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An Artist's Journey

Aspirations, Reality, & Retirement

 

Over thousands of paintings ago, Bob encouraged me to paint pictures for him to sell, and God anointed the artwork. It became a witnessing tool that spread to nearly all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and spilled over into other countries: Canada, England, Italy, Spain, Australia, Norway, and Germany.

God personally touched the lives of people worldwide and built many relationships out of those travels that are still with me. 

Join me on my journey and discover the hardships and joys that shaped what we now know as Hidden Verse Art that I will leave behind as part of my great legacy.

-Nancy

News article from Billings Gazette  2003

THE DREAM

"My dream was to be an artist, so I went to an interview at the Gallery of Barbizon, and they hired me on commission as a sidewalk artist for the World Fair."

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When I was in high school, I did pencil portraits for my classmates from the pictures they brought me of themselves, friends or family. I then would sell those to them for $1.50 to $3.00 and make extra lunch money or pocket money to buy more art supplies.

 

That was the year my mom told me she would pay me if I got straight As, and my only B was in art. I was tardy because the art class was on one side of the high school and the lunch cafeteria on the other side; I did not gauge my time well and was gabby. My art teacher was a punctuality stickler; when the bell rang, he would lock the door and take attendance and then let us in with a bad mark. But at any rate, I did well in art. I was always ahead and did lots of extra work. I even came in early to try to make up for my B but, I did not make it. 

 

My dream was to be an artist, so I took my portfolio of pencil drawings I had done of my friends and went to an interview at the Gallery of Barbizon, and they hired me as a sidewalk artist for the World Fair Expo '74. They said, "come back when you are 16, and we will hire you."

 

A friend of Maxine's, the woman for whom I was a live-in housekeeper, brought me an easel. I had never done charcoal up into that point, but I practiced that whole month before turning 16. 

When I got out of school, I would catch the bus to go downtown and work at the World's Fair until ten doing charcoal portraits, making 40% commissions. 

Countries from all over the world would come to show their exhibits.

 

 

1975 

After I turned 17, I worked as a live-in housekeeper and didn't do much art. I was a young Christian and was really involved in going to church 3-4 times a week.

​1976

I met Bob at the prayer meeting at the university when I was 18. When we got engaged, I went all over Spokane looking for a job. I went to silkscreen shops, newspaper shops, and all kinds of different art venues. I walked up and down the business streets, and finally, I went into this one place; I think it was a t-shirt shop, for the second time to see if maybe they needed me now. The proprietor told me, "You know, kid, I know all the professional artists from Seattle to Chicago. They all have a secondary college degree. Go to school." So, I gathered up my portfolio and went to a college and talked to someone, and they said, "sure, we can take you on and teach you for a fee." And I was like, but my reason for looking for a job is because I didn't have any money. I decided not to go to college.

1977

Right About the same time, one of the ladies in my prayer group, who worked for the federal government in soil conservation, told me, "we are looking for temporary employees to do paste-up and lay-out work for soil maps. You basically would be working on a light table taking little labels and putting them on maps, and they will pay you a GS2 wage, $3.16 an hour." That was above minimum wage, so I took the job. I worked at SCS service for two 180-day appointments. During the first appointment, they had a week where they had no work for me to do. They told me to keep myself busy practicing my skills needed for the job during that week. Bob and I prayed and asked for wisdom on what to do with the time that would be constructive and useful. I needed to practice using technical pens to do continuous lines that were regulation width, joining them so all areas were enclosed, and you couldn't tell where they joined. I tried drawing jigsaw puzzles, but that got boring very fast. So, I decided to draw paint-by-number pictures using my light table and a mylar sheet over a photograph to trace around each individual shade of each color. Then I stored those in my portfolio for a future date.

1978

In-between appointments at SCS, I needed to wait before they could rehire me. I took my portfolio and applied for a job with TourMap. One of our friends from the prayer group was part of the family business, TourMap, that her parents owned. She was going to art school in Venice, Europe, that year, and they needed someone to take her place. Margie looked at my portfolio and said it was perfect! My paint-by-number overlays were essentially color separations. They had me use my new skill to create cover work for their maps! They paid me by the shades, light, medium, and dark of each color.

This overlay work not only was an income in-between my govt appointments, but it also trained my eye for painting in color later in my development. After my second appointment ended at the govt, I was maxed out as a temporary employee. I had to take the civil service register test as a cartographer to get hired as a conditional career employee. They wanted me to keep me on, encouraged me to take the test, and gave me the job! I worked a while longer before putting working outside our family aside to have children. I was about 4-5 months pregnant with Jonathan when I quit.

1979

Bob had a light table built for me to work out of the home (when I started with TourMap), and I continued to work doing color separations for them from home. We moved to Montana.

1980

We moved back to Washington. TourMap hired Bob as a sales representative, and together we also worked from home to mail out all their promo stuff to tourist agencies all over the country. That's how we paid for Joel's birth with no insurance. We moved back to Montana.

TourMