WENTWORTH TRADD smiles distractedly and fingers a silver cross the size of a half dollar as he talks. “Our Lord used fish in His teachings and of course, in his miracle of the loaves and fishes. And the Bible is filled with references to birds: ‘They shall mount up like Eagles, with wings of great length.’ That’s from Isaiah. I don’t doubt that some people have, at times, mistaken the big birds, the Herons and the Storks and Owls, for angels.
“When I was younger, I was fascinated with the big birds and I lost sight of how relatively tiny I am, but as our friends the Baptists like to say, His eye is on the sparrow. And in these parts, on the wren and the rice bird, too. But you can’t deny the glory of those great patient wings flapping when a heron decides he’s had enough fish. That’s why I have to paint them standing still. Every time I think of how magnificent they are on the wing, I just feel too insignificant. It would be a presumption on my part.
“Jesus was a carpenter, but he also left this world before He got to be my age. I’m the first to confess the slightness of my own skills, so I try to use things as I find them. Good tools have done wonders for my ability to build simple panels. Maybe in my NEXT career I will make boxes and crates. For now I’m content to salvage old doors and plywood scraps. I’m old enough to remember when plywood itself was a modern miracle, not to metion these new paints that will last much longer than I will. Of course, Michelangelo’s egg temperas have lasted centuries, but they aren’t exposed to the salt and sun of a Carolina summer.”
He is surprisingly frank about selling his work. “I’d like to be able to keep them all, but of course I can’t. I don’t have room for all that I have now and I’m still painting every day. It would be nice to give them away, but the Government doesn’t quite understand that and my plumber and my mechanic have small children at home. I can’t expect them to eat a picture of a fish anymore than I can flush a picture of a water closet. But I can tell you this- they are all bargains.”