Art Student Austin Risner Garrett

Austin Travels with Delegates of People to People Ambassador Program

            Some students have all the good fortune. Austin Risner Garrett appears to be one of those. At 15 years old, as a Sophomore at Triton High School, Austin has already been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, Vatican City, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, France, and Canada. Now he’s getting the chance to do it all over again—well, not all of it, but at least a few of these countries, e.g., Switzerland, Austria, and France.

How did he get to travel so extensively before? That was courtesy of the U.S. military where his father, Paul Garrett, worked with and retired from the military, in particular, the Airborne. His mother Mia Garrett now works for the military base at Fort Bragg. They have lived in Nebraska, Angier, and now live in Dunn.

How did Austin win the honor of representing Harnett County in this program? Austin is one of those students who is all-round, smart at everything. However, he was pre-selected and nominated anonymously by a teacher, along with four other nominees from other areas.

He then received a flyer in the mail that encouraged him to register to attend a seminar on eligibility. Austin went to the seminar and chose the delegation he wanted to attend with from North Carolina. Austin knows of one other delegation from Charlotte. Adults pick the students they believe qualified to go on. Austin, along with four other students from other areas, was then interviewed. That very night he found out that he and the other four were accepted to participate in the program. Austin is the only one picked from the Harnett area.

Austin leaves in June, flying from Chicago to Rome and Florence in Italy, after which he will spend several days in Switzerland and France, as well. The delegation will lodge in hotel rooms except for the three days he will spend with a host family in Austria.

Not that it was all that easy. To accomplish the goal of the opportunity offered him, he applied for and won a scholarship, Austin had to write and submit a 2000-word essay. He did that and won a $500 People to People Ambassador Program Scholarship. He won an additional $1000 scholarship from the Ambassador Program by competing in trivia answering on Twitter.

He is now selling to help his family by earning spending money.

Austin is now working on finishing a full-sheet watercolor collage of five different famous buildings in various countries with the Ambassador’s emblem in the middle. His watercolor work is excellent. “Austin is a natural at watercolor painting,” Joanna McKethan, his teacher who owns in Dunn, says. He takes to it “like a duck to water. Having said that, I’ve taught him a lot as well—how to make quality strokes, how to make thin lines, how to mix colors, and move seamlessly from one color to another, to name a few skills.”

This large painting will be only Austin’s third watercolor ever completed. After it is matted and framed, it will be approximately 29” x 36”. Austin chose to do the painting for a project fair for which each delegate presents his own display of culture from other countries.  He believes his will be the only original art work there. Some have Austrian dishes, a tri-fold of information, a power point presentation., but, says Austin, “I’m entering a painting.”

The painting has vivid colors and loose washes and includes the Eiffel Tower in France, gondolas and the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, and the Alps in Switzerland. His painting has taken three months to complete and is just one more example of his excellence. Austin is a frequent actor in plays put on by Harnett Regional Theater, as well.

What is the People to People Ambassador Program? The People to People Movement was launched in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower who firmly believed that peaceful relations between nations require mutual respect between individuals within the different countries. The People to People Ambassador Programs has served for 50 years as the “international global educational travel provider, organizing and promoting opportunities for bridging cultural and political borders through direct interaction, unparalleled access, and unique experiences.”

Today it travels to every continent on the globe and offers programs for students, educators, and professionals and boasts a legacy of White House support which includes the Bushes, Johnson, Kennedy, and Ford, and is as varied in its outreach as the individuals who offer their unique gifts.

Austin Garrett will decidedly make his own mark, and a large community that includes his parents, his school, teachers, and definitely his after school hour art teacher, Joanna McKethan, support his trip and believe he will make an excellent ambassador of peace.

Bon voyage, Austin!

Austin has returned from his trip and is finishing school at Triton in Dunn, NC.



