My Mind

My Mind
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Charles Parnelle, artiste extraordinaire

Way back when, I almost got my name in the paper.  My uncle, who is a well known artist about town, was profiled in the local news.  It was a very nice article which covered his younger days, his development as an artist and, then, provided photos of his latest work.  At one point in the article he was asked if anyone in the family had the creative gene.  He said he had a nephew who had an interest in art.
Yup.  Charles Parnelle is my uncle.  He has been drawing and painting local scenes for a lot of years.  I'm not sure he would appreciate my telling how many decades that encompasses but it is more than seven and less than nine.  his influence can be seen in any number of local artists who were fortunate enough to take classes under his tutelage.  His works have included pencil, ink, water color and oils with a few acrylics thrown in for good measure.  The only medium I have not seen him work with is pastel but I am confident he would produce fine works with that medium as well.
He was very young when he worked for a bit with his dad in construction.  One very hot day he turned to his dad and said, "I think I can find something better than this for my profession."  He became a draftsman at the Naval Shipyard.  It was not the first time he had taken pencil in hand to draw.  As a child I used to sit in wonder at the drawings in his bedroom.  His walls were covered with wonderful characters straight from the adventure stories so popular.  Sinbad stood, scimitar drawn, on the wall as one entered the room.  A gypsy in a low cut blouse stood along the adjacent wall with a come hither eye.  But the one that always captured my young fancy was the Indian riding full gallop toward me with arrow drawn in a straining bow, his eyes steadfast on his target which was me.  I stood in awe until the day my granddad rolled paint over them, something I could never have done.
He retired early from the draftsman job and began to devote his life to painting.  He studied under local artists as well as national artists.  His artwork improved with each new tutor.  This was evident in his sales of watercolors on Queen Street during the annual Sidewalk Art shows.  The Charleston Artist Guild sponsored this spring event. It was always a festival to me and I would go every year to marvel at the paintings attached to the fence along the churchyard.  I would always stop to admire his paintings because I always believed them to be superior to all the others.  The sold stickers were proof enough.
In those early years he decided he wanted to give back to the community so he began to teach the skills he had come by over the years. His workshops were very popular.  His method was simple.  He provided an example for his students.  The he would lay his brush aside and walk amongst them to give individual encouragement and instruction.  It was a very effective means of teaching and his workshops became quite popular.  He taught locally and throughout the Southeast.  His influence can be seen in many of the artists within the Charleston area.  Many of his students became members of the CGA with artistic skills acquired in his classroom.
I studied in a few of his classes and his influence can be seen in several of the pieces I have hanging in my home as well as several sold to local collectors.  One of the last paintings from my easel was a portrait of this local giant.  It won no prizes nor any fine words from critics but it told it all in my mind.
 His shoulders are too wide, I was told.
"And why wouldn't they be," I asked.  "When one looks up to a mentor, he is a giant and so I depicted him."
I have a lot to be thankful for in my life.  I was fortunate to have such a talented uncle.  He was a far better teacher than I was a student.  He brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people through his penchant for sharing knowledge.  I am grateful.  I believe many others feel the same way.


  1. Rick - this is lovely! Great picture of Charles.


  2. I have one of Mr Parnelle's watercolors (Acquired in Washington Missouri). Also had a link to the story on his life in the Charleston newspaper. The link is now gone. Did you happen to make a copy? I do not know if this link will work but here is what we have: :

    1. No I didn't. Charles is on Facebook. I am sure he would have a copy. I believe he would be happy to share it with you.
      (I am not a member of FB so I was unable to open your link.)