Introduction: My recent paintings address environmental questions that ultimately will determine mankind’s survival. These paintings are about “Big Issues”. As individuals we can take responsibility for our actions that positively effect the environment with the idea that every little bit will help. The combined actions of many individuals (and ultimately a society) will add up to a healthier and cleaner earth. These actions are what I call “Day to Day Issues”.
This blog will document how my wife, Rosa Patton, and I developed and live on a wooded parcel of land with the goal of minimizing our footprint on that land while also making paintings (me) and restoring carousels and band organ facades (her).
Something will have gone out of us as a people if we ever let the remaining wilderness be destroyed , if we permit the last virgin forests to be turned into comic books and plastic cigarette cases , if we drive the few remaining members of the wild species into zoos or to extinction, if we pollute the last clear air and dirty the last clean streams and push our paved roads through the last of the silence, so that never again will Americans be free in their own country from the noise, the exhausts, the stinks of human and automotive waste. And so that never again can we have the chance to see ourselves single, separate, vertical and individual in the world, part of the environment of trees and rocks and soil, brother to the other animals, part of the natural world and competent to belong in it. Wallace Stegner
Studio and Home. In 92 my wife and I bought a 3-1/2 acre wooded parcel on the Haw River in North Carolina. We engaged an architect, Frank Harmon, who advised us on the site and immediately began designing a studio and home for us. Our studio needs were very specific and our home needs were minimal. Mr. Harmon came up with a simple utilitarian building and because it was designed specifically for us, it did not fit the 3 bedroom-2 bath formula that banks and insurance companies prefer. Financing proved to be difficult, but luckily not impossible. Our rationale for this decision was simply that we were designing this building for our use and our pleasure and not for some formulaic stranger in a possible future real estate transaction.
Despite this idealistic idea our financial resources were limited, but I knew that if I built the building myself we could save substantially. I also loved the notion of following David Thoreau’s example, although our 2,400 square feet of heated space is far from the simple cabin by Walden Pond. Nonetheless I, like Thoreau, carved out a footprint within our hardwood forest just large enough for our foundation and a driveway, and proceeded to get all the needed permits from the county to begin construction in the fall of 1992. Some areas of construction required needed help, but I usually managed to assist various subcontractors in some capacity, enabling me to facilitate quality control as well as directly overseeing every step of construction. In other areas I, and usually one assistant, managed the remaining construction. By the winter of 1994/95 I obtained a certificate of occupancy and my wife and I moved in at the end of 1994, although finish work continued for another 6 months, making the project last a full 3 years.
Frank Harmon’s design used a grid based on the dimension of a sheet of plywood and a very limited palate of materials, yet he created simple but unique spaces that met all of our needs. Our building won a 1997 North Carolina A.I.A. design award as well as a 1998 “Record House” award from Architectural Record magazine. The “Record House” award is one of only 6 to 8 given annually to houses from all over the world.
My and my wife’s initial plan was to use our upstairs apartment in our building temporarily and later build a small 1,000 to 1,200 square foot house just north of the studio. The apartment at that point would have been used by guests. However we choose instead to purchase several adjoining tracts of land that became available and to continue living in the modest 560 square foot apartment. The land purchases (now totaling 18.8 acres) not only protected the land from future development, it also gave us much desired quiet and privacy, and continues to provide habitat for wildlife which we actively attract through feeders, plantings, and nest boxes.