RALEIGH, N.C. - The artist who began painting frescoes at two small Episcopal churches in Ashe County 40 years ago and continued the art form in other parts of North Carolina says he's flattered but puzzled by the tribute for him.

The attention "is kind of foreign to me," Ben Long said last week. "I'm basically just an artist who paints pictures."

The Ashe County Frescoes Foundation paid tribute to Statesville native Ben Long last week in Jefferson.

In 1974, Long painted frescoes at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Jefferson and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Glendale Springs, including life-size depictions of The Last Supper and the crucifixion of Christ.

North Carolina also has a Ben Long Frescoes Trail in counties in seven counties: Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Iredell, Mecklenburg and Wilkes counties. The foundation was organized in 2009 to protect and preserve Long's frescoes.

He also painted a fresco in the Peace Chapel at Hospice of Charleston in Mount Pleasant in 2008.