A Storyteller Extraordinaire: Richard Hedgecock
By NJ Clausen
There is an old saying that every picture tells a story… and when you talk with Kernersville’s own Richard Hedgecock, you learn that every picture also has a story. Richard’s philosophy is that the good Lord puts you where you need to be, and he referenced Romans 8:28. Richard was a kid who roamed the woods and played ball…and drew pictures in church. He went to church with his father and as the preachers talked about things he did not understand, he would entertain himself with a pencil. He liked to draw the people who were falling asleep as they were good models who held still.
In second grade, after a friend got a red ribbon for his submission to a school art show, he realized you could get a little attention for your work, and that was the start of his motivation with art. He received three blue ribbons in the following years art show. There was no art offered in the public school until his senior year, which was also the first year of East Forsyth High School where he participated in athletics (football, basketball & baseball) and was finally able to take an art class again. With baseball, Richard had an opportunity to play in an all-star game in Greenville, where he was offered a scholarship to play at East Carolina. At ECU he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a major in sculpture and a minor in painting. One of his early works, ‘Bird of Paradise’ is displayed at his Main Street location.
Richard joined the Army during the Vietnam War. The military offered education, and as Richard wanted something close to art, he chose Photogrammetry. Stationed in Germany, Richard had the opportunity to travel, including trips to museums and seeing many of the wonderful paintings created by artists in person, not just in a history class. The lasting impression was that no matter what he does, he is kept humble by the masters of the past.
Upon his return to the USA, he realized he had seen a great deal of Europe, but not much of America. Richard traveled the country visiting friends and family along the way and then he went back to school at Winston-Salem State, earning a teaching certificate. He taught art and coached baseball, basketball, and football at East Forsyth. An opportunity arose to illustrate chapters for a book in Canada, where he stayed at Fort Henry with around a dozen other teachers.
After 6 years, Richard realized that he did not know what he wanted to do, but he knew he was going to leave teaching. He thought about framing and found an old timer doing framing in his house. Richard spent time with him and learned, then found a place on Mountain Street where he provided framing. A short time later the 5 & 10 cent store on Main Street became deserted. A couple bought it and fixed it up. Richard rented there until about 6 months later when the owner asked Richard if he wanted to buy the building. He has now owned it for 24 years. In addition to the original artwork and framing –which Richard is happy to let Corby, a tremendous framer and artist handle – there are also art classes held in the building.
Richard states that God gave him a gift and he wants to share it. He tells his students that the best critique he ever had was while in the service. He created an image of a child of prosperity and a child of abject poverty. When one of the guys asked if he had ever seen a starving child, he replied that he had not. Richard was then asked, ‘Why are you painting something you don’t know anything about?’ From that point on, Richard decided that his art was going to be of things he has experienced.
After 16 years of dating, Richard married Penny. Penny is a true lover of animals, and in the art gallery there are pictures of many of the fur friends. One of the pictures Richard had done was a watercolor of a moss bank. It was lovely…but it did not have a story. Twenty years later Richard did an oil painting with the moss bank, 2 hounds on the top and a fox hiding underneath… NOW the picture had a story! All the paintings Richard has done (excluding commission work) remind him of where he has been and what he has lived; he is inside the storyline.
Richard had an opportunity through a cousin of Penny to create a label for Le Bleu water. Years ago, Kernersville had a horse show on the 4th of July. Richard followed a man with 2 draft horses and a wagon and took pictures. The resulting original oil was sent to President George H. Bush and is still used on the label today.
He says that everyone has a book of experiences within them, so he felt like he needed to create a book. It took about 5 years, but his coffee table book became a reality, which he considers somewhat of an autobiography. Richard feels that you can shrink everything to the essence, which becomes the title of a work.
The paintings that have brought him the greatest joy are the ones of his grandkids. He likes ideas, how you conceptualize it and make it a reality. When asked if he had a future project in mind, Richard responded ‘Not yet, but I would like do something that somebody would look at and cry.’
“Richard represents the best of Kernersville.” – Neal Stockton
“You would have to look long and hard to find anyone better than Richard Hedgecock—once a friend, always a friend.” – Wayne Mabe
“Richard is so gentle in his guidance. Fun classes—guided but not rigid, a relaxed environment and an art show at the end!” – Karen Affeldt
“One thing about Richard—he is a man for all seasons. He is very humble and very giving, and there are many unspoken acts of kindness. I have never seen him upset…he is slow and steady. No matter the circumstances, there is always a silver lining. Thank goodness for these people who view through the lens of compassion. We can all take a lesson of living and enjoying life.” – David Fitzpatrick