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‘A Tale of Two Styles’

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Article Published: Aug. 22, 2013 | Modified: Aug. 22, 2013
‘A Tale of Two Styles’

'Sunday Morning in Blowing Rock' by Sheila Wood Hancock

Regionally acclaimed artist Sheila Wood Hancock said she “needed a little change,” so she will tell “A Tale of Two Styles,” as she unveils her new palette knife paintings in a style very different from the impressionist landscapes for which she is known.

Alta Vista Gallery in Valle Crucis will host an artist reception for Hancock this Saturday, Aug. 24, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The public is invited to meet Hancock and enjoy refreshments from Shelton Vineyards.

Hancock’s new style features figures in the foreground of mountain scenes, such as Biltmore House in Asheville and St. Mary of the Hills Church in Blowing Rock.

The show will also feature new paintings in her customary style: atmospheric, soft impressionist oils, featuring subjects, such as mountain streams and views, farms, red barns and deer or cows grazing. These oils range in sizes from five by seven inches to 24 by 30 inches.

When asked why she developed her new, more abstract palette-knife style of oil painting, when her traditional oils already sell so well, Hancock laughed and replied, “I love painting in the traditional impressionist style, because it captures the beauty of our High Country so well … but I just needed a little change.

“However, I am finding that these palette-knife paintings do mesh well with my usual style, and my customers seem to like both styles.”

Alta Vista Gallery owner Maria Santomasso-Hyde said, “For my gallery, it’s exciting to have Hancock’s new style of work in here, because it’s so very different from anything else that we have in the gallery. I have over 100 artists in here, but there is nothing similar to these, even the other palette-knife paintings, because Hancock’s figures are more abstracted, and the buildings are more detailed. It’s amazing, the amount of detail she can get with a palette-knife.”

That detail is shown in the artist’s favorite painting, “Sunday Morning in Blowing Rock,” which depicts church-goers approaching St. Mary of the Hills Church, which is captured in detail.

“I’ve wanted to create a painting of that church for many years,” Hancock said. “It’s such a lovely church, so it just begged me to paint it. I get very excited when I can put on canvas a scene that I have fallen in love with.”

Overall, Hancock’s favorite subject to paint is water: rivers and lakes and the reflections in them. Many of her new works in the traditional impressionist style feature High Country waterways and often include cows sipping water.

Hancock enjoys watching the cows graze near her home in Boone, so much so that they appear in many of her oil paintings.

“Cows just seem so peaceful,” she said. “And I hope to convey a peaceful quality in my paintings. Cows and deer add life to paintings and add contrast to the lush greens we have in our trees, laurel and moss.

“The paintings for my current show at Alta Vista Gallery were painted with the comforting feeling that I get being in my much loved mountains. Everywhere you look near my home in Boone, you see cows, and around my house are also deer eating the apples and drinking from the creek. This new show reflects the feelings I have for these local scenes, and my hope is that viewers will feel the passion that I do about our lovely High Country.”

For those who love deer, there is also a piece that features them prominently, as the new paintings show a variety of scenes, such as Howard’s Creek Mill, a barn on U.S. 221 and various farms and scenes around Boone and Valle Crucis.

“My favorite painting,” Hyde said, “shows structures bathed in the last light of day — an exquisite play of light and shadow.”

Hancock said, “I really do paint many different subjects, but I’m most inspired by the beauty of our landscape. I know I’ve got a good painting when I lose myself in the painting as I paint. I’ve been told by customers that they lose themselves in the paintings too, which makes me happy.”

Hancock has been painting since childhood and now paints six hours per day.

“One of my greatest passions is our home in Boone where the air feels so good and the scenery magnificent,” she said. “I never get tired of painting our mountains.”

“Hancock’s oils are really popular with my customers,” Hyde said. “People often comment on how the Hancock paintings make them feel peaceful and relaxed. She paints in a soft, ethereal color palette of earth tones, the types of scenes that we would all love to walk into and explore.”

“You just can’t beat the vistas in the High Country area,” Hancock said. “It’s just beautiful, and it works perfectly with my color palette. I love painting in Europe, but I find my greatest inspiration right here in the High Country.”

Hancock paints with that soft, atmospheric palette on purpose. Hancock’s colors are soothing, Hyde said, such as grayed-down greens paired with distant blue mountains — colors reminiscent of Monet and Pissarro.

As a former psychologist before becoming a fulltime artist, Hancock enjoys the fact that customers say her paintings make them feel relaxed.

“Then, the bit of red that I include adds warmth to those cool, calming colors,” she said. “It gives balance.”

Hancock said that she is “inspired tremendously by the impressionists who use a very soft, neutral palette. I’ve tried to keep that palette since, in my opinion, it is easy to live for a lifetime with a soft painting.”

Hancock has studied with some of the most celebrated landscape artists in the United States, such as Dee Beard Dean, Bill Davidson and Richard Oversmith.

“Each of these painters has added a layer to my painting ability while encouraging me to explore and develop my own style,” she said. “I also plan to take another master’s workshop for professional painters. These workshops give me a boost and a fresh perspective.”

Alta Vista Gallery hosts receptions on every fourth Saturday, from June through October, as part of the Greater Avery Tour de Art. Tour maps are available at the gallery.

The Hancock show will hang until mid-September, when the gallery will feature new oils by Jean Pollock.

Alta Vista Gallery shows 100 artists in oils, watercolors, pastels and prints, as well as stained glass, fused glass, handmade jewelry, art tiles and Mangum pottery.

The gallery is located 10 minutes from Boone in a National Register of Historic Places farmhouse at 2839 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis, between Mast Farm Inn and Mast Store Annex. For a map and directions, visit, call the gallery at (828) 963-5247 or visit the gallery’s page on Facebook.

Gallery Times

Gallery Times is a weekly news feature of The Mountain Times, featuring news items submitted by local galleries.

For more information or to make a submission, contact editor Frank Ruggiero at ( or (828) 264-6397.

Additional Images

'Sunday Morning in Blowing Rock' by Sheila Wood Hancock

'A Walk in the Mountains' by Sheila Wood Hancock

'Cocktails at Biltmore House' by Sheila Wood Hancock

'Cows in the Meadow' by Sheila Wood Hancock

'Farm on 221' by Sheila Wood Hancock

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