A Blessing of Artwork
Burke artist captures family memories in paintings.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
When Ruth Edstrom was a young girl living on a farm near the town of Randolph, Minn., she loved to draw pictures of rural life for her family.
The scenes captured a small-town, bucolic Norman Rockwell life of barns, dairy cows, farmhouses and churches. The town’s population was 200, but most people, including Edstrom’s family, lived outside of town on family farms.
"It was the 1940s, and we grew up during hard times for farmers," she said. "You could definitely say it was a small-town life, and most people were very practical-minded. I don’t think we ever went to a restaurant growing up."
"I loved to draw, but I never thought of myself as an artist. It never even crossed my mind to take classes or anything," said Edstrom, 75.
That changed in 1972 when she was a young officer’s wife stationed at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Kansas City. At the time, she had been married to her high school sweetheart, John, for 17 years, and the couple had two young children, David and Julie.
"When my husband was in Vietnam, another officer’s wife, an art major, offered oil painting classes to members of the Officers Wives Club," said Ruth Edstrom. "I signed up and discovered I could paint."
Her first painting was from a photo of a painting in an art book. "It was a house in the country, and I just tried to copy it. I used my fingers, a spatula, whatever to paint it," she said.
She continued taking classes in Kansas for the next three years, until John Edstrom was transferred to the Pentagon in 1975, where he became chief of the airfield facilities. The couple bought a home in Burke, then a small community of about 200 people.
Ruth Edstrom set aside her hobby for a while after the move as her family settled into their new home. In 1986, after taking a tour of the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria, she decided to start painting again.
"I took a series of oil painting classes through the Fairfax County Park Authority, and then I enrolled in drawing and oil painting classes at the Torpedo Factory," Ruth Edstrom said. "In the fall of 1986, I started classes with Suzanne French Luke at her gallery in Occoquan, which I continued until she moved to Florida the summer of 1998."
In 1993, she joined the Springfield Art Guild (SAG), a non-profit group interested in promoting fine art and fine crafts through educational programs, juried shows and classes for adults and children.
Since joining SAG, she has been part of the Wednesday Art Group with Instructor Susan Norman. "I enjoy the camaraderie of painting with the ladies in the Wednesday group so very much. I truly enjoy painting and feel so blessed and thankful that God granted me a little talent in this endeavor," she said.
In October 1993, Ruth Edstrom represented SAG by showing one of her oil paintings, called "Springtime in Virginia," at the annual Fairfax County ARTSFAX show. Another one of her paintings received an honorable mention at the SAG show at Northern Virginia Community College, and she was named SAG’s Artist of the Month in September, 2010.
"She just does marvelous artwork, and it really touches people," said Skeeter Schied, past president of SAG. "She’s an artist who responds to beauty. She is a longstanding member of the guild, and nothing, and I mean nothing, stops her from painting."
Ruth Edstrom’s paintings capture the most important things in her life: her children and grandchildren, family vacations and cherished scenes from childhood. Although she gives away most of her paintings to her family and friends for special occasions, she has done commissions, particularly for golf courses.
"John and I are avid golfers, and we’re very involved in the Fort Belvoir Golf Community, so many of my paintings depict scenes of golf courses," Ruth Edstrom said. She and her husband frequently travel with friends, including Jim and Nancy Ross of Burke, to Augusta, Ga., for the Master’s Golf Tournament, and to the South Carolina coast, where the Edstroms have played in many tournaments.
"Ruth painted a lovely painting of the flowers that surrounded our beach house in Murrell’s Inlet in South Carolina," Nancy Ross said. "She is so talented. I just don’t know how she has the time to do it all."
One of John Edstrom’s favorite paintings is of a little girl sitting in field of flowers. "That painting just flows. The colors are vivid, and it does remind me of our daughter," he said.
Julie Edstrom’s favorite painting is her mother’s first. "She is one of the most creative and artistic people you will ever meet," Julie Edstrom said. "She can sew, decorate cakes, draw and paint beautifully. We are blessed as a family to have so many of our memories captured on canvass to keep forever."