Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From pets to farm animals, Faribault artist creates vibrant portraits February 20, 2018

“LaFonda” from Squash Blossom Farm

 

I’D RECOGNIZE Faribault artist Julie Fakler’s art anywhere. She paints animal portraits that pop with personality and color, that leave me smiling and happy.

 

“Peters Farm Horse”

 

Her signature acrylic paintings feature domestic animals against a backdrop of bold color. No distractions of setting. Just the animal, full focus.

 

“Grandview Farm Cat”

 

I’m always drawn to the eyes. Julie has the ability to paint eyes that connect me to the cat or dog or horse or cow or goat or whatever creature she paints. I look into those eyes and I see an animal cared for, loved, important to someone somewhere.

 

A promo for Julie’s Faribault show.

 

The latest somewhere took Julie onto five area farms to wander among and photograph animals, talk with the farmers and then paint for her latest show, “Southeastern Minnesota Farm Animal Portraits Exhibition.” She received a Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council grant for the project.

 

Julie’s farm animal portraits, including “Squash Blossom Farm Chicken,” adorn walls in Buckham Commons.

 

Several days ago I photographed, with Julie’s permission, her art now displayed through February 28 at Buckham Commons, the hallway linking Faribault’s public library to the community center. Her farm animal paintings are also displayed through February 24 at the Austin (MN) Artworks Gallery. Julie’s new show deviates from her usual pet portraits. I always appreciate an artist who takes on creative challenges.

 

“Grandview Farm Goat”

 

Whenever I view Julie’s animal art, I envision her vibrant work beyond acrylic on hardboard. I see her animal portraits on the pages of a children’s picture book, on t-shirts, on pillows, on tote bags…the possibilities seem endless for this animal-loving artist.

 

Even Julie’s guestbook is handcrafted.

 

Portrait propped next to the guestbook.

 

Some of the comments penned in the guestbook.

 

TELL ME: What do you think of Julie’s art and/or other possibilities for her paintings?

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Artwork copyright of Julie Fakler and photographed with her permission. Julie paints animal portraits on commission and also teaches “Paint your Pet” classes. Check her website by clicking here for more info.

Advertisements
 

Where, oh, where has my little dog gone & pet photos July 20, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Photographed recently along a busy roadway in Cannon Falls. (Yes, I blacked out the phone number.)

 

EVERY SPRING, SUMMER and fall, handcrafted photo signs pop up on street corners with the message, LOST DOG.

DO NOT YELL, APPROACH OR CHASE, the writer advises of a dog lost recently in Cannon Falls.

I often wonder if these canines are ever found or wander home or why they are running loose in the first place. I realize pets sometimes escape…but I appreciate responsible pet owners who keep their animals under control on their property and who clean up after the dogs they’re walking. I’ve stepped in stinky dog poop too often in my yard. Yuck.

A few years ago a woman even posed her dog in the middle of a corner flowerbed by my house for a photo op. In the process, the dog destroyed flowers I’d planted. I was not happy.

 

 

But I was happy to see the owner of a lost (as in deceased) pet post a public notice offering free pet portraits. I spotted the sign recently in a Waterville gift shop. The owner of Chaz the dog is a photographer specializing in pictures of people and their pets, according to the Facebook page for Chazman Photography based in Janesville.

 

 

I haven’t photographed a lot of pets. But the animal images I’ve taken are, I think, notable. I’m not your typical stand, point-and-shoot photographer. I strive to tell a story, using perspective and setting to achieve that. Here are some cat and dog photos I’ve shot, my favorite being the “NO PETS ALLOWED” image shot outside Riverfront Park in Mankato in June of 2011. The dog owner, upset his canine couldn’t enter the park, suggested the photo location, almost daring himself and his dog to cross that line.

Here are those promised pet photos pulled from my files:

 

My sister Lanae’s fat cat, Sable, now deceased. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2010.

 

Ian with Zephyr in rural Bigelow. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2013.

 

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him in 2014. He was owned by the Spitzack family of rural Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

I photographed this cat outside Hopefull Treasures in Hope, MN., in 2011. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another cat photographed in 2011 in Hope, MN. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Another view of that dog outside Mankato’s Riverfront Park. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2011.

 

Rudi, one friendly collie at River Bend Nature Center in Faribault. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.

 

My friend Mandy’s cat, Gretchen, photographed in 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Taco the dog, photographed at the Faribault Farmers’ Market in Central Park in 2012. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

 

Brianna’s cat, in her home in Hayfield, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo October 2016.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

Oh, for cute…kitties and puppies August 7, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I GREW UP ON A DAIRY and crop farm where cats and dogs roamed the property.

Although they were pets, they weren’t really pets. Rather, they were there to work. The cats caught mice. The dogs alerted us to wild animals and vehicles arriving in the farm yard.

