of sitting there, chest puffed out a bit watching the beauty unfold. That's how I felt. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of and participate in the SC Artist-In-Residence program."


Susan Stansell - Dreher Island State Park

"In Mid-October, I enjoyed a week of autumn solitude at Dreher Island State Park in Prosperity, SC. It was a quiet week of drawing, painting and photography that I will not soon forget. I hiked around and ate lunch at a different picnic table each day to enjoy every possible inch of this beautiful park. I even took a day trip to visit Sesquicentennial and Goodale state parks and was amazed at the different landscapes and wildlife of each park all located in the Midlands. 
It was difficult to decide which of the photos I took at the park would make the cut to my final piece.  I decided on a glass mosaic lake landscape, that is almost finished, and that I look forward to presenting it to the park in exchange for the most relaxing week I can remember. 
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to participate in this program and urge everyone to “get outside” and enjoy our state’s beautiful and unique parks!"


Lynne and Howard Trotter | Barnwell State Park

"We enjoyed spending three nights in the park, fishing and kayaking in the pond(s) with our grandchildren. Lynne captured a sunset near the historic CCC spillway and the Artisian Well on the property. Thanks to Ranger Ashley and the staff for making our stay so enjoyable.
Fun was had on the water. Grandchildren enjoyed kayaking in the Fox Trot (canoe). Hayes learned about casting his spinning reel and caught his first fish. Caroline wanted nothing to do with worms or crickets. We all enjoyed some down time, relaxing at the cabin."

Facebook - Instagram - Twitter - Website - Blog