1965 Paper Backed, Spiral Bound, Blue, 8 1/2" x 11"; front cover disconnected.
As this is the first sketch book in a series of life works, it seems beneficial in the informative sense that some description of my background and childhood be provided here as a type of introduction to the works, overall.
It is often assumed that those people born in the Western North Carolina Mountains be described as remote, backwards, deprived and impoverished "hillbillies." However, around the turn of the twentieth century, there were paper and textile industries looking for clean water, abundant forests and cheap labor as an ideal place to build mills. Pigeon Ford (later named Canton) of Haywood Country was just such a place for Ruben B. Robertson, the founder of Champion Paper and Fiber. In Canton, he discovered an abundance of timber on the surrounding mountains, clean water in the beautiful Pigeon River, and plenty of men who were desperate for work.
The town of Canton was where I lived from infancy until the age of thirteen. My family then moved to a community close by called Bethel; the people of this area were mill workers, as well. In summation, I think it could be honestly said that I grew up in a "mill town," very much like any found in the northeast - and not so very remote, backwards, deprived, or impoverished as those who truly lived off the Appalachians. The lives of the farmers and mountain people were hard and required all members of a family to work. The mill child had certain advantages in that the father became the main bread winner which thus allowed the children a childhood, of sorts - school, friends, and time to study, time to play.
However, my heritage, that of my father, specifically, hailed from further back in the mountains than Canton. I am a descendant of the Cable family that is listed among the original settler of Cades Cove, part of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. From Cades Cove, my great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Cable and his family, made their way over the high Appalachian ridge from Cades Cove into Hazel Creek, known as Proctor, NC. Samuel Cable was the second settler in that area, the first being Moses Procter for whom the area was named.
My father was born in Proctor in 1922; his elder and younger brothers were born there, as well.1
In the late 1800's, the Ritter Lumber Company opened in Proctor and became the main source of employment. In the following three decades, all of the virgin forest had been cut and shipped out by Ritter; the pristine environment of Proctor was stripped of all trees of value. In 1924, when Ritter Lumber Company closed its doors, unemployment for those who had relied on the company was a sudden reality.2 News that Champion Paper and Fiber Company in Canton was hiring bought out of one of the most beautiful places in the South Eastern America to the mill town of Canton in Eastern Haywood County; indeed, whole communities had to migrate to whatever hiring opportunity was to be had, regardless of the distance.
Champion Papers was completed in 1904. It has been the major employer for the area from that time until the present, even though the company has changed hands in ownership. Too, the factory itself has faced closure due to pollution regulations and/or flooding.
The original Champion Paper and Fiber Company provided a company store for the employees. There was also employee housing, called Fiberville, adjacent to the mill (over the years Fiberville had been flooded by the Pigeon River the small community was completely destroyed in the floods of 1008 and was no longer inhabitable). In 1928, my grandfather was "hired on" at Champion. He moved his growing family into one of the employee houses in Fiberville and used the company store to clothe and feed his children. My father remembered often how his father came home on paydays with less than a nickel as his wages for the week. This meager show of pay was due to my grandfather's dependence on the company store. Rent, too, was taken for the housing provided by the company.
My father, as did seven of his brothers and one sister, worked at the Champion mill. Their employment began, for the most of them, just after they graduated from Canton High School. My grandparents, impoverished as they were as they were, agreed and promised each other that all of their eleven children would graduate from high school. This goal was proudly achieved in 1961 as the youngest of the family, Ben, received his diploma; afterwards he went directly to work for "the company" as Champion came to be known by all who worked there.
My mother was an only child; her mother and father were from farming families of the area generally known as Leicester, near family, while my grandfather sent money home to provide for them. They were never in one house for any great length of time but moved from one small rental house to another throughout the area as they would find a less expensive place to rent.
My parents met in church; Charles began "courting" Javena within weeks of first being introduced to her. She was thirteen; my father was seventeen.
As World War II began, my father and two of his brothers were drafted out of the mill work into the Army Air Corp. Later a younger Cable brother joined the Navy as soon as he was of age. My parents were married in the summer of 1943, while Dad was on leave from the service. Mother was seventeen; she had just graduated from high school. Dad was 21.
In 1945 my Dad ended his service in the Army Air Corp where he had served as a mechanic for planes (always stateside; he did not have to serve overseas). He returned to Canton, to a small house built for him by my father, he returned to his new wife and two small children, he returned to work for the company.
Both my parents were from very religious families. They remained religious all their lives. My father became a Missionary Baptist minister when I was ten years old. However, he continued his full time employment at Champion, as well.
My old siblings, Sandra and Ray, were born in 1944 and 1945 respectively. I was born in 1949. Ray fell victim to rheumatic fever and died in 1950. Two other brothers followed; Grover in 1952 and Ed in 1954. Our family continued to live in the small house built by my grandfather, on top of a hill just west of Canton; Mingus Hill. The measurement of the original house was 24' x 24' - this was eventually expanded as was needed by the growing family.
The house faced east, toward Canton, toward the expanding paper mill. Our "picture" window was filled with the view of the paper plant, from left to right and almost all the way to the top edge. There was a beautiful view of the distant mountains by that view was just at the top edge of the window.
The mill dominated our lives in various ways; a soaring whistle sounded at 7 AM, marking the time for the day shift; it sounded at twelve noon, for the midday meal; it sounded at 5 PM, quitting time for the day shift. The roaring noise could be heard for miles. People set their watches and clocks by it. All the local schools could hear the mill whistle. Aside from church, the mill was the center of our lives.
One of the things I learned about growing up in a mill town, or being the child of a Champion employee, was that everyone in school, except for the very poor whose parents were farmers or were employed elsewhere in a lower paying job, were pretty much equal. O cannot remember a single time in my childhood another child being envied because they were rich. Most all of the children of Canton, eastern Haywood County, were children of the mill which put them on equal footing for the most part. The greatest distinction one could make on a peer level was that someone's father may have worked as a salaried foreman; that may have given them a small degree of importance. Or perhaps someone's parents ran a successful business, such as a funeral home. Otherwise, distinction between people proved to be more along religious lines; one might have been a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or member of the Holiness Church; all Protestant, though. It wasn't until my senior year in high school that I met someone who was Catholic - this was an exotic distinction, indeed, for that time and place. Interestingly enough, it was that first year of consolidation, 1966, that the schools were integrated ; my first time of attending school with African Americans. And, it wasn't until I was at the University of North Carolina at Asheville that I met someone who was Jewish. Ethnic diversity was simply not of note in early youth.
Growing up within sight of the Champion Paper mill, the smell of the industry was inescapable. I deeply permeated all the environs of Canton. As we lived on a hill just to the west of Champion, we were especially vulnerable to the soot and aerial pollution. When mother washed our clothes and hung them outside on a line to dry, she brought them in as soon as she could to minimize the mill's odor.
After any snowfall, the landscape was not a pristine white, but grayed by the soot from the mill's chimney. We loved the "snow cream" out mother would make for us after a heavy snowfall. However, when we went out to gather bowls of snow, mother would instruct us to scrape away the top layer of the "grayed" snow in order to get to the "white" snow, underneath.
Mother packed Dad's lunch daily in an aluminum lunch box always smelled of Dad's cigarettes, egg salad sandwiches and the ever pervasive stench of the mill.
Actually, the smell of the paper mill was not quite so noticeable unless we were out of town for a few days and then returned. My sister and I had the great fun in summer of spending a week or two with our grandparents in Brevard. When we would return to Canton and rounded the hill to re-enter the town, we were shocked at the hideous odor. If there were people who complained of the smell, the golden reply from local workers would be "it smells like bread and butter to me."
