Jerry Pyle of Matthews is a professor emeritus in UNC Charlotte’s Department of Public Health Sciences. But in retirement, he is pursuing his passion for art.
Pyle, 77, creates pen-and-ink drawings and oil, acrylic and watercolor paintings. When he knew he was going to retire, he began taking weekend art classes at the nonprofit John C. Campbell Folk School in the mountains of North Carolina.
His home office now doubles as an art studio.
“My favorite things are probably old ruined buildings and old barns,” Pyle said of his pen-and-ink renditions.
Some of his art also features sheep, a nod to the sheep he raised on land near Midland in Cabarrus County.
Before he became a professor, Pyle spent time working as a cartographer in Chicago and drawing maps for Rand McNally, Encyclopaedia Britannica and The University of Chicago Press in the 1960s. This was before computerized mapping and mapping software took hold; today, maps aren’t drawn by hand as much, he said.
One time, Rand McNally received a letter that the coastline of Antarctica was wrong on a huge globe displayed at a Chicago museum. Pyle said he researched the problem and devised a solution that involved repainting.
“It was a good time, a very creative time,” he said of his years in Chicago.
Now he is utilizing some of his cartography instruments in his current art projects, including a vintage set of technical pens he fills with ink and uses for drawings.
Pyle donated to the Mint Hill Historical Society a series of drawings of buildings at the Carl J. McEwen Historic Village.
Pyle showed off a large, colorful oil painting of a parklike scene he recently has been focused on. He isn’t finished and plans to add more elements.
To inspire his drawings and paintings, he relies on photographs he’s taken or quick sketches in a sketchbook.
“I don’t sit there and just copy a picture, because I already have the picture,” he said. “So I’m trying to come up with something that is different.”
Pyle is not concentrating on competing in shows or winning awards.
“I want to do things I feel like doing, when I feel like doing it. That’s the luxury of retirement,” he said with a laugh.
He has, however, earned recognition for his artwork – including the Boyce Kendrick Drawing Award from the Guild of Charlotte Artists.
Pyle and his wife, Carole, share a love for art.
She is a fiber artist who makes rugs, wall hangings, pillows and other works. The couple’s condominium brims with examples of their creativity.
When he isn’t busy with art, Pyle occasionally serves as a consultant for health care organizations.
What he enjoys most about art is “the sense of relaxation, and sometimes a sense of accomplishment,” he said.