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Watercolor Society of North Carolina Presents
at CCA, Kinston, in their Hampton Gallery
March 28 – June 23, 2012

In an invitational exhibit sponsored by the Watercolor Society of North Carolina for its signature members, Joanna McKethan, SW, WSNC, exhibited two watercolor paintings to hang with the organization in the Hampton Gallery of the CCA in Kinston, from March 28-June 23rd, 2012. The Kinston facility is one of the largest galleries in the state.

Celebrated as the “best of the best,” The Arts Center at 400 North Queen Street in Kinston held the WSNC’s Signature Members’ Exhibit. With its inaugural showing, the society hopes to encourage more watercolorists to join the organization to reach this level of achievement.

The WSNC has approximately 100 Signature Members, all of whom were invited to participate without restriction on the year of execution of their work. They were restricted to work done in water media only.

WSNC is a non-profit art organization whose purpose is to promote watercolor throughout the state and to elevate the standards of excellence in this medium.

A “signature member” has achieved a status which allows the awarded member to use the initials of the accrediting society after his or her name in all advertisements of their painting credentials. Signature membership status is awarded by painting organizations using differing standards to qualify members who excel in one way or another.

WSNC’s excellence guidelines are, as quoted in their brochure, “WSNC Signature Membership is merited by members who win two first through fifth place awards in two separate annual statewide WSNC exhibitions after February 1999.” Since 2002, the status may also be obtained by acceptance of an artist’s entry into three separate annual statewide WSNC exhibitions. Once an artist has begun qualification under either method, “membership in WSNC and payment of annual dues must be continuous to be eligible for and retain Signature Membership status.”

Only Signature Members are entitled to use the initials “WSNC” after their names.
Joanna McKethan, SW, WSNC, had two paintings hang in the Kinston show, the “WSNC Signature Members Exhibit.”
Her full sheet painting, “Paper Trail,” in yellows, pinks, and antique golds, is a trompe l’oeil painted like a collage of gathered letters from loved ones in the poignant past, assembled in random style. Hand-made papers bear holes in them, and other still-life memorabilia of age accompany them. The written words are only partially readable, some showing through the holes; some unhindered.

Painted versions of fallen leaves and seedpods are strewn through the old letters randomly, influenced as much by chiaroscuro as possible to render them lifelike, as though you could pick them up.
An artist friend’s tiny paper booklets were models used in painting, as well. She met this friend at the artist’s retreat at Mt. St. Francis in Indiana, for two weeks over five summers, completing works of art. Some of their working concepts overlapped, in symbols of leaf on leaf and pages from books. Mt. St. Francis no longer uses its house or artist’s center for invited artists with the arts council.

“Paper Trail” was shown in the Southern Watercolor Society’s show, the SW being a regional watercolor society in the Southeast, 18 states including Washington, D.C., of which Ms. McKethan is also a signature member.

The rivulets of color represent the passage of life, the seasons; the stamped letters are destinations reached. Ancestors who found each other who became bearers of my life, the overlapping pages indicate links in generational chains. The leaves are scarred by their journey, with ragged edges like the edges of handmade (deckled) paper. The paper with its holes and stains is folded in ways of happenstance, as when the reader, perhaps in a hurry, creased the paper to fit it into a book to save. Though it bears the marks of rough handling, it is intact, sturdy, and still pliable.

Totally transparent watercolor in a collage style is one of the recurring threads in Ms. McKethan’s work, represented in her second piece as well, “A Rose Is a Rose,” which has a photograph of her mother, and a single rose laid over that ’photograph’ which rests beside the old, stained, handwritten letters.

Created entirely with paint, the theme is melancholic and depicts the artist’s mother before she was married. Layering is a favored technique used by Ms. McKethan. A difficult art, she says, since you must leave portions of the paper free of color, all the way down to the very first washes. For vibrancy, she avoids flushing the paper with all three primary colors, since that produces a grey undertone. She leaves out blue for the light side, utilizing only gold-toned colors, while the dark side which must contain the blue (and less yellow, except for making green). This sharpens contrast when the two meet, and allows the light side to emerge much more brightly.

