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Hilton Head Island resident Chris Clayton brings art, history together in 'Lowcountry Through Time' exhibit

September 5, 2014

By Erin Shaw, The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)

Sept. 05--The latest exhibit at The Art League of Hilton Head gallery is a collision of art and history. Titled "Lowcountry Through Time," the majority of the 19 works by Hilton Head Island artist Chris Clayton capture snapshots of Lowcountry history in pastels.

"The First Battle of Pocataligo," also known as the Battle of Yemassee, depicts a skirmish between Union and Confederate soldiers in bold vermillions, golden yellows and crisp ceruleans.

"The Cotton Pickers" show plantation slaves working in a field with broad blue and white strokes for puffy cotton bolls.

"Forty Acres and a Mule" illustrates the Reconstruction program where former slaves worked on land abandoned by plantation owners.

To start each work, Clayton finds period or antebellum photos online, manipulates them on the computer using Photoshop, then applies pastel over the image.

It's a new style for the Manchester, England-born artist, who also enjoys drawing animals, landscapes and, occasionally, jet planes. Clayton was an engineer and executive for General Electric for 28 years and worked on jet engines. His profession took him all over the world, and while there wasn't much time to create artwork, he visited art galleries often.

Since retiring to Hilton Head in 2004, Clayton has been able to focus on his art. "The Lowcountry Through Time" exhibit will be his fourth gallery show.

The exhibit also features drawings made with silver and gold pen on pastel paper. One depicts Captain William Hilton's ship, The Adventure, in minute metallic detail.

Pastel is his favorite medium, however, Clayton said.

"I find it easy. If you make a mistake or want to go in a different direction, it's very flexible."

Clayton estimated he spends four to six hours a day in his home studio, which has a desk with a computer and a table covered in color-coordinated pastels.

The rest of the time, Clayton devotes himself to history. He is co-founder of the History Forum of the Lowcountry at the Coastal Discovery Museum and has given many Civil War presentations to local historic organizations. He is also a historian for the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Beaufort.

With the "Lowcountry Through Time" show, Clayton was able to combine his interests in art and history, the latter of which is abundant in this area, he said.

"You'd be amazed how many people come here and say, 'Wow, I had no idea this happened here.' "

Follow reporter Erin Shaw at


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Source: Island Packet (Hilton Head, SC)

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