Author Archives: Kristy Johnson

Coastal Cruisin’

Travel

Photos courtesy of Coastal Tide Excursions

A trip aboard this boat provides an up-close-and-personal chance to meet and touch underwater life without even leaving the deck.

The Golden Isles, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida on the Georgia coast, offer pristine stretches of marshland dotted by smaller islands known as hammocks, historic landmarks, five-star resorts, sandy beaches, unrivaled landscapes and boundless recreational activities.

No wonder the area’s four barrier islands – St. Simons, Sea, Jekyll and Little St. Simons and the mainland city of Brunswick – offer such superb Southern hospitality. However, for a different perspective, Coastal Tide Excursions’ Lady Jane provides a hands-on meet and greet with creatures from beneath the sea.

Catch & Release

The Lady Jane, a U.S. Coast Guard-certified passenger vessel, is a retired commercial steel hull shrimping trawler that has been refurbished for eco-tourism, education and conservation purposes.

Led by friendly, outgoing, incurable extrovert Captain Cameron Ako, the 1 1/2- to two-hour cruises travel the calm, protected waters of Glynn County’s salt marshes and estuaries in St. Simons Sound. T

“We market the trips as shrimp excursions because the boat was a commercial fishing trawler,” says Ako. “We see different animals in different seasons of the year, and water temperatures vary from 65 to 85 degrees.”

On each excursion, the 61-ton Lady Jane performs three 10- to 15-minute trawls with a 20-foot wide otter trawl to pull up marine life to the boat.

From small bottom dwellers to apex predators, each trawl yields varying species. Hauls can include tiny shrimp, 7- or 8-foot sharks, stingrays, spotted eagle rays with an 8- to 10-foot wingspan, sea turtles, Jack Cravelle fish, horseshoe crabs and squid.

“You never know what you’re going to catch, but you always catch something,” says Ako. “We have caught some large, predatory fish that have no business being in the creek.”

Along with Ako, the crew includes a marine naturalist and a stryker, who operates the equipment to haul the game onto the vessel. Of course, passengers of any age can turn into deckhands as well and help the crew sort through the abundant marine life retrieved from the water.

“The marine naturalist explains each individual animal and creature we pull up in the net. Everybody on board can hold, touch and interact with the animals,” Ako says. “They can get right up to the table while the nets are being dumped and have one-on-one time with the marine naturalist.”

Some people who have been fishing in the area for 50 years have taken a trip aboard the Lady Jane and been surprised by the marine life they see.

“A lot of things we catch are things you’re only going to catch in a net,” says Ako. “One of the neatest creatures we pull up is a guitarfish. It looks like a stingray in the front and a shark in the back.”

Crew members immediately sort through the haul and throw back creatures when they catch multiples of them. They keep the others in a water tub on the boat until it is time to return them unharmed to the marshes and estuaries. Not all of the marine creatures are enamored with their temporary home on the boat, however.

“We’ve caught some big sharks. I’ve had one take a bite out of the fiberglass sorting table,” says Ako.

He says some of the marine life they catch such as shrimp, horseshoe crabs and sea turtles can be found only on the East Coast

“Our main focus is making people aware of all the marine life you can find under the water,” Ako says. “We want them to understand the importance of the coastline and its inhabitants.”

For instance, he says, horseshoe crabs have a coagulant in their blood that is used for medical research. (Vaccines, injectable drugs, intravenous solutions and implantable medical devices, for humans and animals, are quality checked for safety using a test that comes from the blood of horseshoe crabs.)

In addition to educating passengers about local marine life, crew members share information about the boat and the commercial shrimping industry. They also explain the role that marsh estuaries play in the eco-system.

“One-third of all marine estuaries on the East Coast are here in Georgia despite the fact that we only have 100 miles of coastline,” Ako says.

Run of the Boat

Ako, who formerly worked in marine sales, has owned the business since January 2020. He managed it for the previous owner for several years, however, and this is his 13th year aboard the Lady Jane. He purchased the business because he wanted to spend more time outside.

“I would watch my customers leave excited to go to the water,” says Ako. “But while they were headed to the water, I was headed back into the office.”

He offers public and private excursions. While most of the public cruises take place in the summer, private trips are scheduled primarily during the spring, fall and winter.

