Vada Galvan’s work on display at Farmington Library | New

Currently on display at the Farmington Public Library, the work of Farmington resident Vada Galvan is a veteran artist who has been painting for over 50 years.

“I started out as a decorative painter,” she said. “I became a member of the Society of Decorative Painters and belonged to a chapter in Saint-Louis. Decorative paint must be on a useful surface. If you go back to the beginning of our country, decorative painting was the first form of art that came to this country. Itinerant people came from Italy and France and painted on household items and made charcoal drawings of people who lived here. Rufus Porter was one of the most famous and you can see his stuff in museums.

As a result, Galvan became a teacher of decorative arts in 2003. She acknowledged that she had been fortunate to take lessons from well-known decorative painters from around the world.

“I used to go to their conventions and they were really interesting,” she said. “You can have someone from South America or Japan teaching the class, but they would have interpreters there.”

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In order to exhibit her works in galleries, she moved away from decorative painting to turn towards portraiture. Each section of the display corresponds to a different type of subject. His work is eclectic, unfolding in many different directions. One of them is western themed art based on his youth. Galvan was born and raised on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, where her father worked in the oil fields.

“That’s one of the reasons for this section,” she said. “It lives in my heart and it’s my home and where all my family lives. (Husband) Ben and I met here in Missouri, but he’s from Montana. I’ve been in Missouri for 60 years, so I feel like a local.

Another section on display is acrylic painted fantasy art that shows whimsical troll-like characters on printed backgrounds.

Galvan has won several awards for his work over the years. This year, Galvan painted a mule from a photograph and entered it into the Art is Ageless contest at Presbyterian Manor.

“I took the best of the show with him,” she said. “Last year I took the best of the show with a painting of a lady.”

One of his best pieces is on the Presbyterian Manor 2020 calendar. The cover features a sheep and a butterfly called “La Belle et la Toison”. That year, it was the first painting in the history of the Art is Ageless competition to win two top prizes – Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice.

The painting also placed in the professional category and then made it to the tri-state level where it was selected for the cover of the 2020 calendar. Galvan submitted the same painting to the Southeast Missouri Art Council competition where it won the first place. This is where she “lost” the painting.

“There, you had to put a price on it,” she said. “I really didn’t want to sell it because I loved it and it lived above my chimney. One of the ladies said to put a very high price on it. Someone bought it. It had taken a long time to paint. I painted on it for a whole summer – I did not rush.

As with his subjects, Galvan also enjoys experimenting with different mediums and types of paints.

“There is no particular medium,” she said. “I’m one of those people who likes to jump. I took a watercolor class and painted one, but I’m not a watercolorist. I like too much control. I like to do detail.

Galvan even has a pencil drawing on screen, but she doesn’t do much either.

“I paint in oils,” she said. “Genesis is my favorite [brand of] Paint. I painted a chair with gourds. I worked on it forever – it was a struggle. I like its appearance. There is a depth to oils that you don’t see in other mediums.

She added that Genesis paint won’t dry out until it’s been heated to 270 degrees for at least 15 minutes.

“I love doing still lifes,” Galvan said. “The only thing I don’t do is go out and paint mountains and stuff. I have some mountains around here. I like to paint animals, but I don’t do it a lot.

A devout Christian, Galvan and her husband attended First Baptist Church in Farmington and her faith is an integral part of her paintings.

“I called my painting my ‘gift from God’,” she said. “I didn’t go to school for this. I was talking to one of my sisters on the phone and she told me I was born with a Crayola in my hand. She said she had never seen a little child color like me. She said I never get out of lines.

“I feel gifted, I feel blessed. I try to share my gift, I teach an advanced course on Tuesday mornings at the nutrition center. We are in week five and they are still having fun, but doing their own stuff. It makes me really happy and I feel like my class is some kind of ministry. I tell them we have to pray before we meet.

When asked how she decides what to paint, Galvan said she doesn’t really know. “Many things that I feel are inspired by the Holy Spirit. When I did [The Beauty and the Fleece], all of a sudden I got up one morning and that’s what I was told to do and even the name was there. It happens from time to time.

Galvan did a painting a few years ago that was old hands holding a violin and on the loop of the violin is a bird. She borrowed a violin from Music Makers and the hands were from a friend she goes to church with.

“It’s the one that inspired me to do,” she said. “I called it the Maestro Duo, because the little bird had its head back.”

Laughing that she had a lot of junk at home, Galvan said that if she went to an antique store, she would see an old jar or an old bottle and think she had to paint it. She also uses her collection of library-sized art books.

Galvan is also a member of Ste. Genevieve Art Guild where she exhibits some of her work and volunteers. She summarized what she wants people to think about her work.

“I love that it sparks something in that person,” she said. “I like it to tell a story or bring back a happy memory. Bringing happiness and sweetness, our world doesn’t have enough of either of them.

Mark Marberry is a reporter for Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629 or