I am so excited to be kicking off my Featured Artist Friday with one of my favorite artists in South Carolina, Ernest Lee AKA "The Chicken Man". I have owned his paintings for as long as I can remember, and I admire not only his work but his love for the arts.
What is the normal day like in the life of an artist?
"Just like anybody else. There are ups and downs. I get to meet all types of people."
When did you first get involved in the arts?
"At the age of five... and I've been doing it now for 51 years. I've been drawing and painting since I was five. I'm 56 now. Ill be 57 in March."
Did your school provide arts training?
"I was more doing it in high school but they had a little arts stuff probably when I was smaller years but mostly just high school. I can't remember elementary school. It was too far back. I went to Strom Thurmond High School... in Edgefield. It's a small town."
What made you choose a profession in the arts?
"I wanted to do it because I was born with it. Oh I love doing it too yeah. Oh I love it. Thats the main thing I love...the people. I love doing it."
What would you like to see happen with the arts in our community and within our school systems?
"If they would build a big building like a big dome and just have like an art institute where every artist can teach the kids how to paint and draw. Something like that. They can have their art in the building and teach the kids what they know. Like an art school with the artists that are struggling like me. All the artists around town that got art can teach and use the building as their art space. It can be like an art mall. An art institute. I think they would do that."
"Draw on a bus or a car or a plane. Wherever you are. Just be drawing all the time because lots of practice makes you better and better. A lot of drawing. It is important what you do with your time. It is VERY important what you do with your time. A lot of people take it for granted."
At the end of our interview he told me to quote him. He then continued to show me a certificate that had his "famous" quote on it. He said,
"Be what you are. Don't be what you ain't! ...because if you be what you ain't, then you ain't what you are."
You can visit The Chicken Man on the corner of Gervais Street and Oak Street in Columbia. For the next few weeks he is running a special of $45 a painting for either the big or the small. Hurry before it ends! Stay tuned for next week's #FeaturedArtistFriday!