The Lady Jane, which is 65 feet long and 21 feet wide, includes an enclosed cabin, restroom, large covered rear deck with ample seating and ADA accessibility for wheelchairs and walkers.

No food is served on board, but people are permitted to bring coolers. Anyone age 21 or older also is allowed to bring alcohol.

The excursions are suitable for all ages, and guests have ranged from pre-kindergartners to retirement community residents.

Although the boat can accommodate 49 passengers, Ako has limited the public cruises to a maximum of 35 people because of covid. The minimum number for an excursion is 12.

“Folks have the run of the boat. They can move up and down from the bow to the stern,” Ako says.

Reservations are required for the excursions. Walkups are allowed, but space cannot be guaranteed. Passengers also need to arrive at least 15 minutes before their departure time.

Ako allows up to 49 people for a private charter, and private excursions are scheduled through 2024. These trips range from photography groups to bachelorette parties to sunset wine and cheese cruises.

“I try to give private groups whatever they want, but no fishing is allowed on the boat,” says Ako.

Pre-covid, the boat took out more 20,000 passengers a year. The number dropped to 2,000 people in 2020, but Ako says operations have returned to normal.

“We’re not under a lot of strict regulations because our activity is mainly outside,” he says.

The excursions, which have received a 2020 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence and a 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award, offer passengers a different experience.

“The biggest thing for me is having the opportunity to make people aware of what’s down here and how important the coastline is,” he says.

If You Go:
What: Coastal Tide Excursions Shrimpin’ Excursions

When: 4 p.m. most Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; additional times and private charters also available

Where: 1200 Glynn Avenue, Brunswick, Georgia

How Much: $47.99 ages 6 and older; $39.99 military, first responders and children ages 2-5; $2 children ages 0-1

More Info: shrimpcruise.com

By Morgan Davis

Art Grants

LIFE + STYLE

The Greater Augusta Arts Council is accepting online applications for funding that is allocated annually by the city of Augusta for distribution to the nonprofit arts community.

More than $71,000 is available for distribution. For fiscal year 2023, funds will be re-allocated in increments of up to $7,000 for general operating expenses and up to $5,000 for art projects.

Applications are available at augustaarts.com/grants. The deadline to apply is 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 13.

Grovetown K-9 Unit

Buzz

The city of Grovetown is getting a K-9 unit, thanks to the generosity of the Shield Club of Greater Augusta.

The city’s Police Department recently received a $14,500 donation from the organization to help establish the department’s first K-9 unit.

The department will use the contribution to purchase a dual-purpose K-9 trained in narcotics detection and tracking.

The funds also will go toward the purchase of equipment associated with the program as well as training and certification for a K-9 handler.

Can Do

Buzz

Savor summer all year long. The Thomson High School FFA Club is accepting summer produce for shelling, blanching and canning at the FFA Cannery, located at 702 Whiteoak Road (in front of the McDuffie County Animal Shelter).

Items for canning include tomatoes, peas, beans, apples, peaches, pears, juices, spaghetti sauces (no meat), soups (no meat), salsa, applesauce and pie fillings.

The cost is $0.75 per quart-sized can and $0.20 per pound for shelling. Hours are 7:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. June 27-28, June 30, July 1, July 6-7 and July 18-22.

For more information, contact Rick DuBose at duboser@mcduffie.k12.ga.us or (706) 986-4297.

Life is Good

LIFE + STYLE

The accolades keep coming. Along with the honors that Columbia County communities earn year after year, Augusta also is turning heads.

For 2022-23, U.S. News & World Report ranked Augusta as the top spot in Georgia and #76 overall on its list of Best Places to Live and #79 on its list of Best Places to Retire.

In addition, retriable.com named Augusta to its list of 30 Best Places to Retire in the U.S. in 2022.

To compile its lists, U.S. News analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas in the United States. Augusta was lauded for its culinary and arts scenes, outdoor amenities, low cost of living and warm weather.

The magazine also gave a shoutout to Evans, Martinez and Grovetown as go-to places for families to settle.

Top retirement criteria included the happiness of local residents, housing affordability, tax rates and health care quality.

In its ranking, retriable.com cites the area’s low cost of living, which is 13% below the national average; tax friendliness for retirees; and availability of outdoor activities such as running, walking, biking, kayaking and boating.

