Artist Autumn Cobeland believes in painting what she knows. She’s long been interested in the intersection of the natural world and the man-made built environment. She admires the poster-style painting of Henri Toulouse Lautrec, Japanese block printing, and the series of national parks posters created in the late 1930s as part of the Work Projects Administration.
But it wasn't until Cobeland began training for triathlons to work off post-pregnancy weight that she found her inspiration of the last five years: the extensive greenway network in her native city of Raleigh, N.C. Running and biking with her husband on the trails near their home, “we were awestruck,” she says. “We couldn’t imagine that our sweet little city had come up with this amazing network of trails.”
Her Greenway series now numbers more than 30 paintings, some in gentle pastels, others in bold purples and oranges. Some show runners, cyclists, and dog walkers using the trails, others simply showcase the familiar bridges and winding paths of the Neuse River, Crabtree Creek, and other Raleigh-area trails.
“I have fallen head over heels for the greenway!” Cobeland writes on her website. “This quiet, serene path that winds delicately and subtly through our neighborhoods and along Crabtree Creek is magical to me. I love the twists and turns, each one unique. I like hearing the gurgling water even if the smell is not always enchanting.”
Talking in her Artspace studio in downtown Raleigh, Cobeland laughs that her Greenway appreciation endures even if her triathlon training has withered. “I was never competitive. I’ve always loved swimming, and I like to ride my bike, but I’ve always been slow,” she says. “I figured, the longer it takes me, the longer I’m out here getting exercise.”
Cobeland’s painting of the bike and pedestrian bridge over Interstate 40, part of the East Coast Greenway connecting Durham to Cary, is the featured art of the Southeast Greenways & Trails Summit, October 1-3 in Durham. The artist will speak on a panel about public art and greenways. Attendees can purchase her paintings and meet the artist at the Summit’s expo.
She has donated more than $10,000 from the sales of her paintings to local greenways in the last five years. “I am proud to produce art to celebrate the greenway and encourage others to explore it,” Cobeland says. “This series of paintings could continue indefinitely, with so many beautiful areas, each season affecting the colors, mood and light, not to mention the system itself is ever improving and expanding.”
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