HIGH POINT, NC (WWAY) -- Friday evening at Cape Fear Country Club, Azalea Festival leaders introduced the festival's featured artist to the public.
William Mangum, who worked on the piece for three weeks, was finally able to show all his hard work off.
Mangum's love for the medium started with a 59-cent tray of watercolors.
"I had no idea what I was doing," he said. "That evening as I pulled out a sheet of drawing paper, it was just magical. It all came together."
After he colored that canvas, the broke college student had a Christmas gift for his mother.
"And when she opened it up and looked at it, she said, 'Honey, you have to do more. I mean this is unbelievable,'" Mangum said.
His mother passed away years ago, but that watercolor he created for her back when he was in school sits across from his work bench at his studio.
"It's a great reminder of the humble roots," Mangum said. "I think it is always great to have a proper perspective of where you come from."
Mangum has come a long way in the 36 years he has been working with watercolor. He's painted 3,000 paintings all over the world, written several books and started the Honor Card; a program to raise awareness to the homeless. Now, he can add Azalea Festival featured artist to his colorful resume.
"To create this year's painting for the Azalea Festival is really quite an honor," he said.
The artist drew his inspiration for the painting from Airlie Gardens.
"I went on a field trip, went down there and sort of scouted out for a couple days, and I came across this perfect water oak that was right on the point," he said.
Taking some artistic license, Mangum added in Adirondack chairs and, of course, azaleas.
"It continues to teach me a lesson each and every day. I love what I work with," Mangum said.
Those professional and personal lessons are what make his art so special.
"It was those life lessons that really continue to resonate in my art -- heart and art I should say," Mangum said with a smile.
The Azalea Festival runs April 9-13.