Miss Kitty’s Lounge — Widespread Panic

Listen To This

There’s no question that Athens, Georgia has been the home of some serious music culture through the years. With bands like The B52’s, R.E.M., Washed Out and Pylon on the shortlist, it’s no wonder this eclectic electric Classic City is known worldwide as the East Coast sonic-boom town.

Widespread Panic, another Athens original, has been a Southern jazz-blues- explosion-jam-rock jewel in the crown since forming in 1986.

Blazing new trails and wearing out the roads of the world, Panic has been a fan-driven tour pioneer with hordes of loyal Spread Heads steering the ship.

Commonly grouped with bands like The Grateful Dead, Phish and The Allman Brothers Band that earned commercial success without typical airplay and promotion, Panic’s uniquely accessible and hook-stomping stream of good-time jams places them among the finest Southern Rockers.

With a lush discography of studio and live recordings, their latest release, Miss Kitty’s Lounge, is a deep dive of demos recorded in 1990 and conjures up the energy and spirit of the band in a whipped casserole of absolute awesome.

Each track taps into a brew of raw and unfiltered, blazing-edge craftsmanship and ignites a raw perspective into some of their finest tunes.

The shelf life of Miss Kitty’s Lounge is as fresh and yummy today as it was 32 years ago and will remain in the infinite bread and butter pickle jar of Georgia’s finest music.

– Chris Rucker

Live a Great Story

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

From historic building materials to original artwork, this Champions Retreat home is the latest setting for this couple’s joy-filled narrative.

It’s easy to walk past it without a second glance. However, a small block of word art on a table on their front porch sums up the life that Rebecca and David Brewer have built together. “Live a Great Story,” the four words simply state.

In November 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic had turned the globe upside down, the couple decided to turn their world right side up by relocating to Columbia County to be closer to two of their three children and their five (soon to be six) grandchildren.

“We love it,” says David, a previously lifelong resident of the Atlanta area. “We love everything about being here.”

However, their home in The Reserve at Champions Retreat offers the Brewers, aka Lulu and Pop, much more than closer proximity to family.

Cheerful flowerbeds burst with pink and white blooms in the front yard. Background music plays in their house from morning ’til night (soft piano music to start the day, rock ’n’ roll in the afternoon, jazz to wind down in the evening).

Colorful original artwork pops on the walls. Their energetic mini-Goldendoodle, Henry (named for Hank Aaron because they got him the day the Atlanta Braves icon died), happily follows his people from room to room.

Clearly, this is the home of a couple that blooms where they’re planted. They don’t just find joy, though. They create it.

“We moved here because we missed our family,” says Rebecca. “When Lulu and Pop came to town, it was an event.”

The Rest is History

Now, every day can be something special, and the Brewers just have to look around their home to see cause for celebration.

Even though the couple didn’t build the house, which was finished in April 2020, they have great appreciation for its architectural details – particularly the materials that were used in its construction and the stories that are embedded in its bones. “There’s some history in this house,” Rebecca says.

The home, which features reclaimed wood, has 60-year-old white oak flooring that was purchased at auction. “We love the knot holes in the floor,” Rebecca says.

The heart pine wood for the ceiling in the back hall/bar area came from Langdale Cotton Mill in Valley, Alabama, and the brick in the house originated from Goodale Inn and Dent’s Undertaking Establishment in Augusta.

A pair of low brick columns by the front walkway and brick steps to the front porch offer instant curb appeal. Inside, a brick archway separates the foyer from the living room, where a raised hearth brick fireplace is the focal point. A brick column also provides definition between the living room, kitchen and dining area.

“You can get soot off of it from where it was in the fireplace in the old funeral home,” says David, rubbing his finger on the column.

The original owners of the house gave the Brewers small pictures of the locations where they got the building materials – Goodale Inn, circa 1799; Langdale Cotton Mill, circa 1866, and Dent’s, circa 1900 – and Rebecca had the photos blown up. They hang together in a distressed white frame in the back hall.

In the dining area, the custom-made table, which the Brewers commissioned Lamon Luther Company in Villa Rica, Georgia to build, makes a statement as well. After all, mealtime is special to Rebecca, a food blogger who shares recipes and tips at southernfoodandfun.com.

“So many great stories of life revolve around the dinner table,” says David.

This farmhouse table has a back story of its own. Constructed of magnolia wood, the table was made from a tree that was cut down to build Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

In addition, many Lamon Luther employees were out-of-work craftsmen, carpenters and millworkers who had fallen on hard times after the 2007 housing crisis gutted the construction industry. Some had been released from prison; others were recovering from addiction. When people took them food at the homeless encampment where they lived, they soon discovered that the men had a greater need – work.

“I was drawn to their story, so I asked them to make a table for us,” says Rebecca. “It’s my favorite thing in the house.”

A trio of black chairs lines each side of the table, and the centerpiece is made up of black taper candles in a half-dozen black candlesticks of staggered heights. A painting of a Friday night concert in the Marietta Square hangs on one wall, while a painting of a black grand piano picks up the other ebony hues in the room.

“We have a lot of art that has special meaning to us,” says David, who traveled and played piano professionally with gospel music groups in his youth.

The Brewers started collecting art in 2008 when Rebecca’s friend, Donna Krueger, opened dk Gallery in Marietta to showcase the work of contemporary artists.

“That is what started our love of art. We learned about and met the artists,” Rebecca says. “Most of the paintings are oil, and they’re all original fine art.”

Painting a Picture

Many of the canvases paint a picture of their lives, and the Brewers have several paintings by one of their favorite artists, Holly Irwin. One depicts Rebecca with her friends at her 50th birthday celebration, while another shows her reading a book to her three oldest grandchildren. “She painted it so she can add more grandchildren,” Rebecca says.

Two floral paintings by Irwin hang in the living room, where additional original artwork includes a white bowl that was commissioned by a woman in Israel and a vase that has the lyrics to “Hallelujah,” one of Rebecca’s favorite songs, written on it.

Other accessories in the living room include a coiled copper basket with a green patina from Art on Broad and a cowhide rug.

“We tried really hard to get things that were artisan-made,” says Rebecca.

Playing the keyboard at a fundraiser at dk Gallery, David is featured in a painting by Dirk Walker in the living room. “The artist live-painted it at the event, and we bid on it,” says Rebecca.

The Brewers also are avid travelers, and some of the simplest things they find on their trips become lasting treasures. In the adjoining kitchen, for instance, the utensil holder by the stove is full of wooden spoons. However, some of them aren’t just any wooden spoons. They picked up a few of them in Greece three years ago.

The kitchen features quartz countertops, a farmhouse sink, brass hardware and fixtures, tile backsplash in a herringbone pattern and two lantern pendant lights above the island. A dough bowl filled with fruit and a ceramic vase that says, “Lulu and Pop, est. in 1999,” sit on the island.

A sliding barn door with four windowpanes leads to the spacious pantry, which seems made for a food blogger. “The pantry door was one of the things that sold us on the house,” says Rebecca.

Small appliances, a microwave and a wine cabinet are tucked away in the pantry. Cabinetry with glass doors and ample shelving, neatly lined with labeled cannisters and baskets, provide plenty of storage space.

“I love it because I have room for everything,” says Rebecca, who grew up on a farm outside of Oglethorpe, Georgia.

Three decorative copper pans hang on the wall just inside the pantry door. The Brewers got the pans, which were made by an 86-year-old coppersmith, on a recent trip to Italy.

A teapot and teaspoons that belonged to Rebecca’s grandmother sit atop a cake pedestal in a corner. “My grandmother was the inspiration for my blog,” she says. “I just wanted something that made me think of her.”

Happy Landing

More original artwork, such as the abstract painting above the bed in the master bedroom, brings character to the rest of the house. “That’s one of my favorite pieces,” says Rebecca. “I just love it because it’s calm. It’s relaxing.”

The master bedroom also includes wood beams in the ceiling and a propeller ceiling fan. A showstopping TV cabinet made of mango wood features a hand stenciled gray-over-vintage white finish in a tile-inspired motif.

In the adjoining master bath, four small sketches by Irwin are grouped together on the wall. The master bath also features marble flooring, quartz countertops, a soaking tub, a marble shower with picket fence tiles on the floor, pocket doors to their closets and a Capiz shell chandelier.

“It’s not anything I would have picked out, but I love it,” Rebecca says of the chandelier.

By the staircase, a painting by Lincoln Stone called “Chelsea Girl” hangs on the shiplap wall. “Her eyes are Isabella Rossellini’s eyes,” David says.

Upstairs, the wall of a room that the Brewers call “the landing” is the backdrop for framed artwork that their children created when they were young. The landing also includes a game table that belonged to Rebecca’s great-grandmother and a baby grand piano.

“What do you like?” David asks before he sits down to play “New York State of Mind,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Something” and “Georgia on My Mind.”

The layout of the house invites entertaining, and the Brewers love the open floorplan.

However, the covered back porch is their favorite place to spend time. The space includes a salted concrete floor, raised-hearth brick fireplace, TV above the wood mantel and an outdoor kitchen with granite countertops, a ceiling fan, grill, Big Green Egg and sink.

As much as the Brewers appreciate fine art, travel and, of course, a good story, nothing means more to them than their growing family.

“Our greatest accomplishment is being Lulu and Pop,” David says.

By Betsy Gilliland

Works in Progress

Buzz

As one set of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) projects ends, another SPLOST proposal begins.

The final list of 2023-28 SPLOST projects will appear on the November 8 General Election ballot for approval by voters, and the Columbia County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve that list at its second meeting in July to ready the proposal for the ballot.

Last month the county held four open houses – one in each district – to present proposed projects to the community. County representatives were on hand at these informal listening sessions to discuss the projects and to garner more feedback from county residents.

The tentative list of projects, totaling $270 million over the life of the SPLOST, was compiled through previous input from residents as well as observations of county commissioners and staff members.

The projects cover improvements to parks and recreation facilities, public safety and emergency services, information technology and broadband, transportation, stormwater, buildings and economic development.

Transportation projects include upgrades to the Evans Town Center intersection, North Belair Road improvements and improvements to the Horizon South – Chamblin Road connector.

Other proposals include Greenway connections, the replacement of fire engines, improvements to the sheriff’s training facility, installation of camera systems, Reed Creek bank stabilization, Columbia County Community Connections expansion and property acquisition for economic development.

“As the population of the county grows, we see where our infrastructure needs are,” says Scott Johnson, county manager.

He says about 34% of the funds would be earmarked for cultural and recreational projects, 15% would go toward public safety and 20-25% would fund stormwater and transportation projects.

Of the SPLOST monies, $7 million would be allocated to Harlem and $24 million would be allocated to Grovetown.

A vocal contingent of residents have advocated for the construction of an aquatics center, which was not on the proposed list of projects. However, a questionnaire, which the county gave to attendees at the meetings to indicate their priorities, specifically addressed the construction and upkeep of an aquatics center.

While SPLOST funds could be used to construct an aquatics center, maintenance and operation costs, estimated at $1 million annually, would have to come from taxpayers in the form of an indefinite increase of their property taxes.

“SPLOST gets an up or down vote. If it fails because of one controversial project, Columbia County would go an entire year without the sales tax,” says Johnson.

In 2008, he says, voters rejected a separate proposal to build an aquatics center, but SPLOST passed. “We’re in a similar situation now,” he says.

If voters approve SPLOST in November, the county sales tax rate will remain at 8%. It will drop to 7% if the measure does not pass.

The Recovery Agent — by Janet Evanovich

Literary Loop

Lost something? Gabriela Rose knows how to get it back. As a recovery agent, she’s hired by individuals and companies seeking lost treasures, stolen heirlooms or missing assets of any kind. She’s reliable, cool under pressure and well trained in weapons of all types.

But her latest job isn’t for some bamboozled billionaire. It’s for her own family, whose home is going to be wiped off the map if they can’t come up with a lot of money fast.

Inspired by an old family legend, Gabriela sets off for the jungles of Peru in pursuit of the Ring of Solomon and the lost treasure of Lima.

But this particular job comes with a huge problem attached to it — Gabriela’s ex-husband, Rafer. It’s Rafer who has the map that possibly points the way to the treasure, and he’s not about to let Gabriela find it without him.

Rafer is as relaxed as Gabriela is driven, and he has a lifetime’s experience getting under his ex-wife’s skin. But when they aren’t bickering about old times the two make a formidable team, and it’s going to take a team to defeat the vicious drug lord who has also been searching for the fabled ring. A drug lord who doesn’t mind leaving a large body count behind him to get it.

Million Dollar Milestone

Buzz

Attic Treasures, a Harlem thrift store run by volunteers, recently celebrated the contribution of more than $1 million in monetary donations to nonprofit organizations and individuals in need.

The store, which was founded in 2008 and moved to its current location on West Milledgeville Road in 2012, primarily supports entities in Columbia and McDuffie counties.

“We started giving $50 here and there, but we give away $1,000 a month now,” says Loreen Reynolds, president of the board of directors. “If an individual is in need, we work with social workers in the Columbia County and McDuffie County school systems.”

Attic Treasures has paid for rent, utilities or hotel stays for individuals and contributed to organizations including local food pantries, animal welfare agencies, Fisher House at Fort Gordon and the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, Cancer Support Services (formerly The Lydia Project) and the Uganda-based 413Ministries.

The store recently awarded a $1,000 scholarship to 10 high school seniors to pursue higher educational opportunities as well.

In addition to its monetary contributions, Attic Treasures has donated new toys to families during the holidays as well as clothing, furniture and other household goods.

“At the rate we’re going, we’re going to reach $2 million in donations a lot sooner than we hit $1 million,” Reynolds says. “We’re humbled by what we’ve been able to do.”

Georgia Peach Cobbler

Desserts
  • 6-8 fresh peaches, *peeled and sliced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour melted butter into center of 9×13 baking dish (do not spread butter around pan). In a separate bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Slowly pour in milk and vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Pour batter over butter, but do not stir. Place brown sugar, peach slices and lemon juice in a saucepan over high heat. Stir frequently until sugar is completely melted and peaches have released their juices. Pour peaches over batter, but do not stir. Bake 40-45 minutes or until top of cobbler is golden. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream. Makes 8-10 servings.

*To easily peel peaches, bring a pot of water to boil. Lightly cut an “x” on the bottom of each peach. Place in water, one at a time, for 30 seconds (no more). Remove with a spoon and peel at the “x.” The skin will come right off.

Quick on the Draw

People

Photos courtesy of Jacob Boland

A fast-working local artist loves to create quirky characters that show up anywhere from volumes of sketchbooks to public places.

Local cartoonist and illustrator Jacob Boland, who creates original characters with ink and paint, often encourages fellow artists to make their work public or share it with other people.

“A lot of people are nervous about showing their stuff,” he says.

Once upon a time, Boland, who has been drawing since childhood, was one of those people. “For years, I would keep everything in a sketchbook,” he says. “A couple of local artists saw my work online and told me to share it.”

That was about five years ago, and now there’s no telling where his characters might pop up. They rotate in and out of local bars and restaurants, and his artwork is available at Art on Broad.

“I’m always downtown taking photos. I draw my characters into real life backgrounds,” he says. “I draw characters over the photos, almost like Roger Rabbit.”

His drawings can be found in a variety of places ranging from a picket fence outside of New Moon Café in Aiken to a T-shirt for Mema Had One, a vintage shop that often is a source of inspiration for him. “I like antiques, and I get inspiration from ’40s and ’50s maps and cartoons,” says Boland.

His characters also appear in the form of plywood cutouts that he likes to put up in downtown Augusta, Athens and Savannah. Boland will attach them to walls or situate his cutouts so that they’re reacting to the environment.

For instance, he might place a character so that it’s peeking or climbing over a fence. If a cutout character looks disgusted, he will position it by a dumpster.

He sells or gives away the cutouts, but he also doesn’t mind if appreciative observers take home a cutout that they find in a public place. “I’ve met a lot of local artists that way,” Boland says.

Go with the Flow

Boland, who grew up reading Archie comic books and Mad Magazine, was an Army brat who moved often as a child. However, he discovered that drawing was a good way for him to connect with his peers.

“It was a great way to make friends,” says Boland, who also served as a medic in the U.S. Army for four years. “I was very shy, but people would come up to me in the classroom and say, ‘What are you doing?’”

While his work may be unconventional, there is a method to the madness. Boland, who draws quickly, never goes anywhere without pen and paper, and he draws every day.

