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A True Southern Gentleman is Never the Victim

A True Southern Gentleman

A true southern gentleman possesses several qualities. He is well-mannered, has a firm handshake and a great sense of humor. He is friendly, doesn’t use profanity in the presence of a lady and knows how to make those around him feel special. And he is never the victim. Add to this the ability to bring life to a blank canvas and you have just been introduced to John Witzel Walters.

John Witzel Walters Studio/Home

J and I had the extreme pleasure of meeting this southern gent in his home/studio/gallery during a recent trip.  I read about him in an art magazine months ago and arranged a meeting through Facebook. John Witzel Walters is a self-taught artist who has the luxury of living in one of the most beautiful cities of the south. Charleston, SC.

We arrived at his home about the time that he and his girlfriend returned from a grocery shopping trip. He hopped out of his vehicle and gave us both a warm greeting and introduced us to Sarah. After asking how our trip to Charleston was going so far, he offered to drop us off wherever our little tourist’ hearts wanted to go after our visit with the two of them. I thought he was just being polite.

Sarah offered to take the groceries upstairs so he could show us his art, but he said, “No, I know how to do this!” He grabbed several bags and handed them to J and I, he took several himself and left a few for Sarah. We got most of the bags upstairs in one trip. I knew at that moment that we were in for a real treat. His art was important, but leaving his girlfriend to drag upteen bags of groceries upstairs alone was not how he did business. His gallantry marched right up those stairs with us.


At the top of the stairs we were greeted by his pups, Blue and Gracie. I was so pleased to meet them and as you can see, they were happy to meet us, too! I’d learned earlier that John had lost a dog in a fire, so these two babies were a welcomed site. Once we said hello to the pups, John invited us into his studio. We were here to see art, but he immediately invited us to stay for lunch. Sarah was making salads and they genuinely wanted us to share a meal with them. We had just finished lunch at one of Charleston’s many scrumptious restaurants, but wished we’d waited for the fellowship. So, at their insistence, we agreed to a smoothie while we walked through his home to see his work. You don’t get this kind of hospitality in a museum! We were in the presence of greatness in so many ways!

Peanut-butter strawberry smoothie

Sarah made us a delicious strawberry-peanut butter smoothie, the likes of which I’ve not found anywhere on the internet!

Strawberry-Peanut Butter Smoothie

Blend together, garnish with a strawberry and share with new or old friends.

Two Artists

Never the Victim

If time is an investment, then, his interest must be in the double digits. John and Sarah made us feel like we were old friends. We sat down at his kitchen table where he shared parts of his life story. A story of true survival. There was a period of time when he literally had no place to call home. He spent two of the coldest nights in South Carolina history in a hot water heater box and prior to that slept for weeks in his truck. He quipped at this, “Even in hard times,  I always had a good smelling cologne.”

He survived a shipwreck, started over after a fire destroyed his work and killed his beloved dog; and then was rescued from a stalled waverunner in the middle of the ocean. We almost stayed until supper, marveling at his appreciation of life.


John has an incredible bottle collection. You might be surprised to learn that he found them while overcoming a fear of water. He became a certified diver in an attempt to face that dread.

“Any fear I have is addressed head on,” John says. “Even bar fights in my youth helped make me the person I am today.”

SC Dispensary

I was given two of his bottles as we left the studio. According to John, two more await me when I make the next trip to Charleston.

John has survived several disastrous incidents that would make most throw in the towel. But, it is obvious to this collector that his guts have brought him much glory. Glory in the form of talent on canvas, glory in an attitude of honesty and glory in his acts of chivalry. His art is bright and mesmerizing, while his courtesy, generosity and valor can take your breath away in an age of “me-me-me.” He also speaks periodically to local art classes about the abilities we all possess to be artists if we simply “believe in ourselves.”

The Sinking Atlantis

As The Atlantis sinks, a nearby English Yacht named The Octopus stayed in constant contact with all those aboard the vessel.

Tub Time

As he told the story of the scuba diving ship sinking, I thought of how many times he’s beaten the odds. Then, I found the above painting hanging in his bathroom. I imagine the Percy Faith Orchestra version of “A Summer Place,” playing during a soak. This octopus and rubber duckie could be dreaming of a simpler time – a time of innocence – when one doesn’t have their tentacles attached to so many different objects. Or it could be something else entirely. When I ask if he painted octopi because of the yacht that helped save his life, he answered, “Who knows? Maybe.”

3-piece collectors

“Crab Dip”, “High Cotton” and “Pride” asked to go home with us. “Crab Dip” fits into our coastal lifestyle, “High Cotton” is a perfect fit for Heart for Dixie and “Pride”…. well… no explanation needed.

A True Southern Gentleman

John Witzel Walters and Sarah Lieser

Artist and Collectors

 A cotton boll just for Me????

John's Sister

Talent runs in the family…Antonia Moore Jewelry, John’s sister.

J tried to add John to TripAdvisor, but so far there’s no category for fun-hospitable-talented-artist-survivor-of-disasters-great-storyteller-perfect-southern-gentleman! He is definitely an attraction to see if you are in the Charleston area.

To have survived so many hardships, not once do you hear the word “victim” pass his lips. But what you do see are his words put into action.  I thought his earlier offer for a free ride back downtown had been a polite suggestion. But no!  Our little tourists’ hearts were escorted to a destination of our choice. And then those same two hearts were touched a little deeper when John hopped out of the car and gave us a good ole southern hug around the neck. A true southern gentleman makes you feel special… Like you’ve known each other forever.


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Kim Burdette

Kim Burdette


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    June 8, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Look at you holding a palette! What an amazing story and man Kim, and an afternoon I’m sure you will never forget. His art is beautiful, and of course you had to get “High Cotton!” I love the way he made that doggie door for his pups, and talk about having nine lives, wow!

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