Preserving Bluffton's history, one sketch at a time

Lynne Cope Hummell

Preserving Bluffton's history, one sketch at a time

"Oyster Factory" by Doug Corkern

Hang around Bluffton's iconic and historic locations long enough and you're sure to see a guy in a golf cart pull up, get out, unfold a small chair and start sketching what is in front of him.

That's Doug Corkern, a retired architect who moved to Old Town Bluffton in 2000 from Hilton Head Island, where he and his wife, Jean, had lived since 1964 in a house he designed.

The house he built on a $3,500 lot in South Beach is still standing, he said. Many others houses he designed on Hilton Head are still standing, testament to both his timeless design ability and his prolific 40-year career.

These days, when Corkern draws houses, they are more often sketches of historic old places in his new hometown. "I love to do old buildings," he said, "particularly the ones that may get torn down."

Earlier this year, on Jan. 28, Corkern was named Artist of the Year by the Greater Bluffton Chamber of Commerce at its annual Bluffton Ball. "I appreciate the recognition," he said, "but there are a lot of artists better than me in Bluffton."

His sketchbooks are full of his drawings of churches, barns, schools and old mercantile buildings, some from various back roads trips through South Carolina. "I just love to draw," he said.

Corkern has sketched a fair number of Bluffton residents as well, and not just those who are well known. "I love making portraits of my neighbors," he said. As an example, he shows a drawing of Crawford Martin, who lives on Calhoun Street in one of the few residences remaining on Old Town's popular "main drag." He said the sketch took him about 30 minutes to complete.

His portraiture surprises him. "I didn't know I could do that!" he exclaimed. "I mean, this really looks like the guy!"

Corkern's Facebook wall is full of his sketches. "I really enjoy posting my sketches on Facebook and getting comments and likes," he said. "It keeps me in touch with people."

One recent sketch is of a place not yet built, nor even funded. It's a rendering of a potential Bluffton Veterans Memorial. A group of interested citizens are trying to get the project off the ground.

Corkern doesn't always have a subject in mind when he sets to sketch. "It's just however the mood strikes me," he said. "I just like to draw the things around me. Sometimes I think I'm just trying to record my Bluffton."

Corkern's work is on display at Four Corners Gallery, 1263-B May River Rd.