My parents never bought cat or dog food. Table scraps, of which there were few from our family of eight, and a daily hub cap of milk warm from the cow nourished the cats and dogs.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen's son, with the family cat, Zephyr.

One of my all-time favorite portraits shows Ian, my blogger friend Gretchen’s son, with the family cat, Zephyr. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo shot in July 2013.

Of course, we kids grew quite fond of dogs like Blackie, Shep, Rex and Fritz Carter Mondale Ferraro and Tommer the cat (why can’t I remember the names of more cats?), …

I recall dressing kittens in doll clothes and pushing them in a doll buggy.

There were endless attempts to teach the dogs to shake hands and fetch balls or sticks.

Spring always brought a search in the hay loft or haystack for newborn kittens.

Yes, my memories of felines and canines are mostly pleasant ones of working farm animals that sometimes allowed us to play with them.

As an adult, considering the cost and care, I’ve never wanted a pet. Plus, I’m just not the type of person who wants an animal living indoors and/or in town. I know I’m in the minority. But that’s OK. I’ll just admire and pet other people’s pets.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

Titan, so active I struggled to photograph him.

The other night I met Titan, an adorable seven-week-old puppy, at the Spitzack farm outside Faribault. Puppies are so darned cute. Titan reminded me of the story my mom shared awhile ago. One recent afternoon a man from a nearby town arrived at the senior complex where she lives with nearly a dozen puppies for residents to pet and cuddle. He’d engaged the litter in active play so they’d be worn out. His strategy worked. Mom was so excited about a sweet, cuddly puppy falling asleep in her lap that you’d have thought she won the lottery.

Pets possess the power to comfort and heal and lift spirits.

Lots of dogs and that 1939 date on the right side of the mural.

This image shows a portion of the Pet Parade mural gracing the side of the historic bandshell in Faribault’s Central Park.

This evening, my community of Faribault holds its 78th annual Pet Parade beginning at 7 p.m. I can’t attend. But be assured, if you’re there, you’ll view plenty of cuddly cuteness.

DO YOU OWN A PET or have a favorite pet memory? Feel free to share.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

You will never believe what I saw in the grocery store today December 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:56 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

SO…I’M STROLLING down the produce aisle at HyVee in Faribault this afternoon, romaine lettuce dropped in my shopping cart, aiming for the tofu, when I spot the dogs. Two smallish white dogs nestled on a plaid bed inside a white-haired woman’s shopping cart.

I may have stood there for a moment with my mouth agape. I wanted to say something like, “Lady, what are you doing with your dogs in a grocery store?”

But, to be honest, I was so stunned that I weaved around her and continued on my way, all the while wondering why anyone, except those who have service dogs, would think it alright to bring these obviously pampered pets into a grocery store.

I saw dogs similar to this one (except white fur) in the grocery store today. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

I saw dogs similar to this one, except with white fur, in the grocery store today. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Is this even legal in Minnesota? I would think not for a variety of reasons, the first being health concerns.

I would not want to be the next customer placing my food in that cart.

I suppose, in hindsight, I should have tracked down a manager and registered my concern.

But I didn’t.

Am I wrong? Is it OK to bring a non-service dog into a grocery store?

I once saw a woman shopping in a women’s clothing store with a dog tucked in the crook of her arm. I was appalled then. But this, this grocery store sighting tops even that.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Pets on parade in Faribault August 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:34 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Taco the dog, photographed earlier this summer on a Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmers’ Market in Central Park.

PETS AND KIDS equal cuteness, wouldn’t you agree?

Thursday evening the cuteness combination commands several city streets during my community’s Pet Parade—the 76th annual according to information published by the Faribault Parks & Recreation Department.

The kids and their animals will line up in categories like little dogs, big dogs, rabbits, kittens and cats, unusual pets, farm animals, and, at the tail end, horses, of course.

In between, there will be floats and kids in strollers and on bikes, trikes, scooters, skateboards and roller blades. There will be clowns and costumes and perhaps even chaos in this “It’s a Zoo Around Here!” themed event.

I haven’t been to the Pet Parade in many years, mostly because my kids are all grown up and they were the reason I attended.

We never participated in the parade. Our only pets were goldfish. And I probably never told my three they could walk in the parade without a pet. Sometimes parents are smart like that and don’t share details. Just let the kids think that because they don’t own a cat or dog or snake or some other animal, they must simply watch.

I expect I never told them either about the free freeze pops and music in Central Park after the parade. I don’t know if treats are still part of the parade. But the parade still ends in Central Park. This year’s entertainment features zoo animal dances by girls ages 5 – 9 who participated in a Spirit Team summer camp. More cuteness, for sure.

The Pet Parade mural installed on the Central Park band shell.

Central Park is also the site of an artistic tribute to Faribault’s long-running Pet Parade. In May the Mural Society of Faribault installed a Pet Parade mural on the park’s historic band shell, making it the seventh mural the group has placed in Faribault.

