by Bruce Strand, Arts editor
Linda Croteau’s teachers always recognized her papers in math or science or history without even checking for the name. “I always made little drawings on them. Mainly horses. Or other animals. Sometimes people,” she chuckles. “They always knew it was me.”
That was a few decades ago, and now in retirement, Croteau, of Elk River, is back with her first love, art, mainly in the medium of oil painting.
Createau’s endearing landscapes and portraits of two- and four-legged subjects can be viewed in two shows currently – the Oil Painting Exhibit at Elk River Arts Alliance Gallery on Jackson Ave., and at Arts in Harmony, the national juried show at the government center, where she picked up two of the prizes.
“I did a lot (of art) when I was younger, and then I got married, had kids, and got a job, so I wasn’t able to paint much for a few years,” said Croteau. “When I retired five years ago I got back with Harvey Schroeder’s class and now I have so much more time.”
The farmer’s daughter especially enjoys painting country scenes and farm animals, along with her own cats. She has several kitties and each has had its portrait painted. Her dog, she says, is a tougher subject. Maybe someday.
She grew up on a farm located in what is now Elm Creek Park Reserve, land purchased by an ancestor named John Blesi, an immigrant from Switzerland, in 1847. They had pigs, chickens, and corn. The family sold its century-plus farm when she was 16, so she spent her last year of high school at Osseo before attending North Hennepin for two years.
Linda and husband Allan operated a nursery for a time. She worked for many years with the photo studio Lifetouch, assisting photographers in school shoots. She has a grown son and daughter and one grand-daughter.
A Schroeder Studio regular in the late 80’s and early 90’s, she’s back now and painting mainly for fun but while making a few sales. She hopes to do more of that. “I want to become as proficient as I possibly can be,” said Croteau, who recently sold a painting of a Kelley Farm pig and got a commission from a lady who wants one like it.
“I remember my very first sale,” she said. “I made a mosaic of a butter churn in high school for the county fair, and a teacher bought it for $15, which was a lot more money back then.”
Always a little bit country, then and now.