Friday, May 27, 2016

Report from the Farm-to-Plate Reportage workshop from Oct. 2015

by Stacye Leanza, Fearless Instructor

Here, finally, is the report on our flavorful artistic and culinary experience last October, as we visited some of the farms and towns in and around Chatham County. We documented local farm customs in our sketchbooks, and sampled local sustainably grown foods, in the perfectly warm weather of the NC Piedmont. Participants learned some strategies to capture fast moving people; how to compose pictures quickly with blobs; some story-telling techniques; and how to use color & line to pull the story together. The true nature of Reportage, of course, is to report on the cultures and events that you visit. So you will learn a bit about the people & places of Chatham County, as well as our learning experiences, in the travelogue below.

We spent Thursday evening at Blue Heron Farm getting to know each other & had a taste of Giancarlo Toso's made-from-scratch cooking. Except for a few items brought over from Italy, ingredients came from local farms & a local grain mill. You cannot get more fresh than that!

Here are Giancarlo's pizza crusts, waiting for farm fresh toppings.

As people arrived, their first activity was to make a name tag for someone they didn't know.

 the end of the evening, they were fast friends.

On Friday morning, we visited Granite Springs Farm. Their mission is to “feed the people”, so they donate some of their harvest to local food pantries, shelters, & community free lunches. On this very warm Friday, they were preparing for their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture. Find out more here: )
Participants got their first taste of “blob” sketching here. The farmers were moving around rather quickly, so the superfast blob drawing method came in handy. Some picked it up easily; for others, it was the opposite of their usual linear approach, & took some getting used to. Here are some samples of participants' work. If you look closely, you can see some blobs underneath the line. Notice that the line does not follow the blobs exactly:


Artwork by (clockwise from top left) Tanny Ho, Allison Banfield, Noga Grosman, & Peggy Herring

We joined the GSF farmers for a “Slow Food” lunch, prepared by Giancarlo, who makes his own pasta from scratch. More local ingredients made for a fresh and indescribably delicious feast!

Sharing artwork before lunch. 
Photos (above & R) by Noga Grosman

Lunch is finally served!

With full bellies, we headed for Piedmont Biofarm. They are one of several eco-industries at “The Plant”, which includes other innovative endeavors like Piedmont Biofuels, one of the largest manufacturers of bio-diesel east of the Mississippi.
One of the fields at Piedmont Biofarm  is planted under the shade of PV (Solar) Panels. It's a part of a grand experiment to see if both food crops & solar energy can be harvested from the same land. It looked like they were doing pretty well!

Artwork by Anna Futrell (above) & Lois Benninghoff (top, at right)

Here, participants were treated to a spontaneous talk by one of the Biofarm owners, “Chef Geoff”
before we went off to try our hands at “zooming in” & sketching “multiples”. Chef Geoff cooks unique meals for the community, based on what's currently being harvested at the farm. In that way, people get to learn more about the natural cycles of food growth. In this climate, food is harvested year round.

Here are some examples of drawing “multiples”. It's a good technique for when you are drawing a person doing a repetitive activity. It takes a bit of discipline!

These 2 are by me.


This sketch (at left), by Lois Benninghoff,
has both multiples, and a zoom.

Here's another example of “zooming in”, (below; sketched on Sunday at Giancarlo's.) In order to get the detail in the hands, I drew them much bigger, nearby the original sketch.


It was warm enough outside on Friday night to have take-out dinner from Angelina's Kitchen, a Greek restaurant that buys produce, meat, & dairy exclusively from local farms, including Granite Springs & Piedmont BioFarm. Even the honey for the exquisite baklava was local!
It was very cool to see little purple sprouts scattered on top of the salad, knowing it was all grown nearby, & freshly picked! (...too bad we were too hungry to take pictures!)

Here, you can see people sharing their artwork at The Plant,
while waiting for Angelina to show up with dinner.

Saturday began with a visit to the Carrboro Farmer's Market, where participants worked on story-making, a very personal practice where they determine what is most important to them about the event they are sketching, in the context of their own journey. We discussed some techniques on how best to illustrate their story in their sketches.  

Here's one by Marilyn Knowles:

Words & pictures together, by Mary Anna Hovey:

This sketch (below), also by Mary Anna Hovey, features the Farmer Foodshare Donation table, where farmers can donate surplus produce. The food is distributed to local food kitchens.

This session inspired some very personal discussion when we met back to show our work. People were very open & appreciative of what their fellow sketchers had to offer, both picture-wise and story-wise. For me, this was the best part. I felt honored to witness such personal stories from people of very different backgrounds, that I had met only 2 days before! It was a rich cultural exchange inspired by the shared cultural experience of the farmers' market.

These 3 photos are by Noga Grosman

Saturday afternoon was about using color & size relationships to create depth in the sketches. We used scopes to help see the huge difference in apparent size between people who are close up, and far in the distance. One of the participants wanted to keep her scope as a souvenir, so she had everyone sign it. Pretty cute.


...Fortunately, they are easy enough to replace.

We drew at the amazing Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe in Chapel Hill. Vimala's mission is to feed everyone, including those who cannot afford to pay, with food from local farms. She started cooking donation-based community dinners at her home in Chapel Hill in 1994, & the restaurant grew out of it. During our visit, she was kind enough to divert the customers to an adjacent room, so that we could draw the kitchen without being disturbed.

Find out more about Vimala here:     

Artwork by Anna Futrell (above) & Marilyn Knowles (below)

Some participants also chose to draw in the “Slow Kitchen”, where peppers were being prepared, perhaps for hot sauce:

Here's artwork by Peggy Herring :

After smelling fragrant Indian spices wafting out of the kitchen all afternoon, we were very hungry by the time our drawing session was over. The Tandoori chicken was well worth the wait, though!


When I arrived on Sunday morning at Giancarlo's, at Blue Heron Farm, people were already gathered outside, drawing the old farmhouse. So dedicated!

 Here is Noga Grosman's sketch:

(If you look closely, you can see the difference between the original blob, & 
the final rendering of the farm house.)

Inside the kitchen, we found Giancarlo & his 2 helpers already making pasta for our Harvest feast.

...I got a very nice hug from one of them!

Here is Peggy Herring's view of the scene:
 Knowing we might not all fit in the kitchen at the same time...

Photo by Noga Grosman

...Giancarlo kindly set up some bowls of farm foods in the dining room for people to draw.

Here's Allison Banfield's sketch:

 ...and Lois Benninghoff's:

Alas, we were too busy eating to take photos of the feast... 

The art show was a bit of a free for all, which I enjoyed immensely:

People were so curious about each other's work! And so delightfully supportive!

...& so it all ended, way too soon.

Group photo, with Giancarlo & Annie of the kitchen staff. 


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