Artist captured America as we liked it

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2006

Before I was a writer, I was an artist.

I thoroughly enjoyed art. I would doodle in church, sketch at home, and scribble little super heroes inside the pages of my three-subject notebook. I liked comic books – Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, Hulk, and copied them in pencil from the pages of four-color, 24-page pamphlets onto white bond typing paper.

Tucked inside a leather photo album is my first drawing ever: A squiggly blue inked Santa Claus beside a wavy Christmas tree on green construction paper. I may have been four or five.

In the Navy, I filled up composition books and sketchpads and drew little cartoons featuring people on board my ship that drew big laughs. I got out of the Navy, came home, completed one more drawing - a pencil sketch of our home, now displayed in a frame - and that was it. I've never drawn anything else. I don't know why. I just lost interest, I suppose. Kind of makes me sad in a way, but it's a passing. Like a high school football player whose day has come and gone, I peeled off the shoulder pads and moved on.

However, I'm still fascinated by art.

I have a tiny pocket book of Norman Rockwell magazine covers that I purchased in the Navy. Norman Rockwell was - to many - the quintessential American artist. In the first half of the 20th Century, Rockwell was the preeminent Saturday Evening Post cover artist and his collective body of work remains popular even to this day, either through books or calendars.

Rockwell captures the essence of America. It is an America that does not exist, but it is one that you wished existed. You have a sense of being there, even if you never have. His Christmas covers make you long for the tinsel and the tree and a burly man in red and white. There's humor, there's sadness, there's moments stopped in time; nostalgic little pieces that are bittersweet reminders of something we've lost along the way. Not necessarily a better world, but one we understood.

The future is uncertain. The past, however, is oh so comfortable.

Kevin Pearcey is Group Managing Editor of Greenville Newspapers, LLC. He can be reached by phone at 383-9302, ext. 136 or by email at: