CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Take a left from Central Avenue onto Thomas Avenue in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood and you may notice a few extension cords and something odd hanging in a tree or two.
They are remnants of a special holiday display there that started with a few neighbors who made and hung lighted Christmas balls in their trees. The creations of chicken wire and lights eventually stretched blocks and onto other streets in the area.
“Through the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association, I have been commissioned to paint the very front end of Thomas behind Zada Jane's,” said artist David French of his now finished Christmas on Thomas painting which documents the sight.
“This painting will never do justice of walking down the street,” he said humbly.
French brought the scene to life with an 8-foot by 12-inch painting for the neighborhood association to auction off.
“I have given them a price where they get 12 small versions of these,” he said.
PMNA is conducting an online auction here ahead of its annual Winter Fling on March 3.
For a bid of $1,200, French will paint in at least three people or pets. So, you and your significant other can be in the original walking your dog down the brightly lighted street.
French lives just a couple of miles away in NoDa. His passion can be seen in local eatery Zada Jane’s Corner Café, which is in the Thomas Avenue painting and in stores like Paper Skyscraper and Green with Envy as well.
“These prints are in 10,000 Charlotte homes and counting, if not 15, 000,” he said of the less expensive prints he sells of his paintings. “I’ve thrived in a down economy because I focus on the affordable. It’s because they’re $10, $20 or $25.”
French says he loves promoting the little guy. “I get to glorify the small business owners. Probably 70, 80 or 90 percent of my paintings are places that are owned by somebody who lives near the business and is there on a regular basis,” he explained.
His series now includes some 160 scenes, from Alexander Michael’s Restaurant & Tavern in Fourth Ward, to a stretch of East Boulevard in Dilworth, to a scene from the annual festival Matthews Alive.
He’s painted John’s Country Kitchen in Plaza Midwood, Bank of America Stadium in uptown and most recently, the skyline as seen from the Central Avenue overpass.
“This has become my new most popular piece. This is blowing my sales rates out of the water,” he said of the painting.
How did all this start?
For that, you have to go back a few years when French was taking classes at CPCC. He was in a beginner design class where the professor thought he wouldn't be challenged.
“She told me I didn't need to be in Design 1. Go do whatever in the heck I wanted and this was five years ago six years ago. And I ran off and combed the campus for a couple of hours,” he recalled.
He settled on the old Athens Restaurant, which was shutting its doors after 43 years.
“It was closing down the next month and I stood there on site with a seven-foot-long piece of wood and painted it, and that got so much attention.”
French takes the attention seriously and is grateful.
“I still can’t believe how blessed I am in life to get do to his for a living,” he said.
He also does commissions and says those range between $400 and $2,000, with an average price of $500.
If you have a favorite sight, maybe he’s painted it.
You can see more of David French’s work at www.davidfrenchoriginals.com