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CHARLES WILLIAMS featured in Azalea Magazine

11 Mar

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charles williams azalea

After Spreading His Wings, Artist Charles Williams Longed To Return To His Roots. So He Painted His Way Home.

When I met Charles Williams, he was tucked into a small studio space at Redux Contemporary Art Center, working on a commissioned landscape piece. He invited me in, and asked if he could continue painting as we talked. I eagerly agreed; this offered me the opportunity to watch him transform a blank wooden canvas into a brilliant Lowcountry panorama.

Born and raised in Georgetown, SC, William’s talent was harnessed from a very young age. His parents were aggressively instrumental in his success.

“My mother noticed I was pretty good at coloring within the lines of my Ninja Turtle® coloring book,” Williams says, smiling. “She always had me drawing with a pen and pad.”

In elementary school, his mother made arrangements with the school’s art teacher to keep Charles after school, working on different art techniques, from colored pencil to water color
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William’s mother wasn’t the only one supportive of his talent. On his first day of high school, his father visited the art teacher, Heath Hampton, and asked him what he could do for his son. Hampton took Williams under his wing, arranging private lessons with a local painter. There, he learned advanced art techniques, as well as the business side of the art world. When most kids were out partying or heading to Myrtle Beach for the weekend, Williams was at home painting, and with Hampton’s help, Williams received a scholarship to (SCAD) Savannah Collage of Art and Design.

“I switched majors back and forth”, Williams says. “They offered so much; I wanted to do it all.”
Williams graduated in 2006, with a major in advertising and a minor in fine arts. He got a job in Tampa, FL, with the Publix Corporation®, working on the design team for their Greenwise® product line. Although he found success with Publix®, Williams missed home.

“I was eight hours from home, so I started painting it,” Williams says.

He painted scenes of the Lowcountry, reliving memories of his life on the Black River. Williams submitted his work to a Tampa Gallery, and was accepted into a group show. Little did he know that a late night mistake would come to shape the signature of his work.

While working on a small painting for the group show, he spilled a cup of water on the canvas, making the paint bleed to the bottom. He put it aside and forgot about it. When the gallery director stop by his studio to check on his progress, she saw the painting, loved the drip look, and asked to have it.

Williams sold out his first two gallery shows, and things snowballed from there. Selling numerous paintings, including private and corporate commissions, Williams quit his job at Publix® to begin painting full time.
In 2009, Williams was accepted into the Hudson River Fellowship in New York, where 32 artists out of 5,000 applicants were invited to walk the trails of master landscape artists, and study the anatomy of nature.
“It was like a painting boot camp,” Williams says.

After completing the Hudson River Fellowship, Williams knew what he really wanted, so he moved back to Charleston. On a visit to the Robert Lange Gallery, he told the owner that he would one day be featured there. She smiled, gave him a hug, and told him to submit his work. After five “no’s,” the Robert Lange Gallery gave him a shot at a group show, where he sold every one of his paintings. He was given more shows, which also sold out. Williams was finally invited to join the gallery.

On top of managing the stresses that come with being a full-time artist, Charles Williams also gives back to the community that has given so much to him.

“I am always thinking of the kids in the classrooms who have talent, but don’t know how, or may not have the resources to cultivate that talent,” Williams says. “I want to give them the opportunities and experiences that my teachers offered me.”

In an effort to help foster creative students in multiple art forms, Williams formed the C.E. Williams Collaborative, offering what he has learned to middle and high school students interested in pursuing a career in the arts. He passes along the foundations and technical attributes of art, teaches students how to articulate their work, and how to build relationships with collectors.

“They are receiving all the important aspects of being a complete artist,” Williams says.

The C.E. Williams Collaborative recently held it first student art exhibition at Robert Lange Studios, giving the nine students of the Georgetown and Charleston County collaborative the opportunity to show their work.

“They have some killer work,” he says, smiling.

Today, Williams is working on a new series of paintings. He has a museum exhibition scheduled for the Spring 2015, at Burroughs and Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, where he will show works that reflect an issue dear to his heart.

“I have had multiple near drowning incidents in my past,” he says. “I have taken swimming lesson, but never been a confident swimmer.”

Williams has been researching the history of swimming, and how slavery and other cultural influences might have affected the African-American community’s relationship with swimming. Through his research, he found that for every Caucasian drowning, there are three African-American drownings.

“We hear all about deaths that result from drugs and violence,” Williams says. “But drownings are like a silent killer in this community.”

For William’s upcoming museum exhibition, he is working on a (social awareness) series of paintings pairing objects such as shoes and jewelry, items he feels the African-American community sees as status symbols, with water environments like pools and shorelines. He hopes this series will shine a light on the importance of focusing on water safety rather than the false security of material things.

Charles Williams truly embodies the spirit of art. Not only is he a master of the techniques that make his work so captivating, but he also processes humility and compassion that shows vibrantly in his work away from the canvas. He has both literally and figuratively taken the scenic route to where he is today…a place where he can create his own landscape.

By Will Rizzo

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