Bob Mann has turned his talents to painting, and since picking up that first paintbrush last November, has produced close to 150 paintings in his workshop/art studio at his Chandler Springs home.
He paints in acrylics, mostly landscapes, and their variety is across the board.
He gets a lot of his subject matter from his travels through the years in the service, painting scenes from out West to Thailand and Japan, Africa’s Rift Valley and really, from all over the world.
“But I don’t claim to be an artist,” he says, laughing a bit.
Saturday, his wife Diana, along with a group of her “girlfriends,” are hosting an open house at their home to showcase her husband’s art, and invite all to come and enjoy the exhibit of his work.
His paintings take viewers to places they may never “visit” otherwise, with realism and lots of color and detail.
Holding a painting he did of Mt. Fugi, Mann has a story to tell.
He points to a spot about nine-tenths of the way up the mountain and says, “I’ve actually been there. I almost made it to the top. You know, it’s over 13,000 feet.”
Paintings are put out all through the workshop, and it bears mentioning that not only did Mann create the paintings inside, he built the shop itself, along with a guest cabin, their home, many of the furnishings and had a cabin moved from Camp McMillan to the 36 wooded acres the Manns bought 18 years ago.
To reach Blue Creek Lodge, as it’s called, visitors travel about 11 miles up Alabama 77 from Talladega and then turn left down Talladega County 209 and go about 1.8 miles-but slow down, you may miss the yellow mailbox with an American flag at the driveway on the left, it’s tucked into a curve at the top of a hill.
Mann not only paints on canvas, he’s been finding old windows and painting on the panes, and shows how lighting them from behind makes them glow, appearing translucent.
His paintings certainly demonstrate his creative side, but there’s more-lots more.
He’s also a furniture maker and restorer, and his creations are both traditional and sometimes, a little on the eclectic side.
He says it’s his wife who keeps bringing home the treasures they recreate, but she says he’s guilty of the same at times.
Outside his workshop, there’s a funky tall chair Mann made with recycled wood and a piece he put together he calls a “swing bed” packed with pillows hanging on the porch, too.
Blue Creek is a lot of things, there’s the art, the woodwork, two quaint cabins filled with cozy furnishings that can be rented, the creek that runs through the property where the Manns invite wading and wandering and the feeling of just being in a special place.
It’s the kind of place that just lures you to linger, and explore the pathways and terraces, there’s a spot for a fire pit fitted with Mann’s handmade benches and Adirondack chairs and tree stumps sanded to create a nice place to take it all in as well.
The gardens Mann attributes to his wife’s talents, where rose bushes pop in shades of pink and red and wild hydrangea, along with some she’s planted, dot the grounds.
But Mrs. Mann paints, too, often the furniture her husband makes, from the bedside tables to chests and the “crooked” dressers Mann makes, each drawer zigzagging in the opposite direction.
They like to recycle wood and pieces of furniture, giving them their own special flair and new life.
For Saturday’s event, the first showing of Mann’s work, you’re invited to enjoy the art, take in the gardens and trails and even tour the cabins.
Saying Mann is a handy and creative kind of guy is a bit of an understatement.
He built their actual home, too, but that’s another story for another time.
Visitors to Blue Creek Lodge will be invited to enjoy Mrs. Mann’s homemade goodies while they explore the art, scenery and gardens.
It’s a little trip well worth the time.