Wagoner, Artist of the Year, wears her heart on her canvas

Jun. 08, 2013 @ 04:50 PM

Joan Wagoner said she loves painting and all the emotional ups and downs that come with it. Right now, those feelings are running high.

Wagoner, the Sanford Brush and Palette Club’s artist of the year, will be honored this coming week with a display of her artwork in the lobby of the BB&T bank near downtown Sanford, located at 200 N. Horner Blvd. A reception in her honor will run from 2-4 p.m. today, and her work will remain on display in the bank until Thursday.

Wagoner, a past president of the club, said she’s honored by the distinction. But an award for painting can’t match the thrill of painting itself, she said.

“When it’s going good, and you see that creation coming, it’s the most satisfying thing,” she said. “It’s the biggest up. And when it goes bad, it’s the biggest down.”

She especially likes when those downs turn around. For example, Wagoner said, she dislikes painting people because she’s never quite satisfied with how they look. One of her earlier works depicts a young woman in a white dress sitting on the beach, and she said the version hanging in her living room — and soon to be adorning BB&T — is actually the second edition. She reworked the first one so many times that she started wearing holes in the canvas, she said, so she had to start over. However, her perseverance paid off, and the painting has gone from frustrating her to earning compliments.

And her growth as a painter wasn’t limited to that one piece. As Wagoner has gained more experience, she has expanded her repertoire — she works mainly in acrylics but also does water colors and collages — as well as the complexity and size of her paintings. The centerpiece of her house is a fairly large garden scene, featuring trees and flowers, a flowing fountain and curving architecture, that she said took her three weeks to complete, working from sunup to sundown.

“She’s quite an artist,” said former club president and 2009 artist of the year Sandy Scott. “Joan has grown considerably in her artwork over the last several years. She uses a lot of colors and does an excellent job.”

Scott said Wagoner was chosen by a panel of former artists of the year, and that the title is mainly an honorary one without many official duties. And what duties there are, such as helping plan the club’s fall show and acting as an arts ambassador in the community, are largely enjoyable, she said.

“Art is fun, period,” Scott said. “We’re all a little crazy — artists are crazy to begin with — but that just makes it more fun.”

In addition to the thrill Wagoner said she gets from watching shapes and scenes emerge on her canvases, she said she also likes reliving many good memories, as much of what she paints is based on photographs from trips she has taken. Scott said Wagoner does an excellent job of portraying those emotions in paint.

“There’s a lot of happiness, a lot of colors, and she puts a lot of forethought into her work,” Scott said.

Wagoner said she’s not sure what she’ll work on next — she has been afflicted by the painting version of writer’s block — but she said it probably won’t be long until she’s back in her backyard studio. She prides herself on being prolific, after all, and said that if she hadn’t given away so much to friends and family, she could probably fill the Civic Center, not just the bank.

Prior to retiring and taking up work as a full-time artist, Wagoner was a Spanish teacher at Lee County High School and later served on the Lee County Board of Education and the N.C. School Board Association. She’s married to William Wagoner, whose family operated Wagoner’s Jewelers in downtown Sanford for many years, although she said jewelry is one type of art she has never been any good at creating.

“Oh no, no, no,” she said about designing jewelry for the store. “I just wear it.”