The Brain is a cliff at Beauty Mountain, which is part of the New River Gorge in West Virginia. The New River Gorge, and the neighboring Meadow and Gauley River Gorges, and Summersville Lake, are all destination rock climbing areas; they’re considered some of the best sport climbing crags in the country.
Some cliffs in the gorges are bone white, blindingly bright in sunny exposure or beautiful beacons through the forests’ shadows. Other cliffs have soft grey tones, while some have awesome orange and black stripes. The rock itself is compacted sandstone, solid, with great friction and marvelous features. Aesthetics alone inspire days of rock climbing.
The New River Gorge was the location of my first real sport climbing trip, and while a lot of the climbing scared me, I fell in love with the whole area immediately. I’ve been there several times since, I dream about the climbs there, I rehearse the moves in my head while I’m at work.
I also developed a friendship there that developed into a marriage. The New River Gorge is now part of my history, and I could spend years drawing the rock there, escaping into the lush approaches and feeling again some of the greatest moments of my life.
This drawing of the Brain took me a long time, as most of my drawings do, but it was mostly due to the distances my mind wandered while I worked on it. I love it because I get lost in it when I look at it.
I also love it because I feel like it’s a new phase of more natural-looking line quality; I’m still able to use dark lines, but was able to sometimes achieve finer, more organic lines that I’ve previously achieved only with pencil or charcoal.
This drawing was not done from life, but from a photo by Mike Williams that appears in the New River Gorge Rock Climbing guide book, written by Williams and released by Wolverine Publishing. Many thanks to him, aside from his photos—his meticulous mapping of the gorges and route descriptions have made my enjoyment of the area possible.
Detail, top of cliff with foliage.