All art begins with a blank canvas, but creatives who live at The Cliffs say their surroundings provide a bounty of inspiration for their work.
“You never run out of material,” says Priscilla Wallace, who has worked in watercolors for 40 years. “I prefer to do landscapes and still lifes, and there are endless topics here, from the flora and fauna, the lake, the sunrises and waterfalls. There’s really not a bad picture to be had.”
Wallace and her husband, Scott, moved to The Cliffs at Keowee Springs four years ago, finding inspiration as far as the eye can see from her home studio. “It’s not only The Cliffs, but, yes, the mountains north of us, with all the blue water, and the mountains are blue, and you’ve got all the foliage — that’s always a favorite scene,” Wallace says. “The cloud formations are fascinating. On any given day you can have a storm or clear sky or white clouds or something fleeting across the sky. It’s fun. It’s never the same.”
In a broad brush, visual artists here describe an embarrassment of riches.
“I literally used that exact phrase yesterday,” says Angela Osborne, The Cliffs Marketing Business System Administrator. “There’s just no other way to describe what The Cliffs offers, with the different topographies that are here, the beautiful colors all year-round.”
An artist herself, she has worked at The Cliffs for eight years, where she shows off the seven communities to visitors — each reflecting the myriad textures and hues that also color her abstract acrylic paintings.
“It’s mostly the color palette that really inspires me,” says Osborne, “and just getting to express a different side of myself.”
Andrea Garland works at The Cliffs, too — since March, when she became Member Services Director at The Cliffs at Mountain Park, where she’s well accustomed to the scenery. She was raised on her family’s 1,000-acre homestead just off South Carolina highways 8 and 11.
The vistas still take her breath away … and sometimes her attention. She recounts driving to The Cliffs at Glassy to meet with another member services director.
“I was so distracted by the beauty up there and — I’m not exaggerating — I found myself swerving a little bit,” she says, “so I had to stop and regroup because it was just so pretty this morning. It was a little bit foggy, and the leaves are starting to pop out, and that bright green against that mist was just incredible.”
Yes, that sounds like someone who takes art seriously. Garland did, after all, earn her MFA from Clemson in 2019, and when she’s not serving members at The Cliffs, she works in oil- based charcoal pencils, some watercolor, and other media.
Wallace recalls a time when, like Garland, she balanced her business career with finding time for painting. Now retired, Wallace says: “I have a lot more time on my hands, and so it’s nice to enjoy the beauty of the place, but also I have the hours to devote.”
Lori Simon is reframing her life, too. When she and her husband, David, moved from Florida to The Cliffs at Glassy in 2017, she retired as a professional artist.
These days, as her website says, “She is inspired by views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from her studio window,” and as she tells Cliffs Living, “Now I paint for pleasure and enjoy painting with my grandchildren, Leiv, 4 years old, and Dylan, 3 years old, when they visit.”
Since 2009, her abstract paintings have been shown in galleries and museums throughout the Sunshine State. At the 2011 Sarasota Film Festival, she was featured in a documentary, “The Observer and the Observed.” And her works appear in corporate offices in Florida, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania, and New York; collectors include Saks Fifth Avenue and PNC Bank, among others.
“My husband and I love the mountains, we love it here,” she says. “We play golf together and with our friends; hiking with our dog, Lexi; spending time with our friends; and having our family visit us — they love it here, too.”
Apparently, artists either don’t, or can’t, really retire. Last spring, the Eagle Mountain Winery exhibited four Lori Simon paintings.
As for Barb Butler, she still sells her work. “It’s not my livelihood, thank God,” the weaver says with a chuckle. For a while, she operated out of a studio she kept for six years in Asheville’s River Arts District, just a 20-minute drive from her home at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. Now she simply enjoys the sights that loom before her from her glassed-in porch.
“All I look out on are the mountains and trees,” she says, “so for me, I can spend all day in there, and it’s gone in two minutes, it feels like.”
Butler interweaves her work with the arts crowd here.
“I made a lot of connections that I needed to the art community, particularly weavers and spinners and dyers and producers of yarns,” she says, adding that she also continues taking on commissioned work.
Wallace does the same, offering several paintings each year for auction at Cliffs Resident Outreach charity events, which benefits Upstate children. And Ed Eudy, a fifth-generation carpenter, follows suit.
With chuckling humility, he says his master woodworking qualifies him more as a craftsman than an artist, but he still offers up his museum-quality, custom furniture for Walnut Cove Members Association fundraising programs.
“I will build a piece and donate it to a person, and they will pay the auction fee, and that kind of got my name out there a little bit to people,” he says, explaining how he stays so busy, creating six to eight projects each year.
As for his pieces’ prices, he says he turns just enough profit to purchase another tool or two for his 1,200-square-foot studio at his home in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, where he has lived since 2009.
Eudy is appreciative of living at a place that offers both a robust community of fellow artisans and a plush gallery of amenities.
“I play golf with a certain group of guys, I’m in a charity associated with a certain group of people. We have social functions here at the club — so I’ve got a built-in network and once they know who I am and what it is that I do, I get to do a bunch of stuff. It’s fun,” he says.
That’s also how fellow artist Osborne, The Cliffs Marketing Business System Administrator, frames the art of living well to folks who visit The Cliffs communities — non-artists and artists alike.
“I may not personally know all of the artists that live at The Cliffs, but I know we have a very vibrant community of artists, plus being surrounded by towns that support the arts like Asheville and Greenville,” she says. “And if that is your tribe, you will find your tribe at The Cliffs.”
Picture Perfect: Thanks to The Cliffs at Keowee Falls, Laurie Metzger returned to her art: photography. “I’m having these beautiful sunrises happen every day right in front of me — most inspiring: the neighborhood, the hiking, the area we live in,” says Laurie, who owned a studio until 2001. Today, she belongs to The Art Gallery on Pendleton Square, which a neighbor, Terry Jacklin, a potter, encouraged her to join. “I don’t think I would have picked my photography back up if I were still living where we were before,” she says of Charlotte, NC, where she and her husband, David, lived until moving to The Cliffs in 2014. Of her artist’s life nowadays, she says: “I would credit The Cliffs 100% because I live on a gorgeous piece of land with a gorgeous view, and I’m around all these other people who are into the arts. We’re so lucky to be here.”
This story was featured in Cliffs Living Magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.