Stephen Shoemaker was born in 1946 here in Ashe County West Jefferson, NC and is best known for his dramatic Virginia Creeper paintings and scenes of life here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After being criticized for doodling to much in class, he took his first art lesson at the age of 10 with Flossie Farr and Archie Black in the old block building across from the old West Jefferson Elementary School.
After graduation from high school, Stephen studied Art for 2 years at Brevard College and 1 year at Guilford. He went into the Army in 1967 for 2 years and then returned to the county to finish his degree in Fine Art at Appalachian State in Boone, NC.
For the next 9 years Stephen's works was put on display in Charlotte, NC at Collins Department Stores, where he was the visual merchandising manager. In 1983 he began painting full time and hasn't looked back. Stephen returned home in 1993 to the same house he grew up in and where he now lives with his wife Nancy, a talented artist herself. Nowadays Stephen spends his days painting in his own studio located here in downtown West Jefferson.
Stephen had the honor of being featured in Our State Magazine in 2007 as well as on Our State UNC-TV. He won Best in Show in an art competition and exhibition held at the Ashe Arts Center in 2008. In 2009, Stephen's work was chosen to represent the High Country at an exhibit in Miami, FL and he has also had exhibitions in the Mint Museum in Charlotte NC.
Stephen has served as Town Alderman for the last 6 years and also on the Ashe Memorial Hospital board for 4 years. He also serves on numerous committees and boards and was awarded Ashe County's individual "Volunteer of the Year" award in 2006. Stephen is also a regular teacher and board member at the Florence Thomas Art School .
Now, Stephen has co-published a book with Our State magazine writer Janet Pittard called Stephen Shoemaker: The Paintings and Their Stories. They teamed up to present this selection of Stepen's paintings and drawings with the stores behind them.
A narrative, told in Shoemaker’s voice, is informal and geared toward a general audience, suitable for children, as well as adults, particularly train buffs, lovers of regional history, and fans of Shoemaker’s work. The story telling and pictures combine to entertain and educate about the unique culture and history of the mountain region served by the train called the Virginia Creeper, which ran from Abingdon, Virginia to Elkland, North Carolina, and to offer a rare glimpse into the evolution of an artist and his art.
The book features 48 images, including the eight watercolors in the Virginia Creeper series and many paintings and drawings created especially for this publication. The 32 stories are an eclectic blend of humor, adventure, and tragedy. The result is a scrapbook of an artist’s development, full of insights into the thought process involved in creating his artwork, sources of inspiration, and the clues or symbols incorporated in the scenes. The narrative is peppered with short poems by Petard, which helps give the text an element of the unexpected.
Boondocks Brewing Tap Room & Restaurant in downtown West Jefferson was the site of the book launch on February 15, 2013, where together with local publisher McFarland, they welcomed the public to meet the authors. According to Shoemaker and Pittard, the joint project had been more than two years in the making.
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