He starts with a draft using regular pen and notepad, but he uses a calligraphy pen for most of his work. He also makes clay models of his characters, but he’s not afraid to deviate from the forms in the final piece.

“I usually carry a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. At the end of the day, I see what I’ve done. The next morning I put it on watercolor or Bristol paper,” says Boland. “I just like creating characters. It’s really fun to have them occupy a space on paper and not just scribbled in a notebook.”

Boland doesn’t have a set thought in his mind when he starts drawing in his loose, flowing style. “It’s just fun to draw that way,” he says. “I don’t like drawing traditional human shapes. They have human traits in a way, but they’re really cartoony.”

He always starts with a face when he draws, and his characters typically have long snouts or dolphin-like beaks. If the beak is facing upward, the character is happy. If it’s facing downward, the character is brooding.

“Once I draw the face and shape of the character, it tells me what they’re going to be doing,” says Boland.

He gives a back story to his characters, and he frequently incorporates his own personality into his cartoon figures. Boland describes himself as “nervous,” and some of his characters are jittery as well.

“For each drawing, I come up with a character, narrative or personality,” he says. “I like to try to stay positive. A lot of my characters are happy.”

Sometimes, but not often, he cleans up his work digitally.

“People are afraid to show their mistakes,” says Boland. “If I scratch or smear something, I keep it. With digital, you’re constantly cleaning it up.”

Boland, who works primarily in black and white, also prefers original artwork to prints. “I try to do stuff where it’s one and done,” he says. “We live in a world where everything can be archived or replicated.”

Always Teaching, Always Learning

He also shares his knowledge and talent with students at Jessye Norman School of the Arts, where he has taught photography and film since 2019. He teaches 10- to 17-year-olds, but mostly students ages 13-15.

Each semester the subject matter changes, expanding beyond filming and editing. For instance, his students have made set designs out of cardboard and wood, and a lot of his characters have been featured in the sets.

At a summer camp, his students made racecars out of blocks of wood and had to figure out how to make them work.

Last year he curated a window display project for the school in which four young artists – two college-age people and two in their early 20s – were invited to participate, and he is overseeing the project again this year.

“We’re always on the lookout for emerging artists,” says Boland.

Four artists are participating, and each one will have their work showcased during a season of the year. In November, the school will have an onsite public gallery showing of the artists’ work.

Boland pushes his students to be themselves and to be open to new concepts, and he has continued to evolve as an artist himself.

“I love to try new things in terms of art,” he says. “I have tried charcoal and different types of paint. I’m learning to mix my own ink together, which is a kind of unpredictability. Figuring out materials to draw on is always fun.”

Although he paints primarily with acrylics (“Since I draw really fast, I like my paint to dry really fast,” says Boland.), he started using watercolors a couple of years ago. “I like the unpredictability of it,” he says. “It’s kind of like a snowflake.”

He also has self-published several sketchbooks, including a medical illustration book called “Grotesqueries” that he released in April.

In addition, Boland is working on a dark humor portrait series for older teens and adults. He expects to finish this book, which will include 125 portraits, by August or September.

His books generally are available at the Book Tavern downtown as well as other independent booksellers in Athens, Atlanta and Savannah. “Mostly, I sell them out of my car or my house or through social media,” he says.

Two years ago, he started self-publishing his own comic books. He creates cartoon characters such as macho cowboys, Clint Eastwood-types and spies.

“I’m just gradually testing out what works and what doesn’t,” Boland says.

Dream Journal

He has graduated from drawing on kitchen or restaurant tables to using a drafting table that a friend bought him four years ago.

“It has changed the entire way I work. It’s kind of like having a dream journal right next to my bed,” says Boland. “It has made me more consistent. Having it in the same room, I can wake up in the morning and knock out stuff then and there.”

He believes that art is meant to be shared, particularly in public settings.

“Art is for everyone. I love to see murals downtown or the work of local artists when I go out of town,” says Boland. “I get more joy out of seeing something everyone can see that’s not exclusive. Hopefully, it inspires other people to do the same thing.”

For more information about Boland and his work, visit Instagram.com/wholebolafun or patreon.com/wholebolafun.

By Leigh Howard

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