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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

State of the art

Friday, October 14, 2011

Frank Morgan Sheffield, left, and Eric Parker spend a morning earlier this week working on their folk art at Fisherman's Park.
(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler) [Order this photo]
On a quiet and sunny fall morning earlier this week, as folks trickled into their offices and began sifting through papers, projects and the day's to do list, Eric Parker made his way into an office of a different kind.

Parker and his 66-year-old friend Frank Sheffield laid out their wood panels, lined up their palettes and got to work. The duo would be working at Fisherman's Park.

"I am a folk artist and what I am working on now are some wood panels," said Parker, "I am a full-time artist right now, and I am always doing something."

Themes vary, but often Parker likes to focus on famous musicians.
(T-G Photo by Sadie Fowler)
Parker in the park

Parker prefers to set up shop in a local park, but admits weather limits that desire.

"A lot of times it's too hot, and people won't stop and pay attention," he said. "But I would rather set up in a park; it's more relaxing."

The comfortable fall weather has enabled Parker, who moved to Shelbyville from West Tennessee about five years ago to work on a mural for which he was commissioned, to do what he does best, in the environment he likes best. He works on a variety of mediums, but right now he's etching designs into wood panels and then applying the paint.

Varied visions

"My themes vary," he said. "I'll do still life, a butterfly in a field, and I'll do musicians like Hank Williams Jr. or Ray Charles; you've got to be able to do that if you're in Tennessee. There's a lot of musical culture here and I like to work on things that pertain to Tennessee."

Shortly after moving here years ago, Parker landed a job at a local factory. It paid the bills, but in working nearly seven days a week, Parker lost both his energy and inspiration.

"I never finished the mural (for which he was commissioned to do)," he said, quietly. "I stopped doing my art because I was working all the time ... But I'm more active now than I used to be and I'm optimistic."

This is 'home'

Though he grew up in West Tennessee and has lived and worked in several big cities over the years, Parker says Shelbyville is home for him now. He's married, has friends here and his art is even carried in a couple of local antique shops.

"I am believing that art is going to make a resurgence," said Parker. "A lot of art was destroyed when tornadoes hit (this region of the South) ... The artist's time is going to come. (Artists) are tough, and I remain hopeful."

New friend

Parker has found an assistant in local man Sheffield, and a good one at that.

"He's new, just beginning his career in art, and he has fallen in love with it," Parker said. "I love his style. He has a lot of potential, he's a newfound talent and, being 66 years old, he's inspiring to me and others ... you know, it's never too late."

And while Parker has found a helping hand in Sheffield, you might say Sheffield has found just as much a helping hand in Parker.

Helping hand

Sheffield now lives with his sister in Shelbyville, but he lost his home in a fire some time back.

"He lost everything," Parker said.

But things are looking up now, Parker said, explaining Sheffield found his passion for art when the two men met through a local church group. Parker, who enjoys writing as much as painting, has recently completed an essay about Sheffield.

Parker may be contacted at 735-5206.