Fresh Off the Easel
Couple Pursuing Artistic Dreams In Abingdon
By JOE TENNIS | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER | April 30, 2009*** Published: April 23, 2009 in the Bristol Herald Courier.***
ABINGDON, Va. — Kyle Buckland stood on the brick sidewalks of Abingdon, tightening his easel.
It was a Friday morning, and the sun splattered rays down on the front face of the Cave House Craft Shop.
Buckland stirred his paints.
And he smiled, saying this is how the people of this town have seen him, year after year, on Main Street.
The 25-year-old Buckland has become the plein air painter of Abingdon. This beanie-clad artist paints, outside, with a passion for coloring his canvas with local scenes.
It might be the Summerfield Inn, points around Whitetop Mountain or the Fields-Penn House Museum. He's painted the Victoria & Albert Inn, the Copper Lantern Inn and the Washington County Courthouse.
"I've painted almost every historic building in town," Buckland said.
Over the past 10 years, Buckland figured he has painted about 1,000 scenes. One, a mural-size depiction of Alvarado, Va., hangs in a break room at Johnston Memorial Hospital.
Now, on May 1, 2009, Buckland's art is being celebrated at an artist's reception, held at the newly opened Blue Windmill Galleries, near Zazzy'z, on Abingdon's Main Street.
"I like to create the mood of the subject," Buckland said. "I'm not just painting a tree or a stream. I'm painting the way I feel about the subject matter."
CREATING A FOCUS
Buckland paints the forest but not necessarily the trees. He shows a road but doesn't always fill in the buildings at the edge.
In many works, Buckland leans toward a creative edge, sometimes losing detail in one direction to guide your eye to another.
Yet, when he is commissioned to paint a house portrait, Buckland sharpens his skills – and makes details clearly apparent.
Smiling, Buckland said, "People want their homes to look like photographs of their house."
Born in Wilmington, Del., Buckland moved to Abingdon at age 12. About that time, he met Jennifer Counts, a fellow student at E.B. Stanley Middle School. Both graduated Abingdon High School in 2002. Two months ago, after more than a year of dating, this couple became engaged.
"Dating another artist is an inspiration," Buckland said. "We feed off each other, and we have a lot of respect for each other's artistic abilities."
Counts makes jewelry, including necklaces. She's also a photographer. And, with the encouragement of Buckland, she's learning to paint.
"I'm a problem solver," Counts, 25, said. "I'm willing to take on any challenges. That's what artists do. They're problem solvers. They like to make things work."
These days, these artists want to solve one problem: They just don't want to starve. Each has done odd jobs.
The easy-going Buckland laughed, recalling how many yards he used to cut, tooling around town with a lawnmower in his pickup truck.
Counts, likewise, talked about all the restaurants where she has worked – from Kentucky Fried Chicken to the Damascus Old Mill and Ruby Tuesday's. Now a student at Virginia Highlands Community College, Counts said she might one day teach art in school. "That's my backup plan."
But Buckland, sounding almost headstrong, spoke of how he won't surrender his brush. He's just going to keep on painting. Feast or famine.
"OFF THE EASEL'
As a 16-year-old dishwasher at the old Starving Artist Café, Buckland caught his first big break when his art was chosen for his own exhibit at the restaurant.
Today, the name of that now-defunct eatery seems to have sometimes been bestowed upon Buckland's life journey. Sometimes, he's gotten lucky, selling paintings. Other times, he simply waits for sales of his prints or originals.
On Saturday mornings, you can find both Counts and Buckland selling their artwork, ranging from $4 to $200, at the Abingdon Farmers Market. During the week, you can find their work for sale in Abingdon at either Hidden Memories Antiques or Helen's Fashions.
"These guys make their way pretty good for starving artists," said Kyle's father, John Buckland, who recently opened Blue Windmill Galleries after a 35-year career in the construction business.
Later this year, the young artists – Buckland and Counts – are opening their own Stone Mill Studios inside a section of Blue Windmill Galleries.
"We want to have fresh off the easel works in here," Counts said. "And we want to help out new artists. We want to help get their works out."
They also want to continue to making their own art.
Counts learned how to make jewelry from her father, Andrew Counts. But, like other members of the family, Andrew had to quit making crafts to make a living, Jennifer Counts said.
Counts doesn't want that. Neither does Buckland.
"We watched our parents have to deviate from their art to pay the bills," Kyle Buckland said. "And it's important for us to stay on our path with our art and to be able to live out that dream and be established as artists."
YOU SHOULD KNOW
What: Kyle Buckland's "Landscapes/Street Scenes"
Where: Blue Windmill Galleries (next to Zazzy'z), 370 E. Main St., Abingdon, Va.
When: May 1-June 19, 2009, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesdays to Saturdays
Info: (276) 608-9903
What: House portraits by Kyle Buckland
Info: (276) 608-9904