If you’re in tune with the local art scene (or disc golf community) you’re probably familiar with Charlotte resident and artist David “Wheetie” French. If you’re not, there’s still a good chance you may have seen his work on display in a local gallery, business, or more likely, in a friend’s home.
While we can’t get enough of Wheetie’s artwork, we wanted to know a little bit more about the man behind the paint brush. Since so much of David’s inspiration comes from the city of Charlotte itself, we asked him about his favorite local dish (might surprise you), where he hangs out, what he loves about our city and more.
Tell us about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
I am best known for my 270+ Charlotte paintings. The series started in fall 2006, when three famous old school restaurants were all being bought out/pushed out at the same time: Athens Restaurant, Anderson’s Restaurant and The Coffee Cup. It was a stroke of good fortune when I ran into local investor Frank Bragg and he offered to buy all three after only seeing the Athens painting complete. The positive feedback from Frank and the public in general led me to start painting more Charlotte scenes. Ten years later, my Charlotte series is hanging in tens of thousands of Charlotte homes.
What’s your favorite Charlotte meal?
There’s a tiny little Chinese buffet [Little China Restaurant] off Eastway Drive and Central Avenue, where I take the fried rice and add sliced white onion, shaved carrot, a little shredded cheese and chives. Then I pour Hot and Sour soup over the top and eat it with a fried cheese wonton for a shovel spoon—don’t judge.
If you only had 10 words, how would you define Charlotte?
New, shiny, growing. Too diverse to describe. Hopeful.
Describe your perfect day in the city. What would you do, see and experience?
I would like to start the day with my 4-year-old son, Thayer, running into the bedroom begging me to read him a comic. I would also like a big cup of coffee and a round of disc golf with my best friends. Then off to Lang Van Vietnamese for lunch with my beautiful wife, Molly. Next [I would spend] $5 worth of quarters at Abari Game Bar with Thayer, another round of disc golf and a walk with my family through the neighborhood—someone has an extra glass of wine on their front porch. We run off to the Great Wolf Lodge and conquer water waves and wizardly things, then sneak away for a little poker with my buddies. Then we wake up, and it’s Christmas morning, and Santa has completed my dream renovations on my studio/home.
Why is Charlotte “home” for you?
My dad moved here when I was young, so when I turned 18, I moved down here. I don’t know how people up and move. How could they ever leave their friends, their communities, their families? Upwardly mobile we are, but I often wonder how negatively it affects our quality of life, how we lose our history and family traditions as we move apart.
What is your favorite Queen City memory?
The time when I wasn’t scared anymore about paying the mortgage, etc. from my art money; my child’s birth; our wedding; and Christmas with my family. Last Halloween, we built a 10-foot-long rolling pirate ship and gave kids rides around the neighborhood. We trick or treated with seven kids for three and a half hours—awesome night. We also built 45 wooden swords and had battles with the kids in the streets. I gave them the sword if they could beat me in a “fair fight;” I was Captain Hook.
What else would you like Charlotte to know about you?
That I feel very blessed and humbled by all the support and love I have received. That I know I wouldn’t have this amazing life if it weren’t for all of you (my family, my friends and my fans). You let me live a dream by getting to work in my garage studio every day. Thank you.
Interested in displaying a David French original in your home or business? He offers an endless variety of Charlotte-themed prints and paintings. Get them shipped to your door or pick them up directly from the source at his NoDa studio. Visit davidfrenchoriginals.com for more info.
You can also find his artwork available at these fine local establishments:
Fridays and Saturdays in December you can catch David at The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s Weihnachtsmarkt, a German-inspired “Christmas Market” with open air booths selling gifts and goods from local vendors.
This interview is from the November 2016 issue of Charlotte Happenings magazine. Images courtesy of David French.