Artist Paul Carpenter with his best friend, the statue of the Native American in the Wissahickon. (Photo by Barbara Sherf)

by Barbara Sherf

Springfield Township native Paul Carpenter is a refreshing 25-old who has known that he wanted to be an artist for many years. Three years ago, the East Falls resident formed his own company, Fresh Design and Print, working out of the Sherman Mills Art Studio complex, about a three-minute walk from where he lives. The space houses a printmaking set-up, enabling him to print his graphically enhanced photography and illustrations onto t-shirts, note cards and wall art.

This is the text from his web site at “Paul Carpenter is a Philadelphia-based multi-disciplinary visual artist, concentrating on graphic design, illustration, printmaking and painting. Living on the blurred edge where these mediums meet and mingle, most work implements layering of fundamental elements from each of these concentrations.”

Carpenter, who grew up second in a family of four boys in an old Victorian home on Bridge Street in Oreland, is a graduate of Springfield High School and the University of Delaware with a degree in Fine Arts. Upon walking into the Oreland Hardware store recently, this writer saw his note cards of the Indian statue situated in the Wissahickon Valley, next to note cards of the Phillies Phanatic. “He’s my nephew.  Good kid. Talented,” said his uncle and store owner, Bob Carpenter.

Paul Carpenter and I took a walk to see the Indian statue while he told me his story.

“My parents introduced us to the Wissahickon at a very early age. I spent a good deal of my childhood exploring this park,” he said. “I always remembered the Indian as being an icon of sorts for this area, and so I came back to photograph him.”

Those photographs were enhanced using Photoshop and Illustrator software programs and are now very popular in Philadelphia and beyond. “People from far and wide associate this image with the Wissahickon Valley and are drawn to it,” he said, noting that he tries to make artwork available in a variety of price ranges.

The history of the Indian is detailed on the Friends of the Wissahickon web site:

“This kneeling Lenape warrior was sculpted in 1902 by John Massey Rhind. Commissioned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Henry, it is a tribute to the Lenape Indians who hunted and fished in the Wissahickon prior to the arrival of colonists. The dramatic 15-foot high sculpture, which is mistakenly believed to depict Chief Tedyuscung, the most famous member of the Lenape tribe, can also be viewed from Forbidden Drive across the creek if one stands just north of the path to the Rex Avenue Bridge. The white marble statue was designed to commemorate the passing of the native Lenape from the region.

“For this reason, the Indian depicted in the statue has his hand to his brow looking west in the direction of the departing tribe. Rhind was not concerned with accurate representation since he gave this East Coast forest Indian a Western Plains Indian war bonnet. The statue, which was hauled to the site by workhorses, is situated on Council Rock, the place where the ancient Lenape Indians are believed to have held their pow-wows.”

Carpenter’s mother, Joan, is a teacher’s aide, while his father, William, is a judge of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. According to Joan, “All of the boys were very active, but Paul had the ability to sit and draw and color, and I’m so proud he’s doing his art his way. He has a sense of humor, and that comes out in some of his designs, as well as his political philosophy.”

Carpenter refers to Wyndmoor residents Mary Costello, owner of City Planter, an urban garden container store located in Northern Liberties, and her husband Bob Sawyer, an arborist, as his “adopted parents.” Carpenter worked for Costello doing gardening  work in the summers during high school and learned about horticulture during those years from Costello.

“Paul always had an artistic flair. He taught me about the color wheel and why certain colors went together and how to use it,” said Costello. “He is a hard worker and will do well in life. He has his priorities in order in terms of his direction.”

Carpenter’s first job out of college was as the Art Director for Liquid Surf Skate Snow based in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He designed logos and a line of clothing, and hand-painted surfboards, skateboards and snowboards.

“When the economy turned, they suggested I go freelance and offered to be my  first client. I actually like working with a mix of different clients and still get down to the beach about once a month to deliver T-shirts.”

He then took on his second Delaware seashore client, the Alley-Oop Skim Camp in Dewey Beach. Skimboarding (or “skimming”) is a board sport in which a “skimboard” (a smaller counterpart to a surfboard) is used to glide across the water’s surface. Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins on the beach; it starts with the dropping of the board onto the thin wash of previous waves.

“I love being near the beach, and so it’s a good excuse to deliver T-shirts or other products to them once a month or so. I love the sound of the ocean. I’ve found my life’s work. If you just see work as a way to make money, then you will never be happy,” Carpenter said, noting that the most difficult part is disciplining himself to do the necessary marketing.

Paul’s girlfriend of three years, Kate Fanning, who works for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, helps him sell his wares at street festivals on the weekends. “Paul has exposed me to the subtleties of nature. That’s the beauty of the artist’s eye,” she said.

To view Carpenter’s complete line of work, visit

Barbara Sherf can be reached at 215-233-8022 or