Carefully Placed Lines on Paper

Published 10:59 am Monday, September 26, 2022

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Tryon architect exhibits a lifetime of sketching


For more than 20 years, John Walters has been one of Tryon’s leading architects, designing buildings near and far from his home in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Along the way, he would find quiet moments to appreciate the work of other architects and sketch the buildings that made an impression on him. Those collected works were published in his book Carefully Placed Lines on Paper, and selected original drawings are now on exhibition at the contemporary art gallery Upstairs Artspace in Tryon.

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The 19 pen and ink sketches on display include buildings such as the New England Aquarium, Washington National Cathedral, Boston City Hall, and the National Gallery of Art. Closer to home, the works include Tryon Presbyterian Church and Tryon Elementary School. Most fit within 11 x 14-inch white frames, and a couple have a bit of standout color. In most cases, the sketches were drawn quickly and are easy to appreciate. Individually, the works are glimpses of interesting buildings; as a whole, the exhibit is a reflection of a man who understands the complexities of architecture and who can make it accessible to the general public.


“John’s exhibit has been very popular,” Gallerist Steve Wong said. “It’s not big and bold, and people have to stop and look closely at the sketches. Once patrons slow down to look at John’s artwork, they take the time to look at each one closely, absorb the details, ponder the subjects, and appreciate how so few lines can say so much. The works are understated and sophisticated, and draw people in close for a better look.”


A 1976 graduate of Clemson University, Walters started his career in Charlotte, and received many awards for his work. His first exhibition – Drawings by Architects – was in 1984 at the Hodges-Taylors Gallery in Charlotte. His work in Western North Carolina has included projects for the Tryon Fine Arts Center, St. Luke’s Hospital, Polk County School System, and numerous residences, as well as the Smith Phayer Hospice House and Railway Depot Renovation, both in nearby Landrum.

Boston City Hall

“Throughout my career, I have enjoyed sketching buildings that caught my eye for various reasons,” Walters said. “As an architect, I understand the technical aspects of these buildings, and as an artist, I appreciate their beauty. I consider these drawings to be very personal. I recall the circumstances behind each of these sketches, and I am pleased that people like my perspective.”


Carefully Placed Lines on Paper is one of three exhibits currently on display at Upstairs Artspace through Oct. 14. These are the first exhibits in the contemporary gallery that reopened on Aug. 26, 2022, after a year of restorations. The gallery was flooded in August 2021, and for a year it was closed for repairs. The gallery is now open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m., located in downtown Tryon at 49 S. Trade St. Viewing is free. For more information, please visit online: Walter’s book, Carefully Placed Lines on Paper, is available for purchase through his website:


Submitted by Steve Wong