ATHENS — In May 2019, retired Concord University professor, Dr. Sheila Chipley, released a book of art from over 30 years living in Athens, W.Va.
According to a press release, the book, Sketches of Houses in Athens, is a collection of fifty-six watercolor sketches of homes and businesses in Athens created from 2002 to 2003. The paintings were made from sketches she did over a few years time. Originally, the finished clear-covered prints were sold and the money went to support the town, including the construction of the Athens park and playground.
Chipley has always been intrigued by the homes that made up Athens and decided to take the time to draw them in 2002.
"Every town should have a playground for kids," Chipley said. "I used to have to drive to Pipestem, Glenwood or someplace so my kids could play at a park. I decided what could I do that people would buy? I figured even if people did not have the houses, people like houses in a community."
Chipley, known to her students and community as "doc," is in the process of writing another book and during that creative process, was inspired to share the watercolor sketches of the houses.
"I am putting together a book and Roger Shrewsbury is taking the pictures for me for the book and we were going over all the pictures and my daughter asked, "What happened to the watercolors you did in Athens," Chipley said. "I thought I had maybe done 20 or 30 but I had actually done about 50 of them."
Chipley was careful not to include addresses or personal information in her sketches. She said she wanted to capture the "quaintness" of the houses and how it looked at the time.
"Every place I have ever lived, I am very interested in the houses that make up the community," Chipley said. "When you live somewhere, you know the houses and you notice the houses and the changes in them. They are interesting houses."
Chipley's artistic process included a lot of observation. She always traveled with a sketchbook and a camera. She described her process as a series of decisions during observation.
"I had the studio and I would put them all up on the wall and I would decide which one I was going to do," Chipley said. "I would often change perspective in terms of looking at it, I would go back and check on it."
One of the first books that Chipley sold was during a visit to Athens. She said a policeman said that her sketches were how he remembered the town.
"The policeman that was there in town bought one of the books simply because he said this is how he remembered the town," Chipley said. "It (the book) is a way of remembering things and you could tear any of the sketches out, just take the ones you wanted."
The sketches are pen and ink watercolor. Chipley said that she enjoyed working with watercolor even though it is known as a difficult medium.
"I like working with watercolor, it is a wonderful medium," Chipley said. "It is a hard medium to master but it is a very forgiving one because you can add water to it and go over it again."
Chipley taught art education, drawing, weaving, crafts, American art history and more at Concord University. She is originally from Pa., received her art degree from the University of Alabama, a masters degree from the University of Georgia and her Doctorate degree from Penn State University.
"I enjoy learning," Chipley said. "I used to spend my summer and spring vacations going to Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the people at Concord thought I was crazy. They were going to the beach and I was going to take classes."
Sketches of Houses in Athens is available for $15 at Shrewsbury's Photography in Athens or directly from Dr. Chipley.
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