There’s a lovely old grist mill in West Virginia situated along Glade Creek. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, perhaps not in person but in books and magazines. The Glade Creek Grist Mill is one of the most photographed sites in all of the state. The Southern West Virginia website features it, along with a bright little note that…
During the fall season The Grist Mill’s placement among Glade Creek’s boulders, has a backdrop that would make Bob Ross have no reason to add another “happy little tree”.
A few years ago — October 2017 — one of our grand-daughters gave me a photograph of the Glade Creek Grist Mill. At the time, I’d been oil painting for about a year, and I’d just completed several small “bridge paintings”. I was pleased with the paintings. Considering my limited experience, I thought they turned out quite good. Our grand-daughter was hoping that I might paint the old mill scene for her.
Oh, how I wished I could! I did give it a try, but it was, simply put, a colossal failure. I couldn’t get the perspective of the building right. The waterwheel and all the detail was far beyond my painting skill, even beyond my drawing ability. After making a few attempts at the scene, I admitted defeat, gave up, and set the picture aside.
Now, fast forward to 2020 and grab a copy of William F. Powell’s Landscapes book on graphite drawing. I’ve been re-reading the book, copying the illustrations, and feeling rather pleased with myself. I can see definite improvement in the trees, bushes, leaves, rocks, and skies I can now draw. Compared to where I was when I first read the book, I’m definitely doing much better.
Except that now I’ve come to the part about structures, the part where Powell reminds the reader that “all elements should be drawn in proper perspective,” and when I looked at his illustrations, my heart sank a little bit. An old mill. So very much like the Glade Creek Grist Mill. I couldn’t draw it before, but could I do it now?
Rather than give up, I decided to give it a try, and while it’s not perfect, it does look like an old mill.
My lopsided waterwheel probably wouldn’t turn too well, and my sketch is a bit skimpy on details, but that’s fine. This wasn’t meant to be a finished, detailed drawing. It’s intended as a quick sketch, and I was happy with the result.
Now, of course, I’m wondering… could I do it? Could I get out that photo of the Glade Creek Grist Mill and give it another go? It’s a tempting thought, and maybe one morning I’ll pick up a canvas and sketch the scene out again. It’s a good feeling to know that my drawing practices — and even my perspective practices — have helped me improve.
Meanwhile, I found it interesting to learn a little more about the Glade Creek Grist Mill. Surprisingly, it’s a real, working mill. When you visit, you can actually purchase cornmeal and buckwheat flour that’s been ground there. In the fall, you can buy cornbread, too.
The mill looks quite old, but it’s actually not. The parts, however, are. In 1976, the mill was completed using parts from a number of old mills which were no longer in operation. The basic structure came from the Stoney Creek Grist Mill which dated back to the 1890’s. That giant wheel — which I struggled to draw — came from the Spring Run Grist Mill, and additional parts came from the Roaring Creek Grist Mill and other defunct mills in the area.
Now you know! And now I’m going to browse a bit, look at various images of Glade Creek, and add them to my own artistic grist mill. I’ll soak up all the inspiration I can find, toss it all in, and who knows what I might be able to grind up and spit out!
I might find that painting such a scene is still far beyond my capabilities, but why not give it a try? Either way, I’m sure to learn something from the experience.