The creative energy of the universe seems to flow through some fascinating people, and spending time with these folks is always a treat for me. My visits often include a tour of the studio of the artist, which can be in a commercial setting or a nicely lit room at the artist’s home.
It is during this time that I learn about the artist’s life and interesting adventures that may translate well on TV. Often is the case that we share a meal. I try to plan things so that it is lunch we enjoy; that’s just my preference.
Not so long ago I had such a visit with the highly accomplished American Interpretive Realist, Ward Nichols. I learned much about his colorful life at his home studio and then even more as we enjoyed a tasty Italian lunch that included a creamy mushroom and sausage soup and dessert.
Ward, now 86, has been a full-time professional artist for 50 years. He was born in the coal mining area in West Virginia. He started drawing at a very young age.
His grandfather and father were printers, and it was thought that he would follow in the family business. However, things would take another turn.
When it was his time to serve his nation, Ward spent four years in the U.S. Navy, of which two and a half were spent in Naples. It was a time when NATO was being formed, and his assignment placed him in an important part of history. It was there that he walked on the same streets as many of the great art masters of the world. The histories and cultures of the region had a permanent effect on the West Virginia boy who loved to draw. He would never be the same again.
In 1969 Ward moved to Wilkes County. He had visited many times because his wife was from the area. He said Wilkes County was beautiful compared to the coal mining hillsides of West Virginia.
Ward’s days tend to have a stable structure. He paints six days a week. He has breakfast around 8 a.m., and then he is in the studio until he takes a 30-minute break for lunch. He is back to work until around 6 p.m.
He also has days when he goes out exploring or getting lost on some county back road. He told me, “I have no idea where I am, but I find a great old barn, house or silo that interests me, and I locate the owner and ask if I can take a closer look. Sometimes they say yes, sometimes they say no.”
I learned that Ward has many connections with interesting and notable people. We talked about his love of jazz music and the fact that he turns on his music before he turns on his lights in the morning. Now that he wears hearing aids the music tends to be loud. He said the UPS man loves the music but often asks who is playing.
Ward finds humor in the fact that he must tell someone who the legendary Dizzy Gillespie or Louis Armstrong was.
I asked Ward about the future. He says retirement is not in his plans. “I will paint as long as I can hold a brush, and then I plan on taking up photography.”
Having lunch with the well know Ward Nichols was a great honor and pleasure. His thoughts on life are profound, and his works of art are beautiful and thought provoking. He said, “I would like the viewer to have their own ideas about the painting.”
With a 50-year career as a professional artist, it is quite clear that many people have many thoughts about the works of Ward Nichols.
It was a good day and an excellent lunch. There was lots of humor mixed in with the serious stuff.
I look forward to our next visit.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.