Redneck Renaissance 

Stand-up legend Jeff Foxworthy opens up about entering the art world

click to enlarge Jeff Foxworthy started sketching in second grade, with his take on Adam West as TV's Batman

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Jeff Foxworthy started sketching in second grade, with his take on Adam West as TV's Batman

From our 2018 SEWE Issue.

click to enlarge Foxworthy - PROVIDED
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  • Foxworthy

Like Duke's Mayonnaise or White Lily Flour, Jeff Foxworthy has long been a staple of Southern homes.

The best-selling comedian scored a top-10 record on the Billboard charts on Sept. 23, 1995, with his multi-platinum album Games Rednecks Play. Earning a spot alongside Hootie and the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, and TLC's CrazySexyCool, Foxworthy stood out among his fellow chart toppers — partly due to his folksy relatability, but also because the comedian had two other hit records in the Billboard 200 that week, including his career-defining You Might Be a Redneck If... It's safe to say, the Atlanta native had "done good."

In the years since racking up a handful of gold and multi-platinum comedy albums, Foxworthy has written numerous books and found himself appearing on television as a sitcom dad and game show host, while continuing to tour as a comic. But now he finds himself at the start of a new stage in his career. While Foxworthy has spoken hundreds of times about his comedy, this is the first time he's been public about a passion of his that goes far beyond his 34 years as a comedian. Meet Jeff Foxworthy, the artist.

"The weird thing about my job is that it requires that I am in a different city every night that I do it. So I live in airports, and since forever in airports I'd just have a little sketch pad in my backpack, and I'd sit there and draw people," says Foxworthy. "Then I'd get on the plane and do them in pen and ink and put a funny caption on them. I literally have I-don't-know-how-many notebooks with drawings with funny captions on them."

Going all the way back to the 2nd grade when a teacher took notice of his sketch of Adam West as TV's Batman, Foxworthy has always filled the spaces in his day with drawing. It was after repeated encouragement from his friends poring over his sketch notebooks that Foxworthy took the next step forward and began to experiment with paints and watercolors.

For this year's Southeastern Wildlife Expo, he will be fielding questions from the audience and exhibiting new artwork for the crowd. Although a veteran of the stage, Foxworthy is admittedly putting himself in a vulnerable position by showing this new side of himself to fans.

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"I've done comedy most nights of my life for 34 years. I know how to do that, but I get kind of fascinated by creative people, whether they are writers or cooks or artists or whatever because most of them aren't just creative in one area of their life," he says. "So for me, there's comedy, but I've also written 28 books. I draw. I like to cook. I just like to do creative things."

With artwork inspired by the outdoors and farm life, Foxworthy recognizes that he most likely lacks the anxiety of many other artists. He doesn't rely on art sales to support himself and his family. As Foxworthy says, if his paintings fail to sell, he can always go write more jokes.

"I think for a comedian I was really lucky because I found early what worked for me. I just trusted if I think something, or if my wife said something, or if my family does something, I'm going to trust that other people are thinking, saying, or doing the same thing," he says. "So I'm just going to talk about my life. If you go and listen to CDs or watch a special, it's kind of a snapshot of what was going on in my life that year."

click to enlarge Around the Yard: After being put on leave from the NYC Ballet over “creative differences,” Milliken Margaret spends retirement raising 47 varieties of irises inside her tiny house on 5,000 acres in Barnwell County. - FILE
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  • Around the Yard: After being put on leave from the NYC Ballet over “creative differences,” Milliken Margaret spends retirement raising 47 varieties of irises inside her tiny house on 5,000 acres in Barnwell County.

With his material moving from his dating life to being a newlywed, starting a family and now transitioning into the period of life when you stop taking care of your children and begin caring for your parents, Foxworthy is now in a position to give art a try. Just like his stand-up routine, he draws inspiration from his everyday life — and trusts, like he always has, that he'll pull at the common thread that runs throughout all our lives.

It was while standing on the back porch of his Georgia farm that Foxworthy found the inspiration for one of his first full-color paintings. It was there that he noticed his farm manager's wife snapping greenbeans and decided to capture the moment. It was in that moment that Foxworthy recalled his own grandmother perched in a rocking chair, snapping beans. In depicting these scenes, Foxworthy hopes to tap into the shared experience that has brought him success thus far.

"It's that common thread that we all share. I think that's one of the secrets of comedy. We all like to think that we're unique, and we have unique thoughts. The truth is we don't. We're much more alike than we are different," Foxworthy says in a wistful drawl. "We all want the same things in life. We want our kids to find somebody who makes them happy and a job that touches on their gifts. It's kind of that same thing. It's like with the redneck jokes. I found real early it wasn't the ones you made up, it was the true ones that got the laughs."



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