What’s new with watercolorist Ferrel Cordle is (still) old stuff.
Cordle has been painting since retirement in 2008, and has established his niche in nostalgia. He harkens back to days when he stoked fire in a wood stove so his grandmother could bake mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits that would be slathered in hand-churned butter and topped with a hot blackberries mixture hauled home in five gallon buckets. Cackleberries depicts eggs in a wire basket, Churn is that butter churn and The Baker’s Choice reveals Grandma’s favored brand of flour positioned next to a sifter.
He loves rust, so he paints images of aged infrastructure—including an historically important bridge in Whitehall—cars, tractors and trains. A rusty old car is simply Tired, with focus on the spare.
He loves animals. He has painted lifelike portraits of pets, and a prize-winning portrayal of harnessed mules. And he loves people, rendering many family photos into black and white watercolors.
He also expresses whimsy well. A series featuring Ball canning jars includes Ball and Jacks. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag stands Mr. Potato Head, potato masher in hand, next to a grater and a meticulously textured gunny sack.
Cordle’s paintings have an honest, straightforward look, with lots of white space. “You don’t have to fill every space,” he said. “Keep them simple. Focus on the subject.” Previous work with photography has helped him notice and capture light and shadows, especially in his black and white paintings. Translucence of glass canning jars is achieved by careful attention to glass thickness, highlights, shadows and shading. A 40-year career in graphic arts also laid down proficiencies in digital image manipulation. To compose some paintings, he culls images from various online sources and composes them in a setting before painting. He has created 150 paintings since retiring 10 years ago.
“I just want to leave something to prove I existed,” he said.
Ferrel’s original paintings are available in the Nuveen Center’s gallery, as are his $30 matted prints.