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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Memories Lost and Found: My Early Work, Part II

What does "Sauer's Kitchen" Have to Do with this Story?
Memories Lost and Found: My Early Work, Part II

For anyone who hasn't heard Part One of this story, here is a quick summary: A few weeks ago, I got an email from Harry, a worker at a thrift store in Bristol, VA. The owner had bought a stack of paintings at an estate sale and they tracked me down via the internet (I'm very easy to find). These works from years and years ago, mostly from my childhood and teenage years, I had accidentally left in a house when I moved away from Bristol, TN. These early works capture evidence of my early self-taught artistic development, memories of my early days as an artist, and even childhood memories. Before I could make the store an offer on the works, a saintly soul of an art lover bought them instead, and then HE tracked me down (I'm easy to find). We communicated and worked out a deal, and this is where Part Two of this story begins........

Johnny is a young businessman, traveler, entrepreneur, and yes, art lover. I wasn't clear when he first emailed me that he was a customer at the store, and not the owner. After all, a worker at the store really wanted me to be able to get my work back. His first contact to me through my website said "We recently acquired several of your early works! Some of which are dated as far back as 85. I suggested contacting you in case you would like an opportunity to look at what paintings and drawings we have. Please e mail me back if you have any interest in viewing the collection." The owner must not have been as willing. Only one day later, I got email from Johnny -- he beat me to it.

Fortunately, Johnny felt sympathy for my situation when I told them how I didn't mean to leave the paintings behind and what they represented to me. He said, "I was going frame them but now I feel terrible." I didn't want to "guilt" him out of the paintings that he rightfully bought. After all, he must have liked them to buy them! I told him, "It would mean a lot to me if you could photograph them for me and send me the digital pics. . .then enjoy the artwork. . . Then follow my current work. You will be one of my biggest fans."

It's when Johnny offered to send me back the work and repay him "some day," that I had an idea. Roughly midway between Bristol and my residence in Kernersville is an art gallery where I show my current work, Artwalk in Boone. The idea occurred to me, Why not work out a trade? I really wanted Johnny to have my work, and it would mean so much to me to get back my early work, so I proposed that he bring the work to Boone, leave it there, and take in its place, one of my more current works, "Sauer's Kitchen." It took some convincing, because he didn't want to take anything at all, but finally we agreed. Johnny made the trip one cold, rainy day last week.

I literally could NOT wait to get to Boone and retrieve what I had considered "lost forever" all these years. What would it be like to see it again in person (and not just in my memory)? My girlfriend Therese and I made the trip this Saturday to Artwalk, and also to take care of some other art business there. It was perfect timing. We arrived that afternoon and an employee got them out of storage where they had been keeping them safe.

What would I think of my early efforts? Would I remember them? What memories would come back of when I had created those works 20 and 30 years ago? Therese and I thumbed through them one at a time, hovered over the hood of my car. Sketches, pastels, finished paintings -- spanning from age 10 to my early adulthood -- an entire stack that chronicles the early stages of my artistic journey. Was the whimsical artist there all along?

Do we see these traits in the painting to the left?

What did we find in that stack of drawings and paintings?

Read more next time....

---Whimsical Artist Scott Plaster

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Kernersville News: A Whimsical View: Local artist adds personality and color to his canvas of oils

A Whimsical View: Local artist adds personality and color to his canvas of oils

by Wendy Freeman Davis
Originally appeared in the Kernersville News, March 1, 2011

For Kernersville artist Scott Plaster, the whimsical nature in which he portrays his subject matter can probably be traced back to his childhood when painting the Picasso-esque drawings he remembers his father drawing on manila sheets of drawing paper.

It wouldn't be until years later into adulthood, however, that Plaster recalled that whimsical images on canvas when he took out his paints to recreate a photograph of a lone cow he'd taken while travelling the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Thus was born the "Cosmic Cow," now namesake of the Triad area group of artists he leads who banded together in support of one another's work about three years ago.

Plaster's whimsical depiction of this particular cow wasn't one of tradition. Instead, it took on a shape and character of its own beyond a realistic portrayal and standing in a sea of flowing green. Other animals have followed -- from funny ducks with bills protruding to his own cat caught mid-yawn -- and while some are more realistic than others, all stand out in vivid color on canvas.

"Something just clicked," Plaster said of the time he spent creating his "Cosmic Cow" painting. He had spent years searching for his own artistic identity and somehow in that moment Plaster found it. "I knew something was different about it from the start," Plaster continued.

Plaster grew up in Denton, the son of teachers -- his mother in English and his father in history. He was only a toddler when his father first began bringing home basic student tempura paints for him to use. By the time he was 10 years old, Plaster had graduated to more sophisticated oil paintings, taking inspiration from the likes of Van Gogh, the French Impressionists, and even North Carolina artists Bob Timberlake and Andrew Wyeth.

For the emerging artist, Christmas became about what art supplies he would get rather than the latest in boyhood gadgetry. "When some kids were waiting for video games and toys from Santa Claus, I was eager to get paint, canvas and pastels," recalled Plaster. As he grew into his teen years, Plaster immersed himself in magazines devoted to art and learning about styles, techniques, and art history.

One might assume that Plaster pursued art into his college years, maybe as an art education major or art history, but that assumption would be wrong. Plaster did go on to college at Appalachian State University but pursued both his undergraduate and master's degrees in English rather than art.

As far as Plaster was concerned, his career would always be teaching while art would remain something he did for the pure joy of it rather than as a job. "I've always wanted to keep art separate," Plaster said. "I'm a self-taught artist and by keeping the two separate, it lets me do the kind of art I want to do."

That's not to say he doesn't love his job as a reading teacher at Lexington High School in Davidson County. After teaching English for four years at Ledford High School, Plaster has been the reading specialist at Lexington Senior for the past two years. "I really like doing what I do as a reading teacher."

Like most emerging artists, Plaster had his turn at a variety of day jobs before finding a teaching career. He's been an education specialist for IBM in Raleigh and has worked in sales, advertising and custom website development while living in Virginia and Tennessee.

Plaster moved back to NC in 2005 and has lived in Kernersville for the past three years. His reasons for moving here centered around logistics. "I deliberately chose Kernersville because it's right in the middle of the Triad and galleries in Winston-Salem and Greensboro," Plaster explained. "I wanted to stay right in the middle."

Plaster's artwork can be seen at a plethora of galleries and artistic venues across the region and NC, including being a hosted artist at several Kernersville festivals. That kind of street level exposure is one of the reasons the Cosmic Cow Society was born. "Our main thrust is finding non-traditional venues, like coffee shops or restaurants, for our work," explained Plaster. "The average person has never stepped foot in a gallery. We want to bring art to the average person."

While the society's membership is open to artists in all of central NC, it remains a small, close-knit group with only 12 members. Those accepted into its ranks must first go through a trial period to see how well a fit they would be to the group. "We have artists in all different stages of their artistic development," said Plaster. "We have a few professional artists and others like myself with day jobs to pay the bills."

Eventually, Plaster envisions retiring from teaching and moving to the coast where he can pursue his art full-time. Its a goal he only work toward. "By the time I retire, my goal is to be a full-time artist," Plaster said. "I'd love to have the freedom to own and run a gallery."

Plaster has an interesting approach to marketing his artwork. "I feel like in today's economic climate, money is so tight that the average person can only afford the basic essentials. I do not want that fact to be a barrier to enjoying my art and having it seen by the community." Plaster has created several offerings that are absolutely free to the public in order to get exposure for his work. One is his line of free online greeting cards that feature his whimsical artwork. He had over 600 cards "picked up" over the Christmas holiday. He also had many people use his Valentine's Cards. So, far he has featured each major holiday and even has birthday cards, a get-well-soon card, and an engagement card. You can find a link to his cards from his website.

Plaster also offers interactive, drag-and-drop puzzles using his artwork. Some users have even called them "addictive." Plaster's site offers seven puzzles to choose from. "I want people to see my work, even if they can't afford to buy it. Today, people need something 'whimsical' to make them smile or laugh, and my artwork can give them that!"

Those wishing to see more of Plaster's original artwork can visit his website at

Artist Scott Plaster has found his niche painting colorfully whimsical animals, like the image entitled "Beatles - John"