See life in forest through artist’s eye with new exhibit

Middleton’s paintings on display in Rock Hill

February 2, 2013 

— More than 30 watercolor paintings of plants and animals offer authentic portrayals of the native wildlife of the Carolinas on display in the Springs Gallery at the Museum of York County through March 31.

Sallie Ellington Middleton’s paintings have a signature trade mark – a blue feather.

When Middleton was a child, her father walked with her through the woods of Chunn’s Cove in Asheville, N.C., telling her stories and creating a private world where myth met and mingled with reality.

According to Middleton, the late Kenneth Ellington “was very imaginative ... an authority on fairies and elves. He believed in the old tales and would tell them to us when we walked through the woods, pointing out the pine trees and creatures, and as a child, in looking for imaginary creatures, we would see more than others.”

Her father’s stories full of folklore and legend inspired her to view the world with a creative curiosity and passion for nature. The leaves that covered the forest floor were not just trampled over, but were explored in hopes of finding an elf, leprechaun or fairy among the snails, worms and soil. Sallie’s search for creatures, both real and fictional – physical and imaginary, led her to discover the rich tapestry of life in the forest.

Her uncle Douglas Ellington, who studied art and architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, was noted as a watercolor artist and architect. He taught Middleton about painting, and she also studied at the Plonk School of Creative Arts in Asheville, and spent a few months at the Vesper-George Commercial Art School in Boston.

During the ’70s and ’80s, Middleton was considered one of the top wildlife watercolor artists in the nation. Her remarkable eye for detail made her work popular with art collectors. Middleton originals hang in private collections across the United States including former president Gerald Ford and the Cecil Family of the Biltmore Estate. They also hang in the Gibbes Art Gallery and Magnolia Gardens in Charleston and in the Harry Dalton Collection in the Mint Museum.

“A Life in the Forest: The Paintings of Sallie Middleton” is on display the museum at 4621 Mt. Gallant Road, Rock Hill. Admission costs $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children age 4 and older. Admission is free to the public on Sundays. For more information, visit

More at the museum

The Museum Store will have assorted boxed note cards and decorator prints by Sallie Middleton for sale priced $10-$30. The nature enthusiast also may find nature journals, field guides of wildflowers, spiders and birds, educational crossword puzzles, flower presses, butterfly nets, display cases for collectors and clear view nature houses that allow you to collect, observe, draw and then release your specimen.

An Artful Weekend will be held March 9-10. At 10:30 a.m. March 9 is Nature Journaling & Book Signing with South Carolina illustrator and author Helen Correll. Following her 30-minute program, participants will have the opportunity to purchase and have her sign her illustrated book, “Middlewood Journal: Drawing Inspiration from Nature.” At 11:30 a.m. is Sketching in the Galleries using Middleton’s works as an inspiration. Bring your own art materials (dry medium). From 3 to 4 p.m. March 10, is Gallery Talk with Asheville Art Museum’s School & Family Program Manager Erin Shope talking about the exhibit.

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