“People forget that grey forms immediately when you have all three colors,” she confides a teaching secret with us. “Used well, one avoids mixing mud, but used poorly, all the colors look alike or end up tired and muddy, producing an inferior watercolor.”

Particularities were disguised enough to make the pieces tell anyone’s story. Other similar works bear exact personal information. Collectors do not seem to mind possessing paintings with names outside their own families.

“In a sense my history becomes yours when you acquire the painting,” the artist says, “and the threads of history are passed on.”

”The only bad watercolors are those which are tired (overworked) and too thirsty (dry),” said my Polish watercolor teacher in Munich, Germany, who taught me classical techniques of watercolor at the outset.
And I agree with him whole-heartedly.

“Mud is just a bad brown. Mixing all three primary colors produces a neutral—either a warm or a cold neutral—brown or black, tan or grey. Show me your mud, and I can diagnose what color you need to add to pull it out of the mud-puddle and bounce it back in any color direction you want it to go. Stick with me and I’ll teach you my color system, which fool proofs you from mud.”

And then it will leave a lovely color trail on paper.

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How Writing a Gothic Filled in My Family Line

Stone of Her Destiny Coming Soon

Last year, 2012-13, was my first year as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the Dunn chapter which meets at Triangle Enterprise South. I came in on my grandmother’s DAR number, and one of my three Scottish lines of ancestry, due to the prompting of my husband’s cousin.

My husband’s cousin first asked me to consider DAR membership in Fayetteville.

That got the ball rolling for me, and now I look forward this fall to continuing to meet other ladies interested in their heritage. Loving your lineage is something I haven’t always appreciated, in spite of living in Averasboro, on the extension of a Civil War battleground, and in spite of descending from seven generations of Scots all the way back to the sister of the first one who entered our area arriving on the boat, The Thistle, in 1736 on the Cape Fear River. These Scots are buried just miles from me, trailing up the land I live on that was owned for seven generations, one past the original land grant.

My uncle, now deceased, was a skilled genealogist who along with another cousin researched our ancestry in Scotland beyond our borders.

My cousin has taken on the history and genealogy of the area and our family.

Grandmother used to recount who was kin to me from 2nd to 32nd cousins.

Lebanon, an antebellum plantation, figures in my current work in progress, the novel Stone of Her Destiny.

When I had the idea of writing a novel set both in Scotland and right here in the U.S.A, I began researching Scottish connections, and suddenly the excitement built, and the picture changed. Nor was it just one thing that accomplished this transformation of mind.

Historical research contributed. I discovered that the Scottish settlement that started near me was among the densest and most important settlements of Scots in America, so the sheer political power and influence of these people who were my own people was immense. One thing that impressed me was the sheer volume of Scottish settlers in the area. I had had an inkling of this earlier, since I knew innumerable “Mc’s,” but never realized the full extent of it. It stretched from Wilmington to Dunn to Fayetteville to Bladenboro and beyond.

Impressive as that was, the next revelation mattered even more to me personally: the land I lived on was the same Scottish settlement that began in 1736 when Colonel Alexander McAlester arrived in North Carolina. And similar tracts of Scottish settlers quilted together from Old Bluff Presbyterian Church cemetery near Wade all the way down to our own piece of property and beyond, property that changed hands only at death and then, to heirs.

The antebellum house my mother was first in line for as the oldest she did not inherit, was a wedding gift of Ferry John Smith and Elizabeth Smith to son Farquhard Campbell Smith and his wife Sally (Sarah Grady) in 1824.

My mother and my father had a go at saving Lebanon

Looking forward to the finished novel, the projected title is Stone of Her Destiny, Kenna, the heroine will have a fictionalized version of my own lineage which takes her to Tarbert and Campbelltown, where her forebears lived and emigrated from in Scotland. It is there that the fictional heroine, Kenna, meets and falls in love with her kilt-wearing Scottish hero, Lane, who she realizes is kin to her. She sets up in a money-losing castle and begins life amongst ghosts and other people’s connections.