As a child, looking at the Champion mill from the view we had on Mingus Hill, only two miles distance, I would watch in fascination the stream, vapors, and smoke that came from its inner workings. The mill had a tall chimney with the word :Champion" painted vertically down its length. I could not understand what this vast structure was or what it did. I knew that my father worked there; that's how he made money. At night, from out picture window, to my child's eyes the behemoth of a factory seemed like a magic, puffing beast brightly lit; vapors smoke and steam being akin to a dragon, watching it was like watching something unreal and fantastic. At a very early age, I taught myself to blur my eyes when I saw this view. This made it even more fantastical, especially at night it became softened and like a dream.
I knew that this factory produced paper; Champion was a paper mill that made reams of paper - stacks and stacks of it. In our house, as was true of most of the community around "the company," no family who had a mill worker ever lacked for an abundance of white 8 1/2" x 11" pieces of paper. Out household was blessed with lots of paper for which I saw only one purpose: a piece of paper was a surface upon which to draw a picture.
I began drawing with my older sister's pencils and crayons when I was four. My first drawings were of the usual child-type: a house with windows and chimney with smoke and coming up from it, a walkway, a yard, trees, flowers, people and dogs in the yard, a blue sky that skirted the uppermost area of the drawing and a sun to the left, shining with linear rays. But there was no particular drawing I did over and over, even though I was only five. Somewhere, perhaps in a magazine (we did not have a television until I was five; it was black and white with a selection of only two channels) I saw a picture of a desert island in the South Pacific. The water was a blue green with small waves washing against a white beach. Palm trees or coconut trees lined the shore. I was a scene of perfect serenity. And, there were no people there.
I drew this scene many different times for my own satisfaction; to pretend that I was there in that place of pristine beauty and solitude. These drawings of a far away isle were a favorite of my mother's, as well. A homemaker with four children, ages one to eleven, I think she saw in the drawings the quietness and beauty I wanted to see for myself.
The Haywood school system had no art education as a part of its curriculum. There were no museums of any type near where I lived. My father was the driver of the family we had only one car. He had two weeks of vacation per year that he spent on fishing trips to Lake Fontanna. Thus there were no family trips planned to visit Washington D.C., where we children longed to go. I do not believe I saw a real painting until an art education program was introduced in my last year of high school.
However, via television and some few movies that I was privileged to see in the small theatre in Canton, I did know about animation. Via the television, the morning cartoons were a special part of our day. We would watch as many as could before we had to go to school. These cartoons were of the old school: Fritz Lang, Warner Brothers, Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, Leon Schlesinger, Dave Fleisher, Paul Terry. These were the artists who brought magic and humor into our daily lives. First and foremost of my favorites, however, was Walt Disney. I was blessed to have had his early and (then) contemporary work as a part of my childhood.
There was a weekly show called "Disneyland;" five days a week, just after getting home from school, we would watch "The Mickey Mouse Club," This children's program would feature a Disney cartoon in its "Mouse Cartoon Time." All of Walt Disney's features were beautiful and enchanting, filled with humor, hope, promise, and always a happy ending. I was held in awe at the beauty of his feature length animation films - "Snow White", "Bambi," :Cinderella." On the Sunday evening weekly show, Disney would present educational films - about wildlife, about industry. But one of the most fascinating for me was the episode when Disney explained his process of animation - its history and how it was done. As an introduction to some of to some of his animated features, he presented the image of a brush, animating it so that it moved freely across a canvas; it gave the impression that from the tip of the brush there flowed freely the visions imagined by the artist. It seem ed that the brush had an imagination of its own - and there was no requirement of it by to move and, then, life, itself, came into being. How I envied that brush.
And then there were comic books and the Sunday morning funny papers. When I would go to town with my mother while she spent time looking for sundries in Davis's Five and Ten Cent Store, I would find the rack of comic books. Upon finding one of Walt Disney's characters, such as Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, or Uncle Scrooge, I would take it from the rack and tuck myself away, out of sight, so that I could read it. The chances were that mother would not purchase it for me because we couldn't afford such "extras." So I would read as much as I could of the comic book. I would try to stay hidden away in a little nook, so as not to be seen by the store's clerk. When mother finished her shopping there and appeared at the check-out, I reluctantly returned to the comic book to the rack.
