The Museum Center at Five Points’ Artist of the Month and exhibiting artist is none other than Alan Shuptrine, a watercolor artist whose Appalachian upbringing heavily influences the beauty and …
The Museum Center at Five Points’ Artist of the Month and exhibiting artist is none other than Alan Shuptrine, a watercolor artist whose Appalachian upbringing heavily influences the beauty and depth of his works.
The 55-year-old is a Chattanooga native who grew up in various Appalachian locales; however, almost immediately after he was born, his family moved to Nassau, Bahamas, where they lived for a few years before moving to Maine, then slowly down the Eastern Seaboard. All the while the family remained near the Appalachians because they were drawn to the region’s beauty.
“My experiences really gave me a great appreciation for this region,” he said.
Having a father as a full-time painter — he was originally an abstract oil painter — Shuptrine was always surrounded by art; he even said at around age 5 he would often fix minor mistakes in his father’s paintings that his father had deemed as failures. He would watch his father paint for hours, slowly absorbing all of the strokes, movements and dips of creating the works of art.
Serving as the featured artist for the upcoming Alan Shuptrine Art Exhibition at the Museum Center, Shuptrine’s works will be on full display alongside various paintings crafted by local elementary, middle and high school students from area schools who competed in the museum’s Shuptrine Watercolor Competition.
Starting college at Sewanee for his freshman year, he later transferred to the University of Tennessee; however, he never graduated from college, leaving around a year before his graduation. He attributes this to his constant changing of majors, as he originally wanted to work in pre-med, then as a biomedical engineer and finally an anthropologist. He said if he went back to school today, he’d finish his degree in anthropology.
“I came home needing a job. It turned out my father needed a picture framer, so I worked with him for a while learning the craft of water gilding, which is gilding with genuine golf leaf. It’s a lost art, and it took me about two years to learn the craft,” he said. “I didn’t become a full-time watercolor artist until 2010.”
Participating in a 10-artist salon show with Andrew Wyeth — one of his father’s heroes — Shuptrine took his first steps into full-time watercolor art. He said he developed his own style while appreciating the craft of his fellow artists.
Several years ago, Shuptrine crafted the idea of a touring exhibit across the country he calls, “Alan Shuptrine: Watercolors of the Serpentine Train,” and one of the museum’s on the tour route was the Museum Center.
“This will celebrate the kinship of the Appalachian people and their Celtic ancestors from across the pond,” he said. “This will also convey their cultures, such as quilt patterns, whiskey making and fiddle tunes, not to mention the sheer beauty of the Appalachians. The Museum Center in Cleveland was interested in hosting the exhibition there as a sort of coming home for me, since I live on Lookout Mountain.”
As the Museum Center is a Smithsonian affiliate, Shuptrine was immediately hooked, as he hopes to one day have at least a portion of his exhibit featured in the Smithsonian.
He believes the exhibit itself will give locals a good idea of their heritage. If asked, most residents of the Appalachians will say their heritage lies in England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales. As Cleveland has a tremendous appreciation for its Ocoee region, the Appalachians are right in this area’s backyard, as is the famous Appalachian Trail, or AT.
Many of Shuptrine’s paintings are depictions of people, places or things located on or right off the AT; these can include churches, cabins, animals, natural features or even local residents.
“I think it’s so interesting how the settlers who came here hundreds of years ago gravitated towards the Appalachian mountains because the coast seemed unfamiliar, while the mountains looked almost identical to the region they just left in Europe,” he said. “Some of their descendants still live there today, and practice many of the same traditions their ancestors did.”
He also drew comparisons between the Appalachian mountain ranges and those in Iceland and the United Kingdom, as all three feature mountain ranges abundantly made of the green mineral serpentine; this harkens back millions of years ago to the days of Pangea, and how these areas were believed to have been linked together in the famous supercontinent.
Shuptrine cites his father, Hubert Shuptrine, as his biggest inspiration and gets ideas for subject matter from things he sees that have what he calls an “X factor,” meaning a trait that truly sticks out and garners attention. He wants his viewers to feel the same emotion he feels when painting a piece, and as a result will only paint special things.
For aspiring artists, he said you need two components to excel in the field: a good drawing hand and a little luck.
Shuptrine’s full exhibit will open Thursday, Sept. 27, from 10-11 a.m. at the Museum Center and will remain on display until Jan. 17, 2019. He hopes you will come down and experience the culture of your home brought to life through watercolor.
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