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ARTS & EDUCATION

54 GreerNow AUGUST 2007


ARTS & EDUCATION

Portrait

Life

w ritte n by SHERIL BE NNE T T TURNER photo g raphed by KRIS DECKER

L

ocal artist Rebecca Penland Reynolds grew up

could use them, so I stuck them in the closet.” Not one to

in a little stone house down the street from

give up that easily, Rebecca tried again several months lat-

Greer High School. As a young girl, her father,

er. “I actually completed a portrait and it turned out pretty

oil painter Albert “Buck” Penland, unconsciously had

good. From then on I was hooked. I still get the chalk ev-

a big influence on her life. “In the summertime,” she

erywhere — in my eyes, my ears, my mouth — but I don’t

reminisces, “my father would sit out on the side porch

care. I get into it like I’m playing in the mud.”

and paint. Instead of playing with me, the neighbor-

In her forties, Rebecca moved to Charleston where

hood kids would come over just to watch him paint. As

she continued her practice and study of art. “Charleston

a child, I didn’t appreciate the fact that my father was

opened up a whole new world for me,” she says. But after

an artist because I saw it all the time. Later, I wished I’d

eight years she got homesick not only for her family, but

watched him more.” But because art was such an inte-

for her roots. “Like Thomas Wolfe meant when he said

gral part of her childhood, Rebecca’s interest in art and

‘I am the hill-born,’” Rebecca explains, “I think that no

her inherited natural ability started at a young age.

matter where you travel, you’ve still got that connection to

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing,”

where you were born. I was missing my hills.”

Rebecca says. “My father had no formal training and

It was Rebecca’s mountain memories that also

I didn’t take lessons either, but I’d run to him with my

inspired her portraits of Native Americans. “My father’s

drawings for feedback. I remember when I was about

family was from North Carolina around Asheville and the

five years old, I started sketching shoes, because like

Penland School of Crafts. On vacations we’d travel around

most little girls, I was fascinated with high heels. As

the mountains to places like Cherokee. I fell in love with

time went on I started attaching the legs, then other

the Native American people there with their bright cos-

parts until I worked my way up to faces. I started draw-

tumes and wonderful skin textures with reddish-brown

ing feet first!” she laughs. “But that’s when my love of

tones. I think they are beautiful people.”

studying and drawing faces really began.” Encouraged by her father, Rebecca continued to

While creating lasting portraits of the faces that people hold dear is Rebecca’s main passion, she also hopes

hone her sketching talent. “I love working in pencil. It’s

to capture in her still-life and landscapes her own child-

sometimes underrated,” she admits, “but it is the most

hood memories. “Greer is growing so fast,” she remarks,

detailed of all the mediums. And there’s a certain feel

“that where once there was a field, a building stands.” By

about black and white drawings, much like black and

preserving local landmarks such as mills and peach sheds

white photographs and movies. They just don’t need

in art form, the history and natural beauty of the area is

color; the life is in the shadows.”

secured for generations to come. “When I’m recreating

In her thirties, Rebecca became enthralled with

these images of a bygone era,” Rebecca admits, “I like to

another medium while out shopping at a local mall. “An

step into the scene and imagine myself there.” And it’s this

artist was making quick portraits of children in pastels,”

feeling of being with the face or in the place that really

she remembers, “and I was fascinated with the way he

gives Rebecca’s art its life. d

used the chalk and blended the colors on the paper.” She decided to give pastels a try herself. “It was the biggest mess you’ve ever seen. I thought there was no way I

For more information on Rebecca Penland Reynolds’ art or classes, please contact her at (864) 238-8510. GreerNow AUGUST 2007

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07-08 Life Portrait