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  • Writer's pictureSofia Maria Paz

Frescos in Arrowmont

Sofia's second fresco.

If you asked me a couple months ago if there was any possibility that someday I would accomplish my childhood dream of learning fresco painting, I would have said "Not a chance. Only a handful of talented artists know how to do that these days." Well, I am now extremely pleased to report that I was wrong!

Thanks to my boss at Pyracantha Press, Dan Mayer, I was given the astonishingly rare and unique opportunity to take a fresco painting workshop at the Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. It was Dan who organized this joint scholarship with Arrowmont and the College Book Arts Association (CBAA), and I am so honored to be its first recipient!

The fresco painter Michael Nichols is the BEST painting professor I ever had. At first it felt weird picking up a brush instead of a printmaker's brayer, but Michael was so encouraging and he truly wanted to share all his knowledge with the whole class. Despite the fact this process was completely foreign to me, I felt as if I had grown up in that studio, alongside the curing lime putty, the buckets of river sand, and portable ceramic tiles.

I still have to pinch myself at the fact that I actually now know how to paint onto wet plaster like my idol Michelangelo! It was in Switzerland when I began to admire his masterpieces, and instantly decided I wanted to be an artist... I was six years old.

The trash marks the end to an amazing week.

Another factor that I never expected was that I would discover the best of people in the foothills of the Rockies! The student workers treated me to an early birthday ping pong tournament celebration, and a couple of lovely ladies gave me a sketchpad with the cutest sharpener and card. Amanda and company, if you're reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart! These gifts will be treasured always. It made all the difference to wake up each morning to enjoy breakfast with these brilliantly kind-hearted souls, and stay painting with them in the studio till 1am the next morning.

I guess you can tell that I stayed on campus for the most part. This was mainly because I didn't want to fall into Gatlinburg's tourist traps my professors warned me about. Apparently it is located dangerously close to Dollywood and Paula Dean's cooking. I must say, my professors were right. There is no such thing as good hillbilly paraphernalia! ...Ahem, returning to the story at hand.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think any of this would nor could ever happen to me. Arrowmont is a treasure chest of creativity, knowledge, and warmth. Aside from the humidity that made my hair come to life, Arrowmont was such a beautiful place to be amid the the dense forest and mountain range. Ultimately I still can't believe I am now a buon fresco painter, and it was all thanks to CBAA, Arrowmont, and most importantly Dan Mayer.


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