Roberson preserves flower’s beauty in paint

Published 6:23 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

He’s one of the Camellia City’s most noted homegrown artists, with his camellia paintings gracing government buildings, business offices and homes around the city and county.

Shirley Roberson, who turned 81 last December, only started painting 20 years ago.

“For the first few years, it was mostly landscapes. About 15 years ago, I decided to tackle a camellia. Mostly to see if I could actually paint a bloom,” he says with a chuckle.

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And indeed he could. Since those initial efforts, Roberson has “lost count” of all the camellia paintings he has produced.

The greatest challenge in painting the perfect camellia?

‘Definitely, it’s getting the depth. I want to give it a more three-dimensional quality, rather than looking flat,” Roberson said.

“Sometimes I get aggravated with myself when it’s not working out the way I want it to, but I just keep at it,” he chuckled.

In addition to his original paintings, Roberson has also produced a number of prints and note cards of his lovely camellias. You will find his camellia paintings in the Council Room at Greenville City Hall, at Bancorp South, Camellia Communications and Coleman Realty. His work is also featured for show and sale at Greenville Fine Arts League shows throughout the year and can be found at Grayson’s of Greenville. Roberson’s artwork has also found its way to Texas, Georgia, Florida and California.

And it’s not just camellias he paints. Roberson still does landscapes, along with other florals (“magnolias – I can’t keep them, they sell so quickly”) and religious paintings.

Visit First United Methodist Church in Greenville, where Roberson and wife Emma Jean are active, and you will see more of his work, including a large-scale lighthouse mural located in one of the Sunday School classes.

He and Emma Jean also enjoy gardening at their Bolling Street home and Emma Jean is known for her elegant floral arrangements, so flowers are definitely a passion for the couple.

Which leads us back to the camellias.

The spry senior citizen has a couple of commissioned art projects to complete, but hopes to get another series of camellia paintings underway soon.

“We have several camellias which have been named in honor of people around town. I want to get photos of all those camellias and paint each one,” Roberson said.

“I started painting fairly late in life, but I sure have enjoyed it. And I do like painting camellias.”