Artist couple moves to Blue Earth to write, paint
Why would a Twin Cities couple sell their town house in Chaska and choose to move to Blue Earth, a town they knew nothing about?
Author Victor John Faith says it was because he found an earthen home for sale here.
“I designed an earth home in 1979, and I always wanted to live in one,” he says. “I found one in Blue Earth for sale on the internet, came and looked at it, and we bought it.”
He and his wife, Claudia, moved here three summers ago. She is a full time artist, while Victor works full time at writing – and sketching.
That isn’t what they have always done.
For many years they owned a horse farm near the Cities, raising thoroughbred race horses and racing them at Canterbury Downs. They raised horses from 1985 to 2006.
Claudia was also a mortgage banker in downtown Minneapolis for 20 years. Victor held a variety of jobs, from city administrator of Greenfield, to horse trainer.
“I broke horses, which also broke me,” he says, listing the number of bones he has broken in his body over the years.
One of his more interesting occupations was training mounted police officers, from the East Coast to the Midwest. He taught them tactical drill functions.
“But all the time I also wrote and sketched,” he says.
One of his first books deals with a young girl, Kallie, who works with race horses and becomes a jockey.
“The premise is that a race horse will always break your heart,” Faith says. “And that youthful dreams will disappoint.”
He says he has an unusual style of creating characters.
“I sketch people wherever I am, and then make notes about them,” he says. “I have lots of sketch books filled with characterizations, both in drawings and words.”
His wife, Claudia, convinced him that the sketch books would make an interesting book on their own.
He selected a variety of character sketches and has published them in a new book, entitled, ‘Gentle Trekking; This Wide Land, One Cafe at a Time.’
Every sketch in the book was made at a cafe across the United States. They are all identified, from Hibbing, to Tampa, Fla.
And yes, there are quite a few sketches from Blue Earth in the book. Most, Victor says, were drawn at the McDonald’s here. Although not identified by name, many have written comments next to the faces which give a pretty fair estimation of who they are.
Faith just donated a copy of the book to the Blue Earth Library. He figures the local folks would be interested to see if they are included in the book.
After Victor and Claudia sold the horse farm, they moved into a beautiful, three story town home in Chaska, to retire and pursue new interests.
“We hated it,” says Claudia. “I guess it was just too sterile for us to be creative in. Plus, we were tired of the crowded and noisy Twin Cities.”
That set the stage for the move to Blue Earth.
“We love it here,” Victor says. “We are enjoying a simpler life and keeping under the radar of notoriety.”
Well, to a certain extent anyway. Both Victor and Claudia spend a lot of time promoting their work. After all, they say, that is how they now make a living.
“We travel to a lot of arts and crafts shows in the area all summer long,” Victor says. “We set up displays of my books, and Claudia’s paintings, and try and sell them.”
Claudia actually paints while in her booth and that draws a lot of interest, she says.
“Some- times we have to get separate booths, because books and paintings don’t always sell well together,” Victor says. “But we try and get just one booth.”
In the winter, they head south. But unlike most ‘snow-birds,’ they work while they are in warmer climes.
“We have gone to Florida and Arizona,” Victor says. “We either take our motor home or our van, and camp in state parks.”
They spend the winter doing just what they do up north in the summer – going to arts and crafts fairs, selling their art.
“We pull an enclosed trailer full of Claudia’s art work and supplies and my books,” Victor says.
They say they have sold many books and paintings in the past few years, but admit the market is down because of the economy.
“People do cut back on art purchases when the economy is down,” Victor says. “But Claudia’s paintings are usually purchased by people who are well off financially.”
He adds that her paintings sell for more in the area of $500 as opposed to a $50 painting available at some stores.
A few of her paintings have been on display at art galleries in Mankato and in the Twin Cities. Even more are on display around her studio in Blue Earth, a former family room with many windows facing south.
In an earth home, natural light is a rarity, but the Faith’s home has one which allows Claudia to work without artificial lighting.
One nice thing about living in an earth home and heading south for the winter, Victor says, is that you just leave and lock the door.
“We don’t have a furnace in the house, we heat with one wood fireplace,” he says. “Because it is an earth home, the temperature stays around 55 degrees.”
Victor was born and raised in Eveleth, and Claudia in Duluth. The two met in college at UMD in Duluth.
Claudia was involved in music, and Victor in theater. Claudia performed with symphonies across the Midwest for a while after graduation.
“We have always loved the arts,” Victor says. “When Claudia retired and wondered what to do with her time, I suggested she take up music or painting again.”
She picked painting and has done so with a passion, winning awards at shows across the country, including ones in Owatonna, Central Iowa, and Brainerd.
Her work was judged ‘Best in Show’ at the UMD Festival of Fine Arts and Crafts, held at the prestigious Glensheen Mansion.
“Practice may make perfect, but I just paint every day,” she says.
Victor currently has four books in print and is busy working on several others. One is a sequel to his story about Kallie and race horses.
Both the Faiths say they love the outdoors, which is why they camp whenever they go to art shows.
They have formed a corporation for their work, and call their business the Art Zoo. Blue Earth area residents have probably noticed their van, with Art Zoo printed on it, around town.
“We are just having the time of our life, and doing exactly what we love,” Victor Faith says. Claudia agrees totally.
It may not be a life style for everyone, but it seems to suit the Faiths just fine.