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A Pleasant Surprise

One recent Sunday morning I had the occasion to visit Waterford, Virginia to paint en plein air. I live in the next town over so it was an easy drive.

Waterford is a tiny Quaker village nestled into western Loudoun County, VA that feels like it never left the 'fin de siecle' and I am referring to the 18th. Founded in 1733, today's Waterford is all about preservation. From an artist's eye, it is the perfect place to paint.

Sunshine, warmth and birdsong greeted me as I set up my gear on the site of the Old School. I set my sights on a pathway next to a small brick dwelling and got to work. After 90 minutes of focus and creative bliss, I packed up and stowed my equipment in the car.

Then I went inside the Old School to view a fascinating pop-up exhibit: A selection of oil paintings by Garnet W. Jex. Jex was a landscape painter, portraitist, illustrator, and public servant from Ohio who was raised and lived in the DMV throughout his career until his death in 1979. His CV includes having fought in WW1, illustrating for the Army Medical Corps, attending the Corcoran School of Art, and editing 'Nature' Magazine while working toward a masters degree at GWU. His achievements make me feel like a real slacker. Garnet Jex was a founding member of the Arts Club of Washington, DC and member of the Landscape Club of Washington in addition to other affiliations.

What resonated most with me was Jex's color palette. As a Loudouner it was so familiar. The beautiful blues, green golds, and siennas spoke to my heart. These colors are part of what I love about living in the area. The landscapes of Garnet Jex that were on display seemed as brilliant to me as the day they were painted. In a way, viewing his work validated my, at times, liberal use of color. They delighted my senses! I hope Jex's work will be on display again soon as inspiration for all to see.

Waterford, Virginia is a National Historic Landmark and worth a visit to Virginia wine country. There are guided walking tours that may be scheduled through the Waterford Foundation. And the annual Waterford Fair (October 7-9, 2022) is the mid-Atlantic's quintessential fall festival with demonstrating fine heritage & contemporary craft artisans, living historians, a juried art show, historic properties tour, local libations, and entertainment for all ages. For more information, please visit

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