LEWISBURG (WVDN) – When John Telisko was growing up in Cedar Grove, Kanawha County, he showed an interest in sketching at a young age.
So, when he was 12 his dad said, “I have someone for you to meet.”
And thus began the formal training of the artist loved so much in the Greenbrier Artists Guild and Lewisburg today.
Telisko is a humble man, always thinking of the other members of the Greenbrier Artists Guild by setting up their art displays at the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown Lewisburg and demonstrating painting technique to youth in the community at the Young at Art gallery owned by Meredith Young.
The man his father took him to see was Forrest Hull of Cedar Grove, and fortunately the two struck up a long-lasting, mentor-mentee relationship that guided the young teen into adulthood.
“He dressed like Mark Twain, all in white.” said Telisko.
And the truth was that Hull did come from that generation, having been born in 1891.
Aside from his passion for painting, Hull also worked “real jobs” writing for C&O Tracks magazine and The Charleston Daily Mail for 20 years.
Hull’s painting of Jesus and the Lamb is still visible behind the pulpit at the little brick church known as “Virginia’s Chapel” in Cedar Grove.
Although Hull was self-taught in both painting and writing, he was generous to guide Telisko down the path of original thought.
“’He said find your own. You will not be able to copy me because we see things differently,’” said Telisko.
And Telisko does see things through his own life experiences.
Those experiences are from his past, but also from the present.
“I am the worst person to take a walk with,” Telisko admits. “I will see something and stop, for quite a while, studying it; look at corn, look at tree bark, look at those rocks disturbed by a wash-out.”
When he became old enough, Telisko went into the service, and while he was in Vietnam, he continued to observe the world around him.
“The base in Kentucky had forests and mountains around it, and they were familiar, but in Vietnam the terrain and the plants were all unfamiliar plus I had to focus on my duty there anyway,” he said.
After three years he returned to his home and found that his mentor, Hull, had passed away.
Most of the paintings had been spirited off as well has the collection of Civil War veterans interviews that Huff had done between 1908 and 1912 in preparation for a book he wanted to write.
“He had surveys drawn by Daniel Boone and military papers. He said to me one day that people aren’t interested in these things,” Telisko said. “But they are.”
Remembering the saying that Hull used often, “Life got in the way,” this is exactly the saying that faced Tedisko when he returned from service.
Three years in the service then for 15 years he worked night shift and made a decent living for himself, but the art went absent in his life.
Happily painting again today, the style we see of John Telisko is possibly traditional realism.
He painstakingly paints the grass, blade by blade, and the length of time to complete a work can be months because, “I will take a break and work on another one or two at the same time,” he said.
There are three Telisko works on display this month at the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg.
Along with his other guild members, the show is an example of the differences in thought and sight.
Three poems were adopted to be the catalysts of individual artist’s perceptions. And the differences of their styles and mediums figure in as well.
Beyond August there is a permanent location/exhibit at Young at Art on East Washington Street, next to the Greenbrier Valley Theater. The works by Telisko, and other artists, on display are also for sale.