Whimsy often informs Folkerts’ animal paintings.
The work of local artist Bonnie Folkerts reflects the beauty she observes in nature: animals, flora, and landscapes. A lifelong artist, she only recently dedicated herself to painting full time. She first put her interior design degree from the University of Minnesota to work with several employers before going to work at the Kravet/Lee Jofa showroom in International Market Square (IMS) in Minneapolis.
All the while she continued painting. Last year she committed to becoming the full-time artist behind B.J. Folkerts Art & Design in Minneapolis. She shared the story of her lifelong passion and second career.
When did you begin painting?
My earliest memory of drawing and painting was as a child of perhaps six or seven. My mother loved to garden, and I spent time with her while she worked outside. Somewhere in an old trunk I still have a vibrant floral painting of lilacs I made on a stark black ground.
What kept you motivated as an artist through the years?
It was always a struggle—a balancing act of my career vs. the feeling that I should be pursuing my art full time. I am fortunate that I was working within the interior design industry. Many designers became friends over the years. They discovered my artistic pursuits and would keep my work in mind for projects they were working on.
What led you to make the leap to full-time artist?
About three years ago—after the Hickory Chair showroom in IMS invited me to display my work in their space—I attended a seminar held there by a nationally known designer. As we chatted before her presentation, she said to me, “Your art is fabulous! Why aren’t you doing this full time? You should be following your muse and doing what God intends you to do!”
Well… That really started the wheels turning in my head… My life as a full-time artist began June 1st last year.
How did it go?
Transitioning to pursuing my art full time didn’t turn out to be as easy or as simple as I imagined it would be. Initially, I felt compelled to be putting in at least a full eight-hour day every day in order to “justify” (to myself!) that I was acting like a professional artist should act. I was fortunate that I began receiving commissions and selling more work almost immediately.
Now, after a year, I am finally finding a rhythm that seems to be working for me. I still paint almost every day. But I make time for the other parts of my life that are also important to me: faith, family, and being an involved citizen of the world.
What inspires you?
The beauty I see in the world. I work primarily in acrylics and watercolors, and I look for the details that touch me and will hopefully resonate with others as well. With the animals I paint, that means getting the eyes right. With the florals and landscapes, I try to evoke the sense of joy and wonder I feel when I see the subject.
I feel a profound spiritual connection through nature, and my art gives me a vehicle through which I can share that with others. Whatever abilities I possess are God-given gifts, and I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to use and share them. When clients tell me that they smile every time they look at a piece of my art they have placed in their home or office, it makes what I do feel worthwhile.
By Catherine Guden. Portrait & Owl by Bonnie Folkerts; Bathroom by Susan Gilmore; Interior design by Jen Ziemer / Fiddlehead Design Group