Then she travels back to the U.S. and the author’s lineage for half years for relief, a relief that does not come. At Lebanon, her safe home base, she meets more ghosts from the plantation’s past depression years, and—you guessed it—international intrigue which involves her, Lane, Lebanon, Bluff Presbyterian Church, and the Cape Fear River.

All that historical research actually established lineage here and abroad to the degree  that the preposterous plot my fevered brain designed could actually have happened…well, given the other things that come into play in the novel.

I began wearing out the highway to Old Bluff Cemetery, taking photographs of all the tombstones of kin, immersing myself in the history and connections of the area. I knew all the ones who were “kin,” but at that point, I did not know the exact ones who were ‘begets.’ So I traveled from site to site, gleaning information and gathering together as many expert books as I could find.

I consulted a copy of the now out-of-print McAlester book in four parts, one of the four being my direct ancestor’s tracings. On the Fayetteville/Cumberland County site, I pulled up “Descendants of Farquhard Campbell,” and began lifting out only my own direct line and putting them on separate lines.

Suddenly my line linked all the way to the first ship to come over from Scotland. My family descended from the sister of Colonel Alexander McAlester, Isabel McAlester, who married Farquhard Campbell and was his first wife….the link clicked exactly for seven generations and was suddenly complete.

Once the link to my forebears’ past was acknowledged, the Scottish excitement began. Then my husband and I traveled to Scotland in October of 2011 and re-traced as much of our ancestors’ paths as we could document, traveling from Tarbert to Campbelltown, where they set sail.

My husband’s forebears descended from Colonel Alexander McAlester, making us distant cousins on the family tree—an interesting aside. His home place and plantation is just up the same highway from us.

Now those we traced were McAlesters. But let’s have a go at Campbells. And oh, I didn’t mention it, but my DAR connection is not based on the line I completed for the book at all. My grandmother belonged to the DAR’s based on the ‘patriot,’ William Cromartie. Add to that Smith, there may even be a fourth strain. I am pretty certain our Smith forebears are English, but I understand there are Smith Scots, as well, and the overseas connections of this line have not been authenticated as of this writing.

My list passed the unerring critical (the definition here is ‘discerning’) eye of my cousin who is the “laird’ at Lebanon Plantation who looked at my notes and confirmed every single one. Being a Smith, he had been following that line more exclusively and not the McAlester-Campbell connection.

How much does this figure in the book Stone of Her Destiny?

Actually, quite heavily, but I’m not giving any spoiler alert, except that, like all gothic novels, the Scottish castle is dark, the Plantation is dark, ghosts or things that go bump in the night abound, the hero loves the heroine madly, but there is always some question about him.

The heroine is chased from dungeon to parapet, from cemetery to attic, from country to country before she can finally breathe one sigh of relief, and dare we say or hope for it? Live happily ever after.

I am writing madly away at this book, and it is projected as a 95,000-word novel.

Research is one of the more fun aspects of writing a novel, and if even a small percentage of what I read and absorb weaves into my book, I will be happy. My novels are mainstream contemporary gothic romance novels—to string a lot of buzz words together that form the book’s appeal. I hope they string you along as well.

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The original painting of “Daniel in the Lions’ Den” executed by Sir Peter Paul Rubens in 1615 hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. It is slightly under 8’ by 11’ in size, but looks twice that.

However, a copy of Daniel hangs in Art on Broad Atelier at 217 East Broad in Dunn, a division of j’Originals Art Studio, owned by artist Joanna McKethan. It is there because she has painted a copy of the master’s work, and she is adding finishing touches to the lions’ hairs, whiskers, and the highlights in the eyes before delivering the painting to its final destination. Like the original, the painted tapestry will be oil on canvas.

Noting the artist’s training in Old Masters’ techniques in Munich Germany, a local entrepreneur and professional who currently prefers to remain anonymous has commissioned McKethan to do the work, which will not be an exact copy due to the difference in dimensions. The painting has been done on a hanging canvas sized approximately 5’ x 8’. McKethan received in-depth Old Masters’ painting training in Munich, Germany, some thirty years ago from German master painter Bergheim, where students in the studio were required to paint two copies of a master painting, of which the teacher kept the best, “an excellent training in the discipline required to copy a Master painting,” says the artist.

