Garden-inspired art goes up at Arts Center


The 11th annual Art in Bloom at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts culminates its two-month immersion in flowers with a gallery display of plein air paintings.

Twenty-one open air, or plein air, painters spent June 16 and 17 in the five gardens selected for the art center’s annual garden tour. Working in a wide variety of media, the artists completed their work on site and brought them to the arts center to be displayed through July 21. Viewing is free Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cheryl Keefer has participated Art in Bloom for the past six years. Represented by several regional galleries, she is an award-winning Black Mountain artist who is a member of the Ashville Urban Landscape Painters and WNC Plein Air Painters. Not only will she have several works from the garden tour in this show, but her painting “Joy in the Rain” was borrowed from Asheville Gallery of Art to inspire Ikebana designer Frieda Probst’s floral interpretation during the recent Art in Bloom weekend.

“Art in Bloom’s garden tour is an awesome opportunity for a plein air painter,” Keefer said. “I love visiting a gorgeous garden, setting up in such a peaceful environment, surrounded by so much beauty.”

Keefer works in oil, and it takes her a little over an hour to complete a painting. So she has to work quickly before the light shifts, she said.

In order to make a successful painting, Keefer like most artists has to consider many factors.

“I ask, what would be a good focal point for the composition,” she said. “Where will I place that point on my canvas? I look at the values, the light and dark elements much as a photographer might. And finally, I consider color.”

Known for her loose and moody, almost impressionistic style, the artist is fascinated by urban landscapes, wet streets at night and the play of reflections.

“Wet pavements are inspiring,” she said. “And bright sunshine is a great change of pace. It’s a challenge I welcome.”

Once all of her decisions are made, Keefer gets to work. Hundreds of people pass by her on the garden tour and linger over her shoulder as she works.

“I enjoy the people stopping,” she said. “I tend to paint better under observation. It makes me think better. I focus more. Having an audience spurs me on.”

On display with her work is that of 20 other plein air painters, including Ann Vasilik, Darcy Orr and Susan Sinyai along with members of the Swannanoa Valley Fine Art League and other organizations and galleries. Karen Paquette organized the plein air painters for this year’s Art in Bloom.

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts is at 225 W. State St. Call 669-0930 or visit for more.