Dempsey Essick is a self taught, self expressed realist watercolor artist. He is known as the Hummingbird Bird Artist; not only for the hummingbirds he paints but for the hidden hummingbirds he hides in his paintings.
Occasionally an artist will find a subject so compelling that he simply must return, perhaps more than once, to display all its facets. For Dempsey Essick, the Carrington-Carr House at Two Meeting Street in Charleston, South Carolina, is such a subject.
After doing three paintings at the location ("View from the Veranda", "Morning Coffee", and "Afternoon Tea") from a point of view looking outward from the arched veranda, Dempsey has figuratively stepped off of the veranda and walked out to the street for a look back a the magnificent building.
The task Dempsey had set for himself in undertaking the Two Meeting Street painting was daunting. With a reputation as one of the South¹s leading realist painters, Dempsey could not skimp or gloss over any aspect of the scene. Each brick, board, bush, blossom, and balustrade had to be depicted honestly and in scale with the overall scene. More importantly, the character of the house had to be the dominant and ruling factor of the finished picture.
There was no way he could do the painting from a distance using photographs and sketches. It was imperative that he be on the scene as each aspect of the finished painting developed. For this reason he rented a small apartment where he could get the solitude he required and where he could go daily to sketch and refresh his memory. He worked twelve and fourteen-hour days and Shelley noticed in their nightly phone call that we was sounding groggy. So she called a meeting of their Movie Club who agreed to meet Dempsey at Myrtle Beach for a weekend of rest and relaxation.
At the last minute Dempsey decided that it wouldn’t be safe to leave the partially completed painting in the apartment so he taped it between two large pieces of corrugated cardboard (the non-traditional way to transport a valued original painting) and he took it with him. The group had great fun and Dempsey had a mental break.
By 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning, they had checked out and loaded their cars but then decided not to leave until noon so that the Lexington bunch would miss the race traffic. At 11:50 they were sitting in the lobby of the hotel playing cards when they noticed one of the maids dragging a large piece of cardboard en route to the dumpster that stood open and waiting. Shelley hollered and Dempsey bolted. THE PAINTING HAD BEEN LEFT IN THE ROOM! Ten minutes more and all would have been lost. Dempsey said, "I'm usually pretty laid back, but this time I saw my life flash before my eyes."
Well anyway, they saved the painting. Dempsey went back to the apartment and, after several more weeks (an estimated 832 working hours), he had finished the masterpiece titled "Two Meeting Street" though there was some consideration for calling it "The Cardboard Caper".
There is no record of how painters in the past transported their work. In Rembrandt's time there was no corrugated cardboard. Likewise Van Gogh did cut off his ear. Do you suppose he lost a painting and whacked off the ear in a fit of despair?
Anyhow, all's well etc. Shelley said it was the fastest she'd seen Dempsey move since they were in high school. And Dempsey still has both ears.
Viewers will be astounded at the fine detail, the control of color, and the balance of the finished painting. "Two Meeting Street" is, by any measure, the pinnacle of Dempsey Essick’s career to date.