From personnel reports
Artist and resident of Hickory Kent Paulette recently donated a large bear painting to Grandfather Mountain. It hangs permanently on the wall at Grandfather Mountain above the entrance to the newly redesigned Nature Museum at The Wilson Center for Nature Discovery.
The project has been in the works since 2019, when Paulette first proposed the idea of creating and donating an original bear painting for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. He met Jesse Pope and Lesley Platek, and they discussed the upcoming major expansion of the Nature Museum and possible places to hang the painting. It is the largest painting Paulette had ever made, 3 meters wide and 2 meters high.
Paulette about his inspiration for the painting
Grandfather Mountain is such a special place to me. This painting was inspired by my visits to the wildlife habitats and seeing the bears there. I collected water from a waterfall at Grandfather Mountain and mixed the water directly with paint to stain the canvas with my Creek Washes. A bear came to visit my home studio while I was working on this painting outside on my patio. I think he would come see the painting because I hadn’t seen a bear there in three years.
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I walked to the creek in my backyard early in the morning before starting this painting. I stuck my face in the creek and also collected a few bottles of creek water to mix with the paint along with the water from Grandfatherberg.
During my walk I went to a special tree and spoke in my deepest voice the words “Ancient Sycamooooore” in its hollow base. Four crows called and led me to my destination, Corky Wok Rock. White laurel flowers hung over the creek and I was greeted by songbirds. Entering the hallway through large boulders, I saw beautiful pink laurel flowers on the other side of the creek. After I finished collecting water, the crows and a hummingbird drove me back home to my studio, where I could hear the water rushing from the creek below.
I painted outside on my patio in May 2022 during a week of extremely heavy rain. The rainwater helped keep the canvas wet while I painted my Creek Washes so the colors could continue to blend together instead of drying as I went. It was a collaboration with rain and wind. The wind blew the rain randomly over me and kept me going. It also blew my tarpaulin, which took paint from one spot on the painting and painted it on the canvas in another spot. The rain trickled down and pressed the volume controls on my speakers, causing my music to suddenly surge in volume. It’s as if the rain wants to emphasize certain lyrics and parts of songs.
A “Grandfather” Long Legs was also my co-worker. It hung on the front of the canvas the entire time I worked on the painting. Later I found sunflower seeds in the back corner of the canvas, so I think I also had a little mouse or chipmunk helper. When I was done, more animals came by to see the painting, including a rattlesnake and a mama rabbit.
I used a huge palette knife to paint the thick texture and a brush to paint my Creek Washes and the geometric shapes. While I was working on the painting, I was wearing clothes that I had inherited from my grandfather, Harold Sewell. I used childhood t-shirts to wipe paint off the canvas and clean my tools. One of the rain covers I used was our old yellow Slip ‘N Slide from when I was a kid, which brought back happy memories of summer with my family.
The painting covered the sliding glass door in my bedroom, so every morning I woke up to see huge bear eyes watching me. The sunrise shone through the canvas and I could see the bear even though I looked at the back of the painting. The painting is so large that it can also be seen from another hilltop 800 meters away.