Lots of dogs on the left side of the mural…

The artwork definitely possesses that cuteness factor although I wish a few animals besides dogs were featured in the mural.

And what about that date, “since 1939?”

Lots of dogs and that 1939 date on the right side of the mural.

If that date is right, then the 2012 Pet Parade would not be the 76th, but the 73rd annual. Correct? I’m not really all that good at math. And, yes, my kids know that.

FYI: The Pet Parade begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 9, at Ninth Street Northwest and Second Avenue Northwest, proceeds south on Second Avenue, turns west on Fifth Street and ends in Central Park.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Beauty shop dog January 13, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:30 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

Main Street in West Concord, photographed several months ago.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW about West Concord? I’m not talking Massachusetts here. I mean West Concord as in a community of 836 in southeastern Minnesota.

Up until this past fall, I had never set foot in this small town. But, while en route to the historic Dodge County seat of Mantorville, my husband and I detoured into West Concord. The fact that we had never been there prompted the stop. It was as simple as that.

Many times when we travel back roads and drive into small towns, we discover sweet surprises. West Concord was no exception. I found Fonzie there.

While my husband was exploring whatever men investigate when they’re getting impatient, I ducked into Colleen’s Salon & Gifts on West Main Street. There I met Fonzie, the beauty shop dog. He was lounging in a chair next to patron Charlotte Lurken, who was drying her hair under one of those old-fashioned bubble dryers.

Instantly, I knew this would be a story. And the photo ops, well, let’s just say I was nearly giddy when I considered the possibilities.

I wasn’t sure, though, how the women would react to my request to photograph them since they were in curlers. But, no problem. I snapped away.

Here are the results:

 

Fonzie relaxes in the morning sunshine next to beauty shop patron Charlotte Lurken.

Fonzie didn't even blink an eyelash when I moved in for a close-up.

Salon owner Colleen Snaza, framed by a welcome sign in the gift shop, curls a customer's hair.

Pretty sweet, huh?

Fonzie’s been hanging out at the beauty shop for about two years now, ever since owner Colleen Snaza’s husband, John, passed away. Prior to that, the Shih Tzu had spent five years at home with John, who suffered from a heart condition. And before that, the canine stayed home with Colleen for a year while she recovered from breast cancer.

Colleen began taking Fonzie to the beauty shop because she couldn’t leave him alone. He was too used to company.

Now Fonzie’s just part of the beauty shop. “He gets a lot of lovin’,” Colleen says.

And that’s the story I learned when I took the time to check out a small-town beauty shop on Main Street in West Concord.

FYI: An article I wrote about the beauty shop dog just published in the winter issue of Minnesota Moments magazine. Readers often wonder how I find my stories. It’s as simple as going off the beaten path, snooping around, asking questions and finding the simply extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary places of our lives.

WATCH FOR MORE from West Concord in upcoming blog posts.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Inside a pet portrait studio November 2, 2010

GROWING UP IN HOUSTON—that would be Minnesota, not Texas—Julie M Fakler always envied the farm kids with their farm animals.

Today, though, Julie has no reason to feel jealous. She’s surrounded by a menagerie of animals, some real (her cats), most not.

She’s an artist, specializing in pet portraits. A quick peek inside her Faribault studio and gallery during the recent South Central Minnesota October Studio arTour and Sale reveals that Julie especially loves cats and dogs. They comprise the bulk of her acrylics.

 

 

Examples of Julie M Fakler's animal portraits.

 

Occasionally, though, you’ll see a farm animal like a goat, chicken or calf. Some of those she’s painted at the nearby Rice County Fairgrounds, setting up her easel during the fair to recreate those critters.

 

 

Rice County Fair animal portraits painted during the fair.

 

As I sorted through the photos I took of Julie’s artwork, I finally figured out what was niggling at my brain about her paintings of animals against simple backgrounds of primarily primary colors. Her paintings, in my opinion, would fit perfectly into children’s picture books.

I haven’t asked Julie whether she’s ever considered illustrating a children’s book. But she will paint a portrait of your pet, on commission, or hand-stitch a quilt for you (another one of her artistic endeavors).

 

 

Julie painted this neighborhood dog.

 

 

Items tacked onto a bulletin board, left, provide Julie with inspiration for her paintings.

 

 

A jumble of paint tubes in the studio, which is housed in a former upholstery shop behind her Faribault home.

 

 

Paintings propped on the studio floor.

 

 

More animal art.

 

 

Julie and her sister make books, using them to record their world-wide travels via words and art.

 

 

One final nod to Julie's artistic side is represented in this old sink, acquired from a neighbor, and decorated for fall. It's outside her studio/gallery door. She intends to use the sink as a potting station in the spring.

 

For additional information and to view more of Julie’s art, click here to visit her Web site.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling