Painting the Autumn foliage Jeff Busby Overlook on the Natchez Trace

Have you ever taken time to drive to Mathiston, on Highway 82, and just beyond Mathiston, you turn left heading south going towards, Jackson, on our beautiful and very scenic Natchez Trace?
Where are we really heading today? To the Jeff Busby Overlook Park where you’ll find camping, picnic areas, and walking trails. We’ll wind our way up to one of the highest points in Mississppi to the Jeff Busby Overlook where we can see for several miles back towards Starkville. Let’s pretend together on a gorgeous October early morning that you are going to tag along with an artist and head this way to discover a scene... a landscape... to capture forever as a painting to remember this moment...this MEMORY... an autumn day forever!
Wear a pair of old, faded blue jeans, a long sleeve shirt cause it is going to be cool when we leave home, throw on a straw hat, and I’ll pack a light lunch for us. It will be so much fun, and a great hide-a-way and get-away for us to slip off for a few hours to a colorful “heaven on this earth” not far from 100 year old back screen door...hearing it slam with its certain special slam...remembering Moma saying over and over again to both Johnny and me... “Y’all don’t slam that back door now...just close it gently!” We never did...we just slammed it every time! I think slamming it...sorta told Moma we were heading outside to play.
This is what we are going to do right now...we are heading out to play all day long today, and most of all to enjoy this one day that we both have been given to us as a gift from Heaven! We are going to take time to go down the road only a few miles from home to spend our day in and with nature all day long in one of the most beautiful, very colorful of the best months we have all year here in our great state of Mississippi...October!
After I have slammed that old screen door, I have suddenly stepped into my own artistic world right into my backyard world of all the faces, places, and everything else (portraits, landscapes, and still life) looking at me and whispering, “sketch me and paint me today!” This has been my special world since I was five years old right here in my own backyard of Starkville, Oktibbeha County, and Mississippi State Unversity...I love and know this world best!
There is just enough room for you on my passenger side of my car, and I’ll drop by to pick you up in a few minutes. You are going to be “my pretend guest” today. Come with me! The sky today is so blue...there is not a single cloud in the sky... and the sun is shining brightly as we ride along. Up the hills and making our turn now on the Natchez Trace. We have to slow down to the 55 miles per hour by Mississippi law to make us slowly drive along to see the sights of pure beauty along our famous Natchez Trace. Oh, just look at those trees filled with so much color! It is a gorgeous October day. We surely don’t want to miss seeing this year’s foliage, do we?
It was October 23, 2000, and I remember passing right by the little store at the bottom of the overlook and then turning to head up to the top, when I suddenly was inspired to just stop immediately where there stood a small red, orange, yellow tree over to the side off the main road. I had found my landscape to paint all day long. I was so excited! I unpacked my entire car with all my art supplies, popped up my colorful umbrella, red easel, red director’s chair, little high wooden table, to hold all my supplies I would need for the entire painting at my finger tips, and I was ready to begin my creation for this October 23 day.
I looked into the tree filled with leaves that looked like colorful popcorn, and then I looked down at my palette 90 different colors squirted out to be used for this painting, and decided that I shall paint simply two leaves with the tree trunk branches and the colors all around me. I chose the even number this time instead of three leaves. The two leaves looked so magnificent! Instead of cotton canvas this day, I made a choice of a piece of hard water color board 16 X 20 in size, and I was using my favorite medium, acrylic paint.
Let’s look at the painting together. The two red leaves would fill up this board with their charm and grace! Look at all the shades of red, orange, yellow, white, blues, light pinks, dark maroons and golds. The grey tree truck and the darker brown/black limbs add such a contrast to those bright reddish colors. The darker green (Hooker’s Green) to the (lime green) add such a nice contrast to this painting. This is such a simple painting, yet so elegant and so beautiful.
I had spent a couple of hours sketching when suddenly I heard a voices behind me of a man and then a woman. They introduced themselves as Roy and Juanita Boorman from Yorba Linda, Calif. They were campers traveling down the Natchez Trace just heading “somewhere” ...they did not really know where? Now I loved their spirt of adventure! Roy, said, “may I take your photo today painting?” “Yes, you may,” I said.
Look at this tiny photo with me that he took. He left and returned a few hours later with this memory of my day filmed forever with his camera. I have kept it since 2000 in a manila envelope taped on the back of this painting that I am sharing with you, “my viewer” today. You’ll see me busy painting. See the top leaf has already been painted, and I am working on the second and bottom leaf now. My colorful umbrella is protecting my body and providing me shade. Working on a white surface all day, the bright sunlight bounces off the white surface of the hardboard water color board, and would make it harder for me to see what I am working on without the shade above provided by this umbrella. The underneath designs of my umbrella almost looks like red leaves too.
The one top red leaf completed, and the red director’s tall canvas back chair and seat give us now that odd number of three reds. The red leaf-looking designs, in the umbrella, the red leaf on my canvas, and the red director’s canvas chair, a green and white stripped “Sister’s” bag thrown over the top part of the red director’s chair is my garbage bag for paper towels I use to wipe my brushes off when I quickly change from one color to another color. I would respect our environment and never think about littering the Natchez Trace.
The tall wooden fold up table always goes outside when I go out to paint which makes it easy to just reach over and use whatever I need to during each painting. It is tall enough to have everything at my finger tips almost without looking!
I am so happy to have saved this wonderful photograph that two total strangers made and gave to me. I have the Boorman’s photo as well as the original painting as two keepsakes of that day. Later I exchanged an e-mail or two from Roy and Juanita. I met two new friends just traveling along their way who stopped, snapped a photo, and little did they know they saved on camera a memory! We all need to stop and make memories of our lives each day that we breathe and live! The memory can be a story or poem we write, a dance we might dance, a song we might sing, a photo we might take, or a painting we might paint. Memories are then stored up for us to think about again and to keep close within our hearts forever!
I finished painting these two reddish leaves, grey tree truck, and all the autumn foliage, signed my name, date, October 23, 2000, hugged my two brand new friends, Roy and Juanita Boorman “good-bye,” packed up my outside art studio, headed back down the hill, and we are turning our car back towards Starkville.
I’ll drop you, “my viewer,” off at your home, and head home again. Park the car, head up those same brick steps, open up my screen porch, into the back screen door, hearing it SLAM... “anybody home?”...I’m home again...still heariing echos of Moma saying, “Carole, now...don’t slam that sceen door, now...just close it gently... so the flies won’t get into this ‘ole house!”
I’m home again, and I place my newest painting on an inside easel, and today, I wish that my three children were all young and little again, when now... I can also still hear my second child, a son, McReynolds coming home from school ... “Mom, what did you paint today?”... “Oh, I see it now, I love it, Mom!”
They are all grown up, “Little Frank,” and Elizabeth too. They became parents with children and families of their own. I see Frank’s little grey truck pulling in the open car port, now, “Hey, “Big Frank, how was your day?” “See my newest painting?” He says, “Love it!”
We all make a memory every day we live. Today, promise me that you...too...will make a lasting memory of your life today. Make your today count. Live it to its fullest with great joy in your heart and soul. Promise me you, “my viewer” will make memories of your life! Slam a screen door, and go outside and enjoy nature and living life!