Louise Bales – Artist
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the setting and the focal point of a visit to Sevier County. In Gatlinburg, the Glades Arts and Crafts community is a worthy reminder of the wonders waiting all around for people to stop and take notice. Many of the crafters are not only the keepers of this area’s history, they are a part of it, like Louise Bales.
This self taught native artist lives back “off the traveled path” in Gatlinburg, as her family has for generations. Seeing her delicately detailed watercolors, depicting the flora and fauna of this unique part of the country, there can be no doubt that the heart of those sturdy mountains beats in this woman whose people who have lived among them so long. Her studies of birds and flowers can be incredibly technical, like a textbook illustration, displaying a lifetime watching and learning what the world around her really looks like. But they can also be dream like, impressionistic, cardinals frisking in snow washed evergreens, part of Nature’s active winter plans. A joyous glimpse of winter life among the small creatures sheltered in the mountains.
Ms. Bales need only explore her own property for subjects, her house sits among a glorious tangle of wild and cultivated flowers, a large garden out back, and hedgerows full of untouched beauty anytime she cares to take her canvas or gourds outside. Yes, gourds! A decade ago Louise began painting her nature scenes on the round wooden homegrown canvases, with prices ranging from twelve dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars. Prices depend, of course, on how much time and effort goes into each unique scene. Louise grows and dries many of her own gourds each year, spending her time going through the crop and choosing those with the best possibilities. They serve as canvases, baskets, even birdhouses, each with it’s own one of a kind decorative scene, chosen to compliment the color and shape of the gourd.
Yet, as interesting and different as the gourd paintings are, the truest beauty of Louise Bales’ work comes through in her watercolors. Printed on high quality note cards or on their original canvases, the rich jeweled hues capture the spirit of the Smokies in her paintings. Wildflowers that hide in the cool dampness of the forests, back where few hikers ever see them, flourish under her brush. They light the shelves and walls at The Cliff Dwellers, a one of a kind art co-op located in the Glades Road Arts and Crafts Community in Gatlinburg. One of six owners, Ms. Bales can display her work to it’s best advantage in a light airy two story building, one with it’s own special history. Part of the building is a place for the artists themselves to work, creating beauty in whatever medium best expresses their vision.
The quality of Louise Bales’ art reflects her dedication to her craft. The scope of her subject matter, the rich and abundant wildlife of her mountain home, is not only the wise wish of an artist to share beauty with those outside her community. It is the expression of a woman whose roots are deeply planted in the rich soil her family has owned for generations, the generous sharing of a world she knows and loves by heart.