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Small House painters capture ‘Characters of Clinton’

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

September 2, 2013

Before long many familiar faces will be gracing the walls of Sampson Community College’s North Building thanks to Sampson County’s Small House painters and the community college’s Foundation.


The group of eight artists who meet once a week to paint at the Victor R. Small House have taken on the task of capturing some of Clinton’s most recognizable faces in a series they are calling the “Characters of Clinton.” The protraits will displayed at the college Sept. 10-30.


“We were trying to come up with something different to do,” shared local artist Paula Fitzpatrick, the Small House Painters’ art teacher, “and I said, ‘What about the characters?’ and then they all looked at me like I was crazy.”


However, the group soon became enthusiastic about the idea. “We just started thinking about people around town,” explained Fitzpatrick. “You know, people that maybe you don’t know their name but you recognize their face. We looked at professions as well as just recognizable people in town.”


After the artists brainstormed, “we came up with a list of 40 to 50 people,” she added, “but realized there was no way we could do them all at once.”


The group narrowed the list down to 25 characters and divided them up among the eight painters — Micki McPhail, Julie Stevonovich, Til Herring, Amelia Surratt, Becky Jackson, Jean McLoed, Joan Carr, and Fitzpatrick herself.


Patty Cherry, Dr. Bill Aiken, Gloria Edwards, Patty and Mason Tarr from the Ashford Inn, Jennifer and Ken Honeycutt from Jennifer’s, Jimmy Sinclair, John Surratt, Jean Kunzman with Backpack Buddies, and Police Chief Jay Tilley are a few of the characters who made the first cut.


The Small House Painters decided to capture these familiar faces with watercolors. “It’s what we all started with,” noted Surratt, adding that it is still one of her favorite mediums even though she also does oil paintings now as well.


But before the artists could put paint to paper, they had to take photographs of each character. “I like for them to work from their own reference material,” said Fitzpatrick.


She recalled a particularly fun day when Patty Cherry visited the Small House for Surratt to take her picture. “She said she was going to bring her hats and try them on so we could pick which one we liked best on her for the painting. She was trying them on out at her car and Amelia grabbed her camera. She put the red hat on and we asked her to give us some attitude. When Amelia snapped the picture, we knew it was the one. The way the sun came through her hat gave her this glow.”


Once all the photographs were taken, the artists got to work.


“They’re not a formal portraits,” Fitzpatrick pointed out about the artists’ products, most of which feature the characters in their natural settings. “I told them to catch their attitudes. You know, some people have a certain way of holding their head, things like that.”


The results “just come right off the paper,” described Fitzpatrick. “For people who have never done portraits before, they’ve done a super job. I’m really proud of them. They’re not afraid to try something new.”


She added that as word has gotten out about the project, good responses have already been coming the artists’ way. “The positive responses that they have already gotten from them (the characters) has meant the absolute world to them.”


One of those positive responses has come from Patty Cherry. “She (Surratt) did an excellent job and made me look good. I was really pleased and honored to have her ask me about it and then to have it hanging in the college is a real honor.”


Dr. Bill Aiken also offered his praise of the art show. “It’s a fun thing to do and I was very flattered that they asked me. It’s nice to be recognized.”


After seeing his almost completed portrait Friday morning, which is being painted by Til Herring, Aiken shared that he thinks it is “a great likeness” of himself.


“To paint anything else would be just someone’s interpretation, but portraits have to be a whole lot more exact. I would think they would be the most difficult to do,” he added. “They (the artists) have worked very hard on them and have done a remarkable job. They’re all unbelievably good. I could recognize them all very well.”


Soon the community will be able to see if they can recognize the characters. While the public is welcome to drop by the college anytime during open hours beginning Sept. 10 to view the portraits, all are invited to join the Sampson Community College Foundation for an artist reception on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 2 to 4 p.m.


“It will be a fun and interesting show and we invite everyone to come out because this isn’t just an exhibit,” stressed Fitzpatrick. “You’ll know a lot of people and you can ask the artists questions. They’ll be happy to answer whatever they can.”


“All these types of programs are very worthy of public support,” Fitzpatrick continued. “They (the artists) are not looking to make money. It’s strictly for their enjoyment of being part of the community. It’s been part of our plan from the beginning to work with others in the community.”


In addition to meeting the artists, the reception will also be an opportunity to browse the paintings, and if interested, to inquire about purchasing one.


“The actual image area is about a 11 x 14 but they frame up with mat and frame to be 16 x 20,” said Fitzpatrick of the portraits, many of which will be for sell. “They will have a price tags which they (the artists) hate to do more than anything. It usually ends up with me putting the prices on them.”


A percentage of the proceeds will benefit the Sampson Community College Foundation. While the funds raised will help the Foundation continue to provide financial aid to students, the Foundation is also excited about drawing more people onto the college’s campus.


“It’s a way to get more people on campus and to make them more aware of what we do,” said Surratt, a SCC Foundation board member.


“It’s an opportunity for the Foundation to invite the public to come out to the campus and see that it is a place to grow and be enriched,” agreed Lisa Turlington, executive director of the SCC Foundation.


For questions or more information about the “Characters of Clinton” art show and reception, please contact Lisa Turlington at 910-592-8081.


Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.