Hickory Artist Hunter Speagle: The Redneck Van Gogh

A painting of the North by Northwest Office house by local Hickory artist Hunter Speagle
Hunter Speagle’s design for the North by Northwest Xmas cards.

Happy Holidays! This year North by Northwest Consulting commissioned Hunter Speagle, a local artist from Hickory, North Carolina, twice. Speagle is an exceptional abstract painter. The artist has spent time in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as nine years in Brooklyn, NY before returning to Hickory. In 2020, Speagle opened his Hickory studio and reinvested in his company ATAC (Artists Taking a Chance). The company had been a collective of artists of all mediums since 2001. This year Speagle was commissioned to create a painting for North by Northwest’s Hickory office as well as to design the company’s Christmas Cards. I caught up with Speagle on December 15th, who shared with me what inspired his art. He also described his hopes for Hickory art and artists in the near future. 

In 2019, CEO Anthony Alderman first met Speagle. Shortly after Speagle designed two murals in the company office’s backyard. Speagle also famously painted the mural in downtown Hickory, celebrating Hickory’s response to the polio outbreak. 

The Redneck Van Gogh

“I’ve been painting since I was 3 years old,” Speagle, who is 38, revealed over the phone in his lilting North Carolinian twang. “I am a process worker which means I react to each layer I put down. Everything is intentional but nothing is planned. I mostly use oils but lately have been experimenting more with mixed media, speedpaint, whiteout, but mostly oils. They call me the redneck Van Gogh.”  

Everything is intentional but nothing is planned

Hunger Speagle on his style
An impressionist painting of Grandfather mountain by Hunter Speagle
Grandfather Mountain by Hunter Speagle

In 2020, Mr. Alderman commissioned Speagle to create a piece for the company office. The result was a beautiful impressionist painting of Grandfather Mountain. “I think it’s the test of becoming a painter in North Carolina, to learn to paint the mountains first. So this piece was my ode to tradition.” 

I think it’s the best of becoming a painter in North Carolina, to learn to pain the mountains first. So this piece was my ode to tradition

Hunter Speagle on painting Grandfather Mountain

The Future of Hickory’s Art Scene

Speagle shared his hopes for Hickory and North Carolina’s artistic community. “I moved away to get my undergrad and MA. I had to learn all the rules and then learn how to break all the rules. But I was happy to come back to my hometown. Right now the art scene is crafty but I want to encapsulate fine arts in a more professional manner.” Speagle revealed that since he’s returned he’s been able to use his contacts and connections from Brooklyn and Atlanta to help spur on the burgeoning art scene that’s happening in Hickory. Especially as more creatives move into the city from the Asheville and Charlotte areas.

Street art of a police car being painted on North by Northwest's back parking lot by Hunter Speagle.
Hunter Speagle painting North by Northwest’s back parking lot in 2019

“I want to find the balance between low art and high art in Hickory. And to help achieve more grant funding, have more art shows and continue inviting collectors and artists to come through. I felt like I had to leave North Carolina in order to learn what I have about artistry. But it would be nice for future artists not to have to leave town to do that. Right now, people love to see art shows but the art is often priced too low. Art is not free to create, which is why we need to bring higher calibre collections through and help people understand the value of art creation.”

I want to find the balance between low art and high art in Hickory. And to help achieve more grant funding, have more art shows and continue inviting collectors and artists to come through.

Hunter Speagle

Speagle predicts that 2022 will be a big year for Hickory art and artists. “At the beginning of this year, when we opened our studio we had 300 people come through downtown Hickory which is huge for the area and I think things would have taken off this year if it wasn’t for Covid.” The studio had to shut down after only being open for two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

What to Look Out For

But Speagle is still hopeful for the future. In the meantime he invites people to check out what the local artist community is up to, by visiting his website ATAC Art Gallery. ATAC hosts regular events including Drink & Draw where visitors can come and drink alcohol while they draw live nude models. There is a dinner club with Michelin style catered events. These are all available to members and each dinner club aims to put together different people for new and unique conversations to flourish. 

If you would like to learn more or are interested in having a piece of art commissioned by Speagle, please visit his website & gallery. Speagle says he looks forward to future collaborations and connections.