What Inspires You?

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Ward Nichols, in WNC Magazine

Once upon a time I wanted to be a painter. But well-meaning folks (or perhaps fearful) instilled in me the idea of the “starving artist.”

I heard things like, “You’ll starve to death.”

“Who would you run to when the rent came due?”

“It takes years to become good enough to make money with art.”

“Artists are born, not taught. You would have to have displayed an aptitude before you could walk.”

When I was very young, my grandmother rented a room in her house to a painter, whose work never showed in big galleries. I don’t even know how she made her living. I know she passed away before I graduated high school. And until I’d lost everything in a fire, I had the most exquisite realist painting of a fawn lying in tall grass that she had painted for me. I wanted to be like her and paint nature as she had. Joan Wilson was the first artist to make an impression on me. To this day, my cousin haunts garage sales and thrift stores in the hopes of discovering a piece of her lost work.

Realism done well astounds me. This weekend I walked into a small local gallery to the works of Ward Nichols, clutched my chest and gasped. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am not easy to impress. I was on a cloud, which happened to be one of his favorite subjects. This is one of the few artists who makes his living from his art. At 86, he’s now celebrating 50 years as an artist and keeps a vulture near his easel to remind him to not waste a moment.  His biography said that he knew he was born to be an artist because his name is Draw spelled backwards.

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Cohesive, on display at the Wilkes Art Gallery

The detail in tiny blades of grass and bare tree branches, blemishes in the wood planks of dilapidated barns, tire treads in snow, and the bolts on each component of a steam locomotive took my breath away. His still life metal work is so flawless that I had to study each piece to be sure it was not a photograph. This artist understands light, use of negative space, and color restraint. He documents places that no longer stand and handles nostalgia like a historian.

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Scissor table with pot

When I see work this elevated, I know in my heart that had I pursued that path I probably would never have achieved such success. So many don’t.

What made him such a stand-out?

Discipline, which is something I struggle with daily, and am intensely inspired by.

What or who inspires you?

 

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