NC Literary Hall of Fame




Stephen Shoemaker: The Paintings and Their Stories by Stephen Shoemaker and Janet Pittard

McFarland & Company
$40, paperback
ISBN: 978-0-7864-7467-7 (paper) / 978-1-4766-0348-3 (e-book)
April, 2013
Art / Essay
Available at your local bookstore or

Have you ever looked at a painting and wondered what the story was behind it? Two North Carolina natives, artist Stephen Shoemaker and writer Janet Pittard, have teamed up to present a selection of Shoemaker's paintings and the stories behind them.

The Virginia Creeper, a train that ran from Todd, North Carolina, to Abingdon, Virginia, from the early 1900s through the mid-late 1970s, is a favorite subject of Shoemaker's and figures prominently in the book, reflecting its influence on the culture and history of Shoemaker's mountain home.

The book features forty-eight images, including the eight watercolors in Shoemaker's Virginia Creeper series and many paintings and drawings created especially for the publication. The thirty-two stories, spun together by Pittard over a two-year period of interviews and conversations with the artist, are an eclectic blend of humor, adventure, and tragedy.

The result is a scrapbook of the artist's life growing up in a small town and his development as an artist, full of insights into the thought process involved in creating his artwork, sources of inspiration, and the clues or symbols incorporated in the scenes he creates. The narrative is peppered with short poems by Pittard, adding another dimension to the text and an element of the unexpected.

Told in Shoemaker's voice, Pittard's text is informal and entertaining, geared toward a general audience, suitable for children, as well as adults, particularly train buffs, lovers of regional history, and fans of Shoemaker's work.

Stephen Shoemaker is a nationally known artist from West Jefferson, North Carolina, best known for his detailed paintings of the train called the Virginia Creeper. Shoemaker's work has been exhibited at the Mint Museum and Queen's Gallery in Charlotte and regularly at the Ashe County Arts Council. He is also co-owner and designer for the Appalachian Mint, LLC. His studio is located in downtown West Jefferson, his hometown.

Janet Pittard is a freelance writer whose work appeared in Our State and Signature magazines from 2003 to 2009. Pittard has also written for UNC-TV's Our State program, and, more recently was published in Mountain Memoirs: An Ashe County Anthology, edited by Chris Arvidson, Julie Townsend, and Scot Pope and released by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in Charlotte in 2012. A native of Southern Pines, Pittard now lives in Raleigh and West Jefferson.

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