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From hairbrushes to paintbrushes

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Art by Vickie Bailey Ebbers draws national acclaim

By Nita Brown

Everybody loves it when a “local” makes good, and Lancaster has its share of bragging rights of those who have made their mark.

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You can now add Vickie Bailey Ebbers to the list.

The Lancaster native is now a nationally-recognized artist who has turned her love of family, friends and even cherished pets into a long list of award-winning paintings.

Her artwork is now showing in Charlotte as part of the “Carolina’s Got Art,” exhibition at Atherton Mill in the South End Area.

Ebber’s painting, “Neil,” was selected for the juried show from more than 1,200 entries by Carolinas artists.

Award winners will be announced by Juror Brice Brown, New York Art Critic and writer, at a 6 p.m. reception Friday.

Ebbers considers herself as a “bootstrap artist.”

Coming from humble beginnings, Ebbers always wanted to be an artist and was encouraged by family and friends at a young age.

But due to the financial considerations, college wasn’t in her future after high school.

For years, Ebbers focused her creativity in a different direction by becoming a hairdresser and opening her own salon. She then started taking art courses at University of South Carolina at Lancaster.

After years of what she calls “on and off again” college, Ebbers entered Winthrop University and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1996.

“She was one determined woman,” said long-time friend and former salon customer, Nancy Howell.

“There was never any question that she would accomplish her goal, and she is very talented,” Howell said. “She was such a good stylist, that for a long time after she married Steve and moved to Hilton Head, she returned to Lancaster one week each month to take care of her loyal salon customers.”

After Winthrop, Ebbers went to Parsons School of Design in New York for further training and study in figure drawing and painting.

She said her favorite subject matter has always been the human figure.

“My objective is not to reproduce an image of the human body but to capture the model’s state of feeling and to evoke an emotion in the viewer,” Ebbers said.

Although she works in a variety of mediums, including oils, pastels, and watercolor, Ebbers initially gained recognition for her distinctive “subtractive watercolors method," a process she discovered through a “very happy accident.”

The story of just a few of her recent winners reveals just how happy that accident was.

“Morgan, Blue,” a watercolor of Ebbers' granddaughter, Morgan Powers, of Great Falls, earned one of the top awards in 2007 and toured the state in 2008 as part of the South Carolina Watermedia Society’s (SCWS) 2007 Traveling Exhibit. Destinations for the year-long Exhibit are determined by the Columbia Museum of Art.

“Morgan Blue” also won an American Artist Magazine Award and the Watercolor Magic Award in the American Watercolor Society (AWS). It is currently touring nationally with the AWS exhibit, which began in New York and ends in Massachusetts next year. The closest exhibit location to this area will be Bradenton, Fla, in January, 2010.

“I always thought this painting had something special,” Ebbers said. “The fact that she’s one of my beautiful grandchildren didn’t hurt.”

Speaking of the Ebbers’ grandchildren, a painting of Hannah Morgan (also from Great Falls), entitled “Hannah” will be in Columbia at the S.C. State Fair Fine Arts Division next month.

Ebbers said portraits of her other two grandchildren, Seth Powers and Marcie Ebbers, will be finished this winter.

Other paintings of family members and ties have earned critical acclaim.

 “Linda, Waiting For Grandma,” is based on a childhood photo of Ebbers’ niece, Linda Timmons of Lancaster. Ebbers said it has additional sentimental value. The gown worn by Linda in the photograph was made by Ebbers’ mother and Linda’s grandmother.

 “Linda, Waiting For Grandma” was selected for the 2008 SCWS Traveling Exhibit, which is touring the state this year and hung at the Lancaster County Council of the Arts Gallery in May. It’s based on a childhood photo of Ebbers’ niece, Linda Timmons of Lancaster, and has additional sentimental value. The gown worn by Linda in the photo was made by her grandmother (Ebbers’ mother).

“Nicky, Reflecting,” a painting of Ebbers’ beloved cat, was recently selected for the 2009 South Carolina Watermedia Society annual exhibit which opens in Florence in mid-October. The top 30 winners, which will be announced at an awards luncheon Oct. 17, will become part of a traveling show.

In her artist’s statement about the painting, Ebbers said she was blessed with Nicky’s presence for 21 years.

“Nothing that I could say would communicate just how much I loved him,” Ebbers said.

Her award-winning art isn’t just limited to watercolors. Her pastel of “Annie” Bass, the daughter of a Hilton Head Island friend, was selected by the editor of Art News of Beaufort for the cover of its Spring 2009 magazine. “Annie” was also juried into the Southeastern Pastel Society’s International Exhibit in Atlanta and sold shortly after the show.

Another pastel, “Connie’s Chair,” won First Place in the Society of Bluffton Artists Annual Juried Exhibit. Later that year, “Connie’s Chair” won another award in the Southeastern Pastel Society’s International Juried Exhibit in Atlanta.

But the best was still yet to come. Ebbers entered it in the 2008 Pastel Society of America (PSA) exhibit at the prestigious Salmagundi Gallery in New York and won the Flora B. Giffuni Award. Giffuni, who died Sept. 10, was founder of the Pastel Society of America

While visiting the PSA Exhibit, the curator of the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, chose “Connie’s Chair” as one of 15 works for a special pastel exhibit there at Giffuni Gallery.

Adrianne Kirsch, owner of Camellia Art Gallery at Hilton Head Island, said Ebbers’ talent as an artist is evident. Camellia Art (www.camelliaart.com) represents Ebbers’ work on Hilton Head Island.

Besides Ebbers’ talent, Kirsch said the former hairdresser is kind, compassionate and sincere in all she does.

“Her artwork is a blend of subtle reminders of everyday treasures that give the viewer a moment frozen in time to which we can all relate,” Kirsch said. “Her greatest gift lies in her ability to share her vision and soul with all of us without asking anything in return.”

In October, the work of Ebbers and fellow artists Judy McElynn, Barbara Snow and Kathy Tortorella will be displayed in “Four Part Harmony” at the Hilton Head Art League.

Ebbers said the four women have been friends for 12 years and are all in the Maye River Gallery in Bluffton. To create the signature piece of the exhibit, the group chose a landscape photo and cut it into four equal horizontal pieces.  Each transferred their portion to canvas and painted in their own style in oil. The four canvases will be hung two inches apart, resulting in a very interesting landscape. During the month-long show, the artists will present demonstrations and participate in a “paint-around,” where each artist begins a painting and rotates every 10 minutes to work on another’s painting until they return to their own and complete it.

Ebbers is an active member  of the American Watercolor Society, Beaufort Art Association, Hilton Head Art League, Pastel Society of America, Society of Bluffton Artists and is a Signature Member (Member of Excellence) of the South Carolina Watermedia Society and the Southeastern Pastel Society.

She enjoys introducing the public to art in a variety of ways and has taught  subtractive method watercolor workshops in Lancaster, Hilton Head and Savannah.

Although Ebbers admits she is most comfortable alone in her studio, she frequently enjoys collaborating with artist friends in group exhibits on Hilton Head Island and in Beaufort.

She is part of the “Apple Pies,” a group of nine “plein air” artists who are well-known in the Lowcountry. They have been painting outdoors twice a month and exhibiting together for 10 years and have a Beaufort show in the works for next year.

Ebbers is also becoming well-known as a portrait artist.  Although she is limited to the number of portraits she can produce each year, both Camellia Art and Maye River Gallery refer clients to her. This winter, she will begin portraits of the grandchildren of two Lancaster families.