Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

God’s beauty blooms in Richard’s art September 18, 2011

I HAVE NOT MET Richard Vilendrer, only spoken with him briefly on the phone.

Yet, I feel a connection to this 72-year-old Faribault man, this artist who creates art for the pure joy of doing so. I understand that. It is the same reason I write and take photos for this blog.

You can see that joy in Richard’s art, which I discovered Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmer’s Market. I had passed only a few vendors’ booths—laden with the typical fresh produce, flowers and baked goods you would expect to find in this venue—when I noticed the pen-and-ink and colored pencil drawings vended by Carol Vilendrer, Richard’s wife of 35 years.

I stopped and just stood there. And it flashed through my mind that this Christian-themed art would be a good fit for Christian greeting cards. And when I looked further, I saw that Richard had already made cards. But I write greeting card verses for an Indiana-based publisher and I asked Carol then and there if I could direct my editor to Richard’s work. So I am. I don’t know if this will go anywhere; I have to try, though.

There’s a certain passion in Richard’s art and you can sense that when you speak with the man. He doesn’t do this for the money—although he’s sold some pieces—but for the pure enjoyment of creating art.

Since grade school this former Faribault Regional Center employee, who worked with handicapped children until the center closed, has put pencil to paper. As a youth, when he should have been listening in English class, he was instead inspired by textbook images—of Indians and of soldiers in helmets and of airplanes—to duplicate those drawings.

Scripture and Christian songs inspire Richard.

Today words from a song heard on Twin Cities-based Christian radio station KTIS, or words from Scripture or a found feather on a nature walk inspire him to first draw in pencil, then go over the pencil with ink and finally fill in with colored pencil.

He prefers to draw small, detailed subjects like his hand or a feather or a maple leaf. Yet, he’s also drawn John Deere tractors and buildings and classic cars.

Richard uses a technique called cross hatching—to perfect shading—by using a ball point pen to draw lines close together in one direction and then crosses in an opposite direction. He learned that in high school. Mostly, though, he’s self-taught, without formal training. He calls his artistic skills a “God-given talent.”

This man of faith has used that gift from God to create artwork for fundraisers at his church, Divine Mercy in Faribault.

A year ago, he suffered a stroke. But even in that he sees the blessing—the stroke affected his entire right side, not his left. Richard, the artist, is left-handed.

Nature and faith inspire his detailed art.

A pen-and-ink drawing of a building at the former Faribault Regional Center where Richard worked.

St. Lawrence Church in Faribault where Richard and Carol Vilendrer were married 35 years ago this coming October 1.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED in purchasing Richard’s art or learning more about him, submit your contact information (which I will not publish) in a comment and I will pass that along to Richard.

PLEASE NOTE THAT the photos in this post are not 100 percent accurate to the true colors of Richard’s work. His drawings were wrapped in plastic, which filtered the colors and which created some glare. I edited each image somewhat to overcome those challenges.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling