Painting Stories…the Chicken Man

Dear Reader:

Isn’t it strange how we can become so accustomed to the sights around us (even in our own homes) that we soon neglect to really see what is there?

That is what happened with this painting from the famous “Chicken Man” …folk art painter from Columbia, South Carolina. Since Libby and Jackson live in Columbia they were the first ones to introduce Brooke and myself to this delightful artist several years ago.

We loved his works so much we decided to give each Ya a painting for her birthday so we would all have a memento of the fun times when we met Ernest and shared lots of laughs .

For those of you who don’t know anything about the “Chicken Man” here is a newspaper paragraph on him (Columbia City newspaper) to introduce you.

“Ernest Lee…the Chicken Man”

Folk artist Ernest Lee is best known as “The Chicken Man.” He describes his unique brand of folk art as a process that “I do [paint] from my heart, not from pictures.” “Be what you are, don’t be what you ain’t. Because if you be what you ain’t, then you ain’t what you are.” – Ernest Lee.

A native of Edgefield, South Carolina, Ernest Lee has been drawing since he was 5 years old and painting since he was 12. While considered an “outsider artist” Ernest has studied art at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Alexandria, VA., and the Rose Hill Art Center in Aiken, SC. A prolific artist he is currently best known for his dancing chicken paintings though he also paints dogs, cats, flamingos, and celebrities.

Ernest is well known in Columbia, SC, where for many years he maintained an outdoor street corner gallery with his van and trailer. Ernest’s work has been exhibited in such places as the South Carolina State Museum, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Washington, DC.

Unfortunately it is harder to find the “Chicken Man” now because of the tremendous growth of USC and the race to find more land for student housing…Ernest Lee has been driven from his once favorite haunts that made him an easy and dependable find for those seeking his artworks.

When it came time to surprise me for my birthday (that year)…the Ya’s took a piece of paper and gave Ernest information about me like… the number of family members at the time and objects that gave special meaning to me…benchmarks of my life.. The result: Amazing!….

For easier viewing…I took my Iphone and divided the figures and objects up to get a closer shot of each one….here we go. (From left to right)

The chicken figures (from L to R) are John, Mandy (Eva Cate in pink) Mollie (expecting with Rutledge) Walsh and Tommy. This picture was painted almost five years ago. (Lots of “little chickens” have been added since then plus another beautiful female chicken named Kaitlyn.)

I am the chicken sitting on the rock above them beside a slab that says 1002. This was when I had just beat Scheherazade and her 1001 Arabian Nights stories…by telling 1002 stories to break her record in a fun blog contest. (See blog cover page…on the upper right column for the story behind this contest)

  The bumblebee above me stands for the symbol of mother who raised three children as a single parent with a single hand. The connection is the anecdote that reads: “The Bumblebee Can Not Fly”

According to recognized and aerotechnical tests, the bumblebee can not fly because of the shape and weight of his body in relation to the total wing area. But…the bumblebee doesn’t know this, so she goes ahead and flies anyway.”

Mom didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be able to raise three small children with one hand either…but she did and what a job she did! Love you mom!

And finally the flying dolphin…a reminder of my encounter with a jumping dolphin early one foggy morning on the beach at Edisto…I have never forgotten this incredible encounter and the message I sensed from this beautiful creature of the universe: ” Don’t worry…Everything is just the way it should be …you are good…go live your life.”

Ernest Lee let the winking sun be my “God Wink.”

He concluded the painting with the little chapel in the the woods…St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope that provided me with the courage and hope to start a blog and tell my story.

So until tomorrow….Thank you Ya’s for this amazing commemorative painting of my life since first walking into the chapel in July of 2010…seven years ago! What an amazing journey we have all been on together.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Lachlan and Rutledge came to visit Boo last evening…some friends of Mollie and Walsh were in Summerville and they got together. It was good to see my boys.

Eva Cate and Jakie got their teeth cleaned at the dentist and got to go to the park as their reward.

Little Caleb (Brooke’s grandson) climbed his first tree. The first of many such adventures!



About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Painting Stories…the Chicken Man

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Don’t you love having the grands drop by…

    On Jul 21, 2017 6:06 AM, “Chapel of Hope Stories” wrote:

    > Becky Dingle posted: ” Dear Reader: Isn’t it strange how we can become so > accustomed to the sights around us (even in our own homes) that we soon > neglect to really see what is there? That is what happened with this > painting from the famous “Chicken Man” …folk art pa” >


  2. bcparkison says:

    Well…I do love the Chicken Mans quote. Perfect for us all to remember.


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