Palettes of Keuka part 1 blog cover
About Artist,  Adventures,  Artwork

Palettes of Keuka: Part 1

Guess what’s happening today!?  I’m a little excited!  (If you couldn’t tell.)  Bidding for the Palettes of Keuka opens today!!  When I was invited to participate in Palettes of Keuka this year I was so excited!  In honor of the bidding starting for this event, I’m sharing what inspired my palette on today’s blog post.  


Finding Inspiration

I can find inspiration just about everywhere.  I’m generally that random person who stops walking and takes pictures of completely random things.  (I often laugh when I notice out of the corner of my eye that someone is observing this and is trying to figure out what is so exciting and urgent that I needed to immediately take a picture.)  Scenes in nature are something that I find especially inspiring.  Every leaf and stone invites me to look a bit closer.  

A big part of my artistic method revolves around taking photos of things I find interesting and then painting them later in my studio.  The palette painting that I created – Escape to Paradise – was captured during my 50 New York Waterfalls project in 2018.  

Photo of Cascadilla Gorge Trail Ithaca by Laura Jaen Smith
Cascadilla Gorge, photograph, 2018

If you’re not familiar with my 50 New York Waterfalls project, it was a project where I hiked to and painted 50 different waterfalls within the Finger Lakes Region of New York, all within a 60 day time period.  After the project I then research each waterfall more and shared on my blog.  It was such an amazing experience!  (You can view the paintings and learn more about each waterfall here.)

The hikes resulted in hundreds (maybe thousands) of pictures – pictures of the waterfalls I painted in the project, additional waterfalls that I haven’t painted yet, and different interesting stones, trees, flowers, shadows, etc. I found along the way.  This waterfall in Cascadilla Gorge in Ithaca, New York was one such waterfall that I fell in love with, but didn’t end up using in my 50 New York Waterfalls project.  When I was approached about participating in Palettes of Keuka at the beginning of this year, it did not take me long to decide that this would be the subject of my giant palette. 

Photo of waterfall Cascadilla Gorge Trail by Laura Jaen Smith
Cascadilla Gorge, photograph, 2018

About Cascadilla Gorge

Photo of Cascadilla Gorge Trail Ithaca by Laura Jaen Smith
Cascadilla Gorge, photograph, 2018

I think Cascadilla Gorge is one of the most beautiful gorges that I hiked during the 50 New York Waterfalls project.  It has a .6 mile trail (one way) from Linn Street up to College Avenue.  A set of stairs connects the upper end of the gorge up to the Cornell University Campus near the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts.  The trail has a 400 foot drop in elevation (there’s a lot of stairs).  I love how with its tall walls and sound of rushing water you kind of forget that there’s a busy university and city just above.

Cascadilla Gorge has several gorgeous waterfalls within it ranging from 8 to 80 feet tall.  The two main named waterfalls of the gorge are Stewart Falls and Giant’s Staircase.  (Click on the photo of each to view its associated painting and blog post).

Photo of Giant's Staircase waterfall Cascadilla Gorge Trail Ithaca NY by Laura Jaen Smith
Giant's Staircase, photograph, 2018
Photo of Stewart Falls Cascadilla Gorge Trail Ithaca by Laura Jaen Smith
Stewart Falls, photograph, 2018

Cascadilla Gorge was originally owned by Robert Treman (same Treman that Treman State Park is named after).  Robert Treman donated the park to Cornell University in 1909 for public use, education, and enjoyment.  In the 1930’s, the Civilian Conservation Corps created the trail that runs along the gorge.  Today Cascadilla Gorge is maintained by Cornell Botanic Gardens who protects the natural area while providing educational use and access to the public. 

Palettes of Keuka Art Tour

The Palettes of Keuka Art Tour is held in Hammondsport, New York at the base of Keuka Lake each year since 2007.  The event features giant palettes painted by 30 local artists which are displayed outside different businesses throughout the town.  All of the palettes this year are amazing and unique!

You can pick up a map with each palette’s location at the Chamber of Commerce and enjoy the outdoor self-guided art tour throughout the town until the palettes are all auctioned off at the end of the summer.  Proceeds from the auction go towards funding scholarships for high school seniors and providing art supplies to the elementary school, as well as to the individual artist for their hard work on their piece.  

Palettes of Keuka map of palette locations in downtown Hammondsport NY

My acrylic painting, Escape to Paradise, is on display in front of Park View Wine & Spirits in downtown Hammondsport.  (Here’s a picture of it just before I dropped it off for the event.)  I would love for you to take a look if you find yourself in the area!

This year the auction will be online instead of in a celebration held in the square.  If you’re local to the area, you can start bidding today (Aug 20th)!!  What will your winning bid be??  


Escape to Paradise by Laura Jaen Smith. Giant palette-shaped acrylic painting of waterfall in Cascadilla Gorge Ithaca NY

Part 2 coming next week!

Next week I’ll share more about the painting process!  Also keep an eye on my social media pages for some behind the scenes pictures and videos.


Resources & Further Learning

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