For those of us with aging memories of the sparsely populated agrarian landscape that once defined the area, today’s drive through Baldwin County from Daphne or Malbis to Gulf Shores jars the senses. Artist Ainsley McNeely’s lament that “fascinating things that used to be everyday experiences, now have to be sought out, ” references south Baldwin’s fishing communities. But those working the soil are also being displaced, albeit more slowly, by shifting employment opportunities and both commercial and residential development projects. Still, much of our rural heritage endures. We are fortunate that there are those among us with the patience to seek it out and the skill to share what they find with the rest of us.
ABOVE Inspired by her travel experiences, Colette Martin Waite began looking at the backroads of her own community through a different lens, “as if I were on vacation, ” she says. “I found this scene while wandering in Baldwin County and loved the morning light, ” Waite says of her “Elberta Barn” oil painting.
ABOVE LEFT “I’ve never found a more beautiful artists’ sanctuary than the one sitting on my South Alabama doorstep, ” says Benita McNider. “The most picture-perfect working farm I’ve ever seen is located in the Belforest community, at the meeting of county roads 181 and 64. For decades, its lush green pastures and sparkling lakes have been home to a host of creatures, like these fellows — no doubt, the friendliest cows in Baldwin County.”
ABOVE RIGHT “This free-ranging rooster rules his domain, ” artist Ron Thomson says of the subject of his “Rooster Strut” oil painting. “His air of ‘cockiness’ is what drew me to him as a subject.”
ABOVE Gulf Shores artist Elizabeth Blaylock says, “This old truck and tractor were on county road 32 around Elberta. The colors and mood caught my eye. This was a different kind of subject matter for me, and it was a nice change.”
ABOVE LEFT “This painting was based on a photo I took along the Intercoastal in Orange Beach. The orange glow at sunset that is so brief is captured in this painting, ” says Colette Martin Waite. “We don't notice how fast we are moving around the sun during the day. But is so awesome to view how fast the sun goes down on the horizon at sunset.” This painting won a Merit Award at Cathedral Square Gallery's Colors of the Coast Show.
ABOVE RIGHT Ainsley McNeely spends much of her leisure time outdoors, studying and photographing her subjects, such as those in her series, “People Who Earn Their Livings from the Gulf.” She says, “I feel very fortunate to have been born in a place with such natural bounty. Many a time I stood by my parents as they bought fresh seafood off the boats and watched as the shrimpers and fishermen unloaded their catch. So many of those scenes that were common when I was a child have become rare. I want to capture them so future generations can see these fascinating things.”
ABOVE “As a painter and city dweller from Mobile, exploring Baldwin County satisfies my need for change, ” Patrick adds. She enjoys “winding through fields as the land disappears on the horizon. Clouds billow and repeating fence posts create regular patterns into the distance. Shadows often lay across the clay roads, suggesting to the viewer to slow down and observe. Bulls and cows with their calves look up from grazing, and time seems to stand still.”
ABOVE Missy Patrick leads inspiration excursions with fellow members of local group Plein Air South. The creatives explore Baldwin County “to look for barns, fields and cows as subjects, ” member Joanne Brandt says. “As we sketched the old weathered barn and silo on the Kaiser farm (off U.S. Highway 98 near Elberta), Mrs. Kaiser came out to greet us. She remarked that every artist from miles around comes to paint that scene. She then pointed out an even older barn with new siding. The more I looked at it, the more I was drawn to its curved, sloped roof and the colorful shadows the sun was casting against the white siding.”
Text and photos by Adrian Hoff