Local artist Lena Auxier teamed up with the legendary hiker, Sunny Eberhart, who hit the news earlier this year for being the oldest person to walk the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, to provide drawings for yet another book of his.
Two years ago, Eberhart contacted Auxier, who lives in Prestonsburg and is from Magoffin County, after seeing some of her work online and wanting her to illustrate a second edition of a book of his, and Eberhart must have loved her work, since she got another email from him in May of this year.
“He was working on a revised version of a poetry book of his and he had added more to it and asked me if I wanted to go on another journey with him,” Auxier told the Independent.
The 83-year-old author, legendary hiker and retired optometrist, who writes under the name M.J. Nimblewill Nomad Eberhart, was working on the second edition of “DITTIES – Whispers, Shadows, and Sunshine,” detailing hikes he’s made, stories he imagined and more.
While for their first joint endeavor Eberhart provided Auxier with countless photos from his adventures, this time Auxier had to lean heavily on her own imagination and Eberhart’s unique descriptions of everything from a cabin in the woods to a wagon on the Oregon Trail.
“This time it was a lot more challenging for me since I didn’t have pictures to draw from and it was all from imagination, which made it much more difficult, but I think they turned out good and he really liked them,” Auxier said.
In total, Auxier provided 25 drawings for inside the book, and two drawings and a painting for the cover.
“The subject matters were all over the place,” Auxier laughed. “The first drawing I did was for a poem about the Oregon Trail and it meant so much to him, so I had to work hard on it. There were wagons, oxen and a mountain range, which are all so different from my usual work. He had another about a Viking ship, and I had to do some research to know what a Viking ship even looked like. Some of the poems were about funny little things, like a man sitting on a bench, waiting for his wife to get done shopping, and pictures of little trees, which we call filler.”
The painting on the front cover of the book featured Eberhart, himself, but she said she started with a morning scene, but he wanted more color, so they ended up with the vivid sunset scene.
One of her favorite drawings was one of the hardest – being completely from imagination and showing Eberhart walking on a path in a really dark and dense forest, but light was shining down the path.
When asked about what was rewarding about the process, Auxier said, “Knowing that he trusted me enough and believed in me to want me to draw the visions he had in mind for his book meant a lot to me. And seeing the final result with my name printed inside, especially my art being on the front cover of a book is a big deal to me. It’s all very humbling.”
The only drawing she had to completely redo was one involving a horse, a cowboy and a rattlesnake.
“He really had to convey to me what he sees in his mind,” Auxier said. “He lived this life and I have no idea what he saw, so I’m going by his descriptions.”
One of the most sentimental for Eberhart was the drawing of a cabin in the woods.
“It was a place where he did a lot of hiking and he would visit this couple who lived there,” Auxier explained. “The last time he saw it, it was in bad shape. There had been paths and waterways and just so much detail, and it was difficult to see what he was seeing, so that one took a little while, but I wanted to do the very best I could for him because it meant a lot to him.”
While Auxier didn’t hesitate for a second, saying she would definitely work with Eberhart, again, she said some of her portrait work is the most rewarding part of her life.
“The most rewarding thing for me in all my art is when I do a commissioned drawing for someone who has lost a loved one,” Auxier said. “For example, someone whose grandparent who has passed away and there weren’t any photos of them with their grandchild. So, I’m asked to draw them together in a single drawing. The look on the client’s face seeing it for the first time is the most rewarding, and I thank God every time for allowing me the ability to do it.”
Auxier has been drawing and painting for over 30 years, doing many landscapes and a lot of portraits, saying she is thankful she is able to make a living with her art.
“I always feel God gave me this talent, so I don’t want to waste it,” Auxier said. “I feel like it brings Him glory, so I’ve always shied away from compliments because I feel like we have to give those compliments to God. He made it all happen.”
To follow Auxier’s art, you can check her out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ArtworksByLenaAuxier, or on her website https://lena-auxier.pixels.com/. To learn more about Eberhart’s book or to order your copy of “DITTIES – Whispers, Shadows, and Sunshine, 2nd Edition,” be sure to check out his website at https://nimblewillnomad.com/2022/11/23/ditties-whispers-shadows-and-sunshine-2nd-edition/?fbclid=IwAR0YDRrWvEK9xXZhfJAJ4pIxMuXxeU24hMlv8e_m-YxnqJ7w7XgA4QunVgM.