Renewed Insight

Family's artistic background
revealed McCollum's talent

By Elizabeth Nachman
Contributing Writer

MADISOn, IND. – From the time Abner McCollum was given his first box of crayons, he loved drawing. As a child, he thought it was just something everyone could naturally do. Later, he realized that not everyone had the same abilities.

Abner McCollum

Photo by Elizabeth Nachman

Bob Evans Restaurant manager
Abner McCollum of Madison poses with
a wall mural he painted in his home.
He likes to do sketches and accepts
commissioned assignments.

"I never really had any formal training. God just gave me a gift," said McCollum.
McCollum grew up in Panama City, Fla., where he later met his wife, Karla. He came from a family of artists. His mother was a professional artist who was also completely self-taught.
Although she has officially retired, she will dabble in art from time to time. His brother, Luke McCollum, a local painting contractor, is also an artist. When McCollum has a request for a sketch using oils, he will usually refer the customer to his brother. While he is experienced with oil paints, he prefers to use graphite or colored pencils. It was in Louisville that McColllum began working for Bob Evans Restaurants. While there, he enrolled in a small community college to pursue a degree in art. However, when he was offered an advancement with Bob Evans, he decided to follow in that direction and enjoy his art as a hobby and part-time business.
McCollum moved from Louisville 4 1/2 years ago with his wife and their children, Jacob, Elijah and Sarah. He is now a general manager at the Bob Evans in Madison, and the family welcomed Abigail eight months ago. Although a full-time job and fatherhood keep him busy, he always finds time to sketch.
"As soon as I finish one, I start another. I find it very relaxing," said McCollum. Surprisingly, he can create a beautifully detailed sketch in as little as four hours. If he gets backlogged, a project may take several days to complete.
Through word of mouth, McCollum has received numerous requests for sketches. While his favorite subjects are people, he also enjoys sketching animals, landscapes, structures and florals. He often finds subjects in old National Geographic magazines. In fact, he has an entire bookshelf devoted to them.
When doing a project for a customer, he actually prefers to have a photo to work from rather than having them come for a sitting. "I can see more detail in a photo, and it is extremely hard for someone to look natural with a smile pasted on their face for 20 minutes," said McCollum.
While at Bob Evans in Louisville, McCollum completed a sketch of the CEO, Dan Evans, in just one day when he discovered he would be visiting the restaurant. Evans was so impressed with McCollum's gift, he hung the sketch in his office.
One of his most rewarding projects was one for a mother whose daughter had been killed. The mother had four other children but did not have a picture of all five children together. Giving McCollum individual pictures of the children, he created the group setting and gave the family a very special gift.
"She was touched, very touched," said McCollum.
Local resident Jack Dwyer commissioned McCollum to sketch a portrait of his wife as a teenage girl. Barbara Dwyer was so pleased with McCollum's work, she asked him to sketch several group settings of her grandchildren to give as Christmas presents one year. According to her, McCollum was most accommodating and a pleasure to work with on the project.
"He has a wonderful gift and does not hesitate to share it with others," said Dwyer.
Although McCollum tried using his garage as a studio for awhile, he finally moved inside where the temperature was more consistent. He now has his drawing table set up in a corner of the master bedroom. Beside the table is a smaller version where his children can often be found pursuing their own artistic talents.
His oldest son, Jacob, is combining his interest in art and coins by submitting a design for the Indiana quarter. McCollum has also taught his wife some drawing techniques, but she says, "I may get the basic image drawn, but he adds the life to it."
McCollum would love to pursue his art full time, but the prospect of being a starving artist with a family does not appeal to him. He is currently pursuing the creation of his own website and would love to display his work in a gallery.
His advice to anyone interested in such pursuits is to stay with it. "As long as you are satisfied with your work, let the chips fall where they will," said McCollum.

• Abner McCollum charges clients based on the number of subjects rather than the size of the sketch and whether color or black and white. Contact McCollum at (812) 265-2620.

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