The story of how an Old Boat Shed, and some Old Friends helped Inspire a Work of Art

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Constance Vlahoulis

Hope you enjoy this story of the inspiration and evolution of a very special painting-which served as a breakthrough for this artist. Pawleys Island Yacht Club. ~Constance Vlahoulis

SOLD! Now, that's a word that warms every artist's heart!
Thank you to the new owners of this painting-who encouraged me to follow through telling this background story.

Here is the painting-now back home in South Carolina no less!

It's usually good to start any story from the beginning. It shows the depth of how a single painting is conceived and brought to life.
About 5 years ago, a husband of good friend of mine walked into my Hendersonville, NC studio with some of his wife's art supplies.
Her name was Kathy Stein. Years earlier, about 2004, she offered local Art League artists to come and paint at her free-standing beautiful home studio.

She was one of my first artist friends in NC. A small group of us would gather once or twice a week at Kathy's. She was nurturing, warm, loving and so giving to all-including a few older widows who did more complaining than painting. I always marveled at her patience and giving spirit.

Fast forward to 5 years ago -when Kathys' hubby stopped by my Wednesday Open Studio. One of the items he brought in was a blank large 48x60 inch canvas. He asked me if I could use it-I said yes of course-it was Kathy's and I am sure she dreamed of what she would paint on that large canvas. Truthfully I was rather intimidated by the size as I had yet to tackle a painting so large.

The last day I saw Kathy was about three months earlier at a Tryon Art Group workshop given by another good friend Wendy Outland.

Only 59 years young, Kathy suddenly succumbed to a heart aneurysm shortly after that event. Our Art League was stunned and deeply saddened. Since we had lost yet another mutual pal-portrait artist Mary Short just a year earlier, (at the same age, 59, and a brain aneurysm) it was a cruel double blow.

Carolina Morning © Estate of Kathy Stein
Kathy was not only a painter, she excelled in many fine craft including this stained glass-in my collection.

Alexander - (c) Estate of Mary Short 
Mary found her muse with portraiture.

When Mary and I played at Kathy's studio-now that's well over ten years ago as I write this story- we three talked a lot about our artistic journey while we explored different mixed medias. Often the talk was about our fears of not being good enough to make what was in our heads-come alive with paint. I was really scared I couldn't do it --and was comparing myself to others. (Never a good thing.)

Another late artist also plays an important part of this story. He was a true muse during the lengthly time it took to finish Pawleys Island.
The entire community in Asheville, NC was reeling from the sad news that Vadmin Bora was in hospital having suffered a massive stroke. Russian born and raised, Vadim Bora was Asheville's most celebrated and admired artist for several decades.
On life support for a month, countless prayers were offered up on his behalf. It didn't seem possible that this vibrant personality could be leaving this earth at only 55 years old in January of 2011. He was so supportive of his many artist friends.

In fact, he had won a show our studio sponsored and that entry was still hanging in the studio.

Above: Vadim in front of his winning entry, "The Blue Hour" at the "Please Match my Sofa Art Show" held at The Conn-Artist Studios. 

Below: photo of his last bronze sculpture installed at the Biltmore House in Asheville, 

"Cedric and Cornelia" 

Late 2010 - a year after Kathy had passed away, two years from Mary's passing but before Vadim fell ill, I am in my Hendersonville studio sizing up that large canvas sitting there-and I pondered what was to me a very important decision.
HOW can I honor my good friends who passed on? How? 

I decided right then and there this: 
I can truly honor my friends by promising them and myself that....
I would Never again Be Afraid to Paint - afraid of making a mistake, or afraid of possible failure.

I would paint with joy and abandon and let the (paint) chips fall where they may!
It wasn't ever easy-but I allowed my talent to become my joy and my late friends to be my heavenly muses.

Had many hits and misses-but the hits started to outnumber the misses~!
I jumped in the deep end of my creative pool and reveled in the journey from then on...

