Mixed-media artist Vickie Edwards discovered that in a pandemic year people want art.
“It’s been a good year, very gratifying,” Edwards said.
Her art is in Montana Bliss Art Gallery, where she had a one-woman show and taught classes in October. She lives in St. Ignatius and is president of an art gallery in Sandpoint, Idaho, called Artworks where most of her art is displayed. She also has some of her work in the Big Fork Persimmon Gallery, the Big Fork Art and Cultural Gallery and she was juried into the Radius Gallery in Missoula for their holiday show.
Two years ago, she took the Artists Along the Bitterroot studio tour and met Bitterroot artists. She joined the organization this year and will show her work at Montana Bliss Art Gallery in Hamilton during the AAB tour.
“I’m loving it,” Edwards said. “[AAB President Barbara Liss] is a great mentor, she’s given me lots of advice on how to market my work including getting into the Montana Cultural Treasures directory, a beautiful catalog. I have to give Barbara big kudos for helping me in Montana.”
Edwards said she has always been artistic, loved making things and took every art class available in high school but never planned to make a career out of art. She majored in literature in college then had a 40-year career in sales, marketing and management.
“It was a very great career, I loved it, but after 40-years you want to do something else,” Edwards said. “I always kept up with my art, with classes, workshops and retreats. I would always make time in my career to make art.”
Her husband passed away and she retired in 2016.
“Art was therapeutic, it kept me getting up in the morning, staying active, looking forward to something, that was great,” Edwards said. “That’s when I took my first class in the medium I do now which is cold wax and oil painting. I attended a five-day workshop on Whidbey Island in Washington and I was hooked.”
She had been looking for a way to make art with texture.
“Watercolor is beautiful, but it is flat,” Edwards said. “I did a lot of textile art, art quilts and small fabric paintings but that wasn’t permanent to hang in a gallery. I fell in love with cold wax and oil because you can make it thick, you can add 20 layers, then scrape it away to find things in the layers below that you’ve forgotten were there. It’s the best medium for me.”
The texture can be velvety smooth or textured by adding sand, gravel, ash, pigments, marble dust and plaster. She teaches this class that focuses on texture but with no precision or rules.
“You have to like color, you have to enjoy getting messy and it takes time,” Edwards said. “You need lots of layers to give it depth and underlying texture. I have had hundreds of students and all of them, at the end of the day have big smiles on their faces and were very happy with the process. Some of them have gone on to be cold wax artists which is very satisfying.”
Her signature paintings are dark, gritty and usually have a circle or sphere as a focal point.
She does some type of art or painting every day.
“The process of cold wax painting isn’t pretty,” she said. “You could have colors that aren’t even close to the finished product, maybe just circles or squares of paint. I never start with an idea, it just evolves. My paintings are very ugly during the process, I let the colors speak to me.”
Edwards said she is inspired by nature as her studio in St. Ignatius has large windows looking at the Mission mountains. She does take nature photographs and may incorporate a moose, bird or caribou into her work.
“I never know what my paintings are going to be until I get to the last four or five layers,” Edwards said. “Before that, it is just building up and scratching away. It is like an old crumbling wall in Tuscany or Greece. I want my stuff to look like it’s been weathered.”
She uses large tools from the hardware store, knives, trowels, squeegees, razor blades, or anything except a paintbrush.
“That is too precise for this kind of work,” Edwards said.
Cold wax is a mixture of naturally white unbleached beeswax, alkyd resin and odorless mineral spirits.
“Cold wax is like Crisco, it is white and you mix it half and half with your oil paints and put it on with pallet knives and squeegees,” Edwards said. “It doesn’t have to dry; you can scrape and move it around.”
Her technique for including precise shapes, like a moose or bird, is to draw it on a piece of paper, cut it out, load it with paint and roll it onto the larger painting, a simple printmaking process.
Edwards said through the pandemic year she has found that people want art. She posted her painting of birds on Instagram and received a call an hour later from a psychologist in Washington who said, “I have to buy it, because this speaks so much to how I’ve been feeling during this COVID isolation and quarantine.”
“People are staying home more, online more and buying things online,” Edwards said. “People are looking at Etsy and Instagram. I had a great year last year, sold a lot of paintings. It was wonderful.”
Her goal is to sell enough paintings to keep purchasing supplies for her expensive work of cold wax oil painting art.
“I do absolutely love it, the colors and textures, it is a very satisfying medium for me,” Edwards said.
See the mixed media work of Vickie Edwards at Montana Bliss Gallery in Hamilton or online at www.VickieEdwardsart.com.