Local artist Ron Campbell will have his drawings on display at the Montgomery Museum beginning July 13.
CHRISTIANSBURG–During July and August, the Montgomery museum will host an exhibition in the Lewis Miller Gallery featuring the pen and ink artwork of Ron Campbell.
Campbell has been a fixture on the Floyd art scene for many years. He is known not only for his exquisite drawing skills, but also as an art teacher. His students affectionately call themselves “Barnies” in reference to the barns frequently featured in his compositions. Regarding subject matter he admits, “I do mostly landscapes and structures. I tell my students I won’t be teaching them how to draw flowers.”
Campbell’s willingness to share his techniques with students is refreshing. He states, “People are afraid to draw because of technicalities such as linear and atmospheric perspective. But with my method of teaching students don’t even need to establish a vanishing point.” He begins his own drawings in pencil before adding ink. Once the drawing is complete he makes several high quality prints for testing colors. Using watercolor pencils he lays down pigment which is then blended with wet brushes. When the color scheme is worked out he returns to the original for the final coloring.
While he has been drawing since high school, it was only after Campbell moved to Floyd that his work reached the public. He explains, “Marie Daniels at the Jacksonville Center for the Arts recognized something in my drawings and encouraged me to show my art. I was surprised when they began to sell.” Ironically, Campbell and his wife did not even know of Floyd’s reputation as an art community before locating there. He states, “I had ties to Farmville and my wife went to Virginia Tech. We were looking for a place to settle somewhere between those two locations and by chance we ended up here.”
The land they purchased offers spectacular vistas for artistic inspiration. However, a simple tree on their property became the first subject for his most popular drawings: his tree house series. “Maggie’s Tree House” was named for his niece. Hidden in the drawing are the names of the eleven children who once played in this
tree. He says, “My tree house drawings are whimsical creations of adventure pulled from my imagination and they are not for the faint of heart.” They include spiral staircases, zip lines, Frisbees, and kids pulling dogs up by ropes.” “Noah’s Tree House” has a nautical theme. The “Morning Town” tree was based on the 1960s hit song “Morning Town Ride” by the Seekers. The latest in the series is “Truett’s Tree House”. Campbell flew a drone to photograph the tree from above, establishing a unique perspective for this drawing.
Many of Campbell’s compositions have stories behind them. He explains, “When I asked permission to draw the barn for ‘Victoria, Shall We Dance?’ the owner told me it had an oak hardwood floor in the loft. Every Friday night dances were once held there.” Appropriately Campbell chose to stage the scene at night with the barn lit from within. In “Waiting for Pop” a dog and cat sit patiently on the front porch leaving the viewer to wonder just who Pop is and where he might be. The two animals are highlighted by a bit of color. Campbell frequently limits his use of color to whatever aspect of the drawing he wants the viewer to focus on.
When not teaching or drawing Campbell can often be found in his framing studio. He and his wife mat and frame work for many artists in the region. The studio is housed in the bottom floor of a log structure he built with his own hands. This art enclave includes a large open area for teaching classes and a broad deck that wraps around the building, perfect for plein air work.
A considerable amount of Campbell’s art is commission work ranging in subject matter from old homesteads to an orphan eastern meadowlark chick. However, he laments, “I have a million ideas for my own art and have yet to hit the drawing I want to accomplish. I want to bring more emotion into my art. I am never satisfied.” These goals are a big reason his following continues to grow.
The public is invited to a reception for the exhibit on Thursday, July 13 from 5-7 p.m. at the Montgomery Museum on 300 Pepper St., Christiansburg. Light refreshments will be served.
— Fred Jones