The painting started as a sunset--but I couldn't pull it together.
So it sat for a few months. I wasn't happy with it at all--

I loved the low country marsh-but yet had to visit the place the painting was eventually named for-Pawley's Island, SC.

I had never even heard of this place--but with a time-share week of ours starting to expire-I searched to exchange the week for a place to stay near water in South Carolina as I could drive there in about five hours.
Found it!

My new HAPPY PLACE! Pawleys Island, South Carolina!

Above is Beach side of Pawleys Island and below the marsh side.

My old pal from Michigan jumped at the chance for week at the beach as my hubby couldn't take off the time.
So even after not seeing one another for 10 years (since we moved from MI to NC), we picked up our friendship right where we left off-but this time, instead of Michigan-we were enjoying the beach in South Carolina!

Here is beautiful Donna-a true beach girl! And another muse!

Found metaphors for life-on the sand.

We really loved the quiet time, chatting and walking up and down the pristine beach.
Along the beach road we came upon a boat shed.... and walked out back along the rickety old dock.
We thought we discovered this place!
Little did I know it was a famous shed, featured on many magazine covers and known as "Bill's Boat Shed."

Back in my Hendersonville studio -I took a fresh look at that canvas and knew what my problem was--
I needed to refocus and to paint what I was passionate about-and what really moved me at that point in time.
I would to use my serene experience and the old boat shed on Pawleys Island Beach as my muse. I would call upon my muses Kathy and Mary to share my joy to recreate the wonderful feeling of that week with Donna on the island.

So I began again, painting over the sunset, adding the boat shed in..... blocking it in with the woody colors of the shed.
I worked on it for several months -from the fall through January.
It became my joy to work on that painting.
The screen door made me remember a story my mother told me about her summers in Ohio-
"Dont slam the screen door!" her Aunt Rose would call out on a hot summer day in the 1940's.
I loved the artistic license I took to remove a tree that wasn't looking very healthy from the view-apparently, I was a real landscaper too!

Allowing the light and colors of the water peek underneath the shed's pillar foundation--brush strokes became loose and free.
The joy came through.

The last month of working on the painting, my 4th muse came to help me pull the painting together.
I remembered things Vadim told me. He told me he, "Constance I love your art! You are so free!"

And so I was! Free and brave. I often felt as if he was standing by, cheering my efforts on, and my joy was complete even through the distress of losing his physical presence.

Once done, but before it was framed by the legendary shop-Black Bird Frame and Art-I was invited to have a one woman show at Asheville's Hotel Indigo.
The painting was starting to get a lot of positive attention and was the star of the show.

Hotel Indigo manager Susan on the left at the show opening night.

Last year I joined 352 Depot Street Studio in Asheville's River Arts District.
Until that time, my large painting wasn't seen by many people as it resided in my Hendersonville studio after the Hotel Indigo show. 
Now, beautifully framed, people got to see it and many coveted owning the artwork.


Just after the huge November Studio Stroll in River Arts District and my first successful solo show (Bella Luna) there at The Junction restaurant next door, we adjusted the price of the painting as I was finally ready to let go!

Some artist pals and a visitor to the studio helped move the heavy painting to the adjacent wall to make room for my latest Bella Luna artworks.

Thanksgiving week, two lovely couples visited the studio--and on New Years Eve 2014-early evening, I received a message from one of them who had commented on the painting when visiting Asheville from Buffton, South Carolina. Seems this image had been on Dorothy's mind and she wanted to surprise her hubby with the gift of the painting!
I was thrilled because she saw the love that went into my work-

Not every painting has such a long back story to tell-but this particular one did and I thank all who read this blog post this far!
So the end of this story is a new beginning for the work-and that makes me SO happy!

Cheers Art Lovers!
~Constance Vlahoulis 

352 Depot St. #10 

Asheville, NC 28801 

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About the Author - Constance Vlahoulis

Constance Vlahoulis

Contact Constance Vlahoulis:
352 Depot St Fine Art Studio in River Arts Distric

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