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Photos by Hannah Hunsinger, The Sanford Herald John Wicker, an art teacher at Central Carolina Community ... (more)
By Zach Potter, The Sanford Herald
Published April 1, 2015
SANFORD - John Wicker enjoys drawing and painting just as much now as he did as a boy. But the 89-year-old Central Carolina Community College art professor would never have imagined he would be teaching eager students how to master watercolors.
"When I was little, I colored whole rooms full of coloring books," Wicker said. "But I never intended to teach. I got into it in sort of an odd way. I was working as a produce manager at the A & P grocery store in the late 60s. A lady at the community college had seen some of my paintings, and she asked if I'd like to teach."
Wicker got his start in painting with the Sanford Brush and Pallete Club shortly after its founding in 1964. He's been an institution at the college and Sanford ever since.
"He is beloved," Diana Atkins said of Wicker as she painted a flower during one of his watercolor classes earlier this month. "He is our hero. He has a wonderful sense of humor and he makes his classes fun and relaxed. It's always a more creative atmosphere because of John Wicker."
The key to becoming a successful artist, he said, is simply enjoying the work.
"You have to like to do it to begin with," Wicker said. "You have to be willing to experiment, to figure out what is the particular thing you do well and get better at it. And you also have to work on the things you don't do as well."
Wicker suffered a heart attack earlier this year and had to postpone some of his classes, which are now up and running. He teaches two sections of watercolor and one section of colored pencil. His classes are so popular that many students sign up for the courses year after year.
"I've been taking classes now on and off for 17 years," said Bob Will as he added the finishing touches to his own flower painting. "We admire John very much."
Wicker has painted in almost every medium there is, but watercolor always has been his favorite.
"That's what I'm best at," he said. "That's what I teach. When I paint with oils, I tend to get more on me than on the board."
Wicker was born in Moore County and spent two years in New York before joining the Navy during World War II. He's lived in Sanford since 1954 and couldn't imagine living anywhere else.
"I just like it here," Wicker said. "I've worked in Chapel Hill and Southern Pines. But Sanford is close to home. More than anything, I'm just glad I'm still able to teach."
Wicker teaches watercolor classes from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Lee County Enrichment Center. He teaches a colored pencil class from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays at the W.B. Wicker Civic Center.
For information on how to register for one of Wicker's courses, visit www.cccc.edu/ecd/registration or call the CCCC Sanford campus at (919) 718-7500.
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