Wayne Braswell’s oil painting of the town of Windsor, the all-brick, steepled church in the background, won best in show.
It was the eleventh-grader’s first attempt at art. The prize — a $2 bill from the local ladies club.
“That was a lot of money in 1968,” he says.
Now at age 72, the retired pipefitter still paints and enters art shows. His oil and acrylic works decorate the walls of various spots in Hampton Roads, including Margie Wiley’s Suffolk office at Freedom Street Partners.
His subjects are small towns, old barns, classic automobiles, livestock and birds, favoring Carolina wrens. He makes his own frames using walnut or aged cypress wood.
“I like old country stuff,” Braswell says.
A friend recently requested he paint a gondola after her recent trip to Italy. Once he painted every railroad station for the 611 train from Smithfield to Disputania.
Some paintings he sells; others he gives away.
Funny thing is Braswell never fancied himself a painter. He spent 32 years as a pipefitter at International Paper in Franklin, where he left his mark. Braswell enjoyed drawing and viewed a piece of chalk and blackboard in any office as an invitation to sketch out a figure.
“Any kind of pipe I’d work on, I’d keep a Sharpie and draw little figures and stuff on it,” he says. “On the elevators, they knew I’d been there from the figures I left.”
Years later, a friend mentioned an art class at that same Windsor church he painted in high school. Not interested in painting, Braswell agreed to go, but only for the drawing portion. A few weeks in, the teacher presented him with four colors in Styrofoam containers, a canvas and a handful of brushes.
“I didn’t come here to paint,” he reminded her.
“You’re going to come here to paint,” she responded. “You’re my best student!”
He hasn’t stopped since. “From that time on, I’ve probably painted every day,” says Braswell, who started with a picture of his Jack Russell Terrier, Ladybug.
An upstairs room in the Windsor home he shares with his wife, Debbie, of 52 years, is his haven. He’s usually got multiple projects going at the same time.
“Every day is a different day; every day is a different painting,” he says. “You’re always learning. That’s what I love about it.”
He enjoys artist Jerry Yarnell and avidly watched Gary and Kathwren Jenkins give demonstrations on PBS. Roses continue to challenge him the most.
“The way the petals are make them difficult,” he says.
Photos of his five grandsons overwhelm his own house these days more than his work. That you might find anywhere — in the Nansemond-Suffolk Art Show, Ducks Windsor Florist, Steamers near the Outer Banks, a restaurant his son, Chris, co-owns, and of course, inside the homes of dozens of local residents.
Braswell never tires of putting brush to canvas.
“Time goes by pretty quick when you paint,” he says. “I’ve got a pile of ideas I want to get to.”