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Chris Clayton has spent part of his life as an artist painting scenes of Southern history. Now, he'll be helping take a part of the Lowcountry art world into the future.
Clayton is the new president of the Society of Bluffton Artists, a nonprofit organization with about 100 members.
The native Englishman talks about his interest in the Civil War, his introduction to art and the future of the Society of Bluffton Artists.
Question. How's everything with the Society of Bluffton Artists?
Answer. I'm retired, but you'd never know it. (The society) appeals to me in that it's an all-volunteer organization. The town of Bluffton let's us have our building for basically free. I'm involved in a lot of things. I'm vice president of the Lowcountry Civil War Roundtable. I'm also chairman of a science fair judges association. There's a lot of activity. But I thoroughly enjoy it.
Q. What are your plans for SoBA?
A. We're obviously not doing that well in terms of finances because of the general economy. Art is probably the last thing that recovers. We're not there yet. We will have to do some fundraising this year. One of the ideas is to have a photographic competition. It would be open to the public and the idea is that we're going to tie it in to the Bluffton Historical Society, maybe even have it at one of their old homes. The subject would be "Old Bluffton."
I've noticed that in a lot of the shows on Hilton Head and Bluffton, an increasing number of what we have is photographs. The advances in technology are allowing people to produce excellent work. You can also produce a photograph for less and charge less for it. We find that photographs are selling better than regular artwork.
Q. Why the interest in the Civil War?
A. I first came to America 40-odd years ago to work on the lunar landing program. It was at the time when a lot of engineers like myself were coming here. I had read some American history, but I didn't know a lot. So I started to read when I got here just to know what America was, where it's been and so on. The subject of the Civil War is imbedded in the history of this country. I just got hooked. Now I give lectures on it.
Q. When did you get serious again about art?
A. I used to paint when I was younger. When we moved to the U.S., I worked in Cincinnati on jet engines. I went to the fine arts college in Cincinnati for night school. I exhibited a bit, but eventually I became an executive at (General Electric) and there weren't enough hours in the day to paint. As part of my career, I traveled around the world, and I took the opportunity to go to different galleries. I always kept interest. I retired and never had the intention to paint. My wife and I went to a Van Gogh exhibit in Atlanta, and we met a lady from Hilton Head. She persuaded me to go to the Hilton Head Art League's academy. So, I did, and the rest is history.