The Sunday morning comics went first to Dad; no questions asked. After he finished them, it was open warfare among four children at the breakfast table. But, since we were frequent church goers, we would sometimes have to wait until Sunday afternoon to get to read "Terry and the Pirates," "lil' Abner," "Peanuts," "Gasoline Alley," "Rex Morgan," "Mark Trail," "Beetle Bailey," "Snuffy Smith," and "Mary Worth." Some of these would disappear, other, new ones would take their place.
Although I was thoroughly seduced by animation, be it comic strip or feature length film, I did not try to copy or draw any of them. The subject matter of my drawings tended to be simple landscapes, household objects, and imaginary people. In school I was the one always chosen to make posters, bulletin boards, or do any art work that was required for projects. Often teachers allowed me to compensate my grades by doing art work for them.
Thus, from the age of four and all through my primary and secondary education, I was the artist. I knew that I would apply to a college and become an art major. All of this I simply took as "my calling." I never questioned that I should follow this path and I never thought of following any other profession than that of being an artist. My humble naivety must be excused. As I said, I was following the path of my heart - planning on making a career of that which I loved to do. Little did I know anything of the contemporary world of art. I now marvel that I continued on with my passion not having visited a museum - the images with which I was most familiar were those from a very few books about art history - those, of course were pictures on a page.
In 1965, at age 16, I took my first formal training in drawing. A course for beginning drawing students was offered at the Canton YMCA. It met one night a week for ten weeks during the summer; Miss Belle Todd was the instructor. The first sketch book in this entire collection comes from that particular course.
O would like to note, here, too, that this sketchbook has within it the only drawings salvaged from my youth. Although I was quite prolific with my art work, my mother saved none of it. It was my Mother's way that a few things mad it into her great secret cedar chest to be "kept" as something important about out family; or, about our "families," the Cables and Austins. None of my drawings survived Mother's cleaning of the house. Refrigerator magnets were a thing of the future; nothing adorned our walls. It still amazes me to this day that I stayed diligently to the path of being an artist when I really knew so little about it; the exception being that I knew I loved to do it. As I have stated before, it was my calling. For better or for worse, it was my path.
Drawings of note:
Pages 90 and 92: These are the first portraits of specific individuals I had attempted from life. Others were derived from quick were derived from quick studies of photographs. Mark Stevenson was a young neighbor; Miriam Wells was taking the art course with me. She was eleven or twelve years old.
Page 53: Although there are many "gesture" drawings in the book, this one stands out as more successful. In this course I learned or attempted to learn gesture drawing. It was completely new to me; something of which I'd never heard before. These gesture drawings are clumsy, at best, but I look at them and know that it was the first time I allowed myself to abandon trying to replicate the "surface" of the figure. I learned to look fro and try to capture movement. My models were from life - from the many people who attended the YMCA - who were playing billiards or basketball or who were simply walking by. The drawings look very clumsy to me now; it would be years later, when I attended Tucker's life drawing sessions, that I would learn to draw the human figure in correct proportions, portraits with a true likeness, hands and feet that didn't look like claws if drawn at all.
A further note: as I glance through this sketch book I see how many times I used the side of my pencil instead of the point. I cannot remember if this was Miss Todd's instructions or my own attempt at being "artsy." Perhaps I had seen John Gnagy do it on television. Perhaps it was through Tucker's instruction that I abandoned this habit. And, later, when I taught drawing, I discouraged students from using the side of the pencil for drawing. The control is in the point of the pencil, I believed. And still do.
Dianne Cable, August 24, 2011
1Oliver, Duane, Hazel Creek From Then Till Now, 1989, Stinnett Printing Company, Maryville, TN, pg. 5.
2 Ibid., pg.87.