It all started as a way to pass time.
Charles Wimpee, an 84-year-old retired truck driver, would paint in his room and leave his work at the entrance of The Gardens of Rome with a sign that read “free take one.”
The business office manger of the assisted living facility Renee Brown began noticing the work and immediately took a liking to it. Brown said she helped herself to one, and then another. Brown said she didn’t want to be greedy with Wimpee’s art and approached him about putting his artwork at the Finster Fest at Paradise Gardens.
“At first he didn’t want to,” Brown said. “But eventually he agreed. He finds it hard to believe anyone likes his art.”
Wimpees art depict people and animals in colorful scenes set around the country. The artist paints from his memories as a truck driver, a 30-plus year career that took him around the country.
“(I’ve) seen a little bit of everything,” Wimpees said. “(You) can see some things out there that you never would have dreamed of seeing.”
During one of his trips to Washington, Wimpee recalls seeing Mount St. Helens erupt. Other than volcano eruptions, he has seen tornadoes cross the road in front of him, along with all other kinds of weather.
Wimpee’s art doesn’t reflect the wild weather he experienced, instead it focuses on the good memories of his life. “I’ve lived a wonderful life,” he said.
His art was a hit at Finster Fest this year, Brown said, with around half of the art he took being sold. One man from Florida bought 10, she said. It was this connection with Paradise Gardens that put Brown and Wimpee in touch with Harbin Clinic.
Sarah Tuck, senior marketing director at Harbin Clinic, said that Wimpee’s art made a good fit for the gallery at Makervillage. “A Painted Life” is the Harbin Clinic Gallery’s third exhibit and will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon through August 24th.
“We are thrilled to have him,” Tuck said.
As Wimpee watched people filter in and out of the exhibit showcasing his work Saturday he said “this is thrilling. It’s almost more than I can stand.”