The painting will hang in the patron’s house, or will possibly be resold.

‘Daniel in the Lions’ Den’ depicts a man surrounded by nine angry lions. A product of the Baroque period, the painting uses dark and light color shades. The technique of chiaroscuro sets a dramatic tone appropriate to Daniel’s scary situation. Chiaroscuro, a technique for creating reality with light and shadow, is evidenced in the strong contrasts widely used during the Baroque period.

Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640, Flemish, was the best known European artist of his day. He is now widely recognized as one of the top artists in Western art history.

The subject, Daniel, an Old Testament prophet and chief counselor to the Persian king Darius, aroused the envy of the other royal ministers. Conspiring against the young Hebrew, they forced the king into condemning Daniel to a den of lions and what they hoped would be instant death.

In the painting he is sitting, looking upwards at the light now streaming into the cave. Although his face is serious, his body is in repose; he is not hiding his eyes or bowed over in distress. The nine lions (or is it 10?) affect different poses–some asleep, some roaring and some just sitting.

The light streaming in illustrates that Darius, anxious about his friend on the following dawn, had the stone removed that sealed the entrance to discover Daniel had been miraculously saved. The artist made an accurate Scriptural rendering of the moment of Daniel’s delivery as he, the artist envisioned it. The king cries out to him, “Daniel, was your God able to deliver you?” The beasts squint and yawn at the morning light streaming into their lair, and Daniel gives thanks to his God.

The composition is crowded, without much place for the eye to rest.  Most of the space is occupied by lions. Rubens used dark colors beside the white cloth upon which Daniel is sitting. Rubens’ colors are well-blended. Tense energy is depicted through Daniel’s facial expression. Daniel is the focal point of the painting, positioned under the light from the opening. This captures the spiritual and physical emphasis of the painting: that Daniel is God’s man, and Daniel will be delivered, a figure of Christ’s resurrection.

The monumental size places the ten lions close to the viewer, heightening the sense of immediacy and danger. Within the asymmetrical baroque design, Daniel is the focal point even though his position is off-center. Against the brown tones of animals and rocks, his pale flesh is accented by his red and white robes and by blue sky and green vines overhead.

According to the National Gallery, in 1618, Rubens traded Daniel along with eight other paintings and some cash for a collection of over a hundred ancient Roman busts and statues—the prize material of any art gallery in that era. During the transaction, Rubens described his own canvas as: “Daniel among many lions, taken from life. Original, entirely by my hand.” According to the National Gallery, The North African lions Rubens used as his models were kept in the royal menagerie at Brussels. The Gallery has a study of the lion in its collection facing the viewer, standing to Daniel’s right. This Moroccan species, now extinct in the wild, they say, may be seen at Washington’s National Zoo.

Like the original, the painted tapestry will be oil on canvas. Ms. McKethan spent months rearranging her studio to accommodate the 8’ X 8’ X 9’ easel upon which the tapestry hangs. The tapestry can be viewed through the wall of mirrors at the back of her studio, easily seen. Students have kept up with the progress which sharpens their eyes and memories, making them notice improvements each new lesson.

McKethan traveled to Washington, D.C. and sat with the painting for a full day’s sketching, photographing and absorbing the placement and movement of the lions, noting specifically the negative spaces that join four or five parts of objects together. “Although it is a work of antiquity, it is also an experimental work,” she adds, “and that, of course, increases the excitement of participating in the process.

Her teaching studio is based on principles of the Masters, bolstered by courses from master painters in the U.S. and abroad. “Since we don’t know exactly how the Masters achieved their results,” her German teacher would say, “we must learn visually how to achieve what they did, and the easiest way is to look through the eyes of the Impressionist painter.” Through painting samples designed to illustrate the point, he brought the students closer to their goal and proved his thesis.


Ms. McKethan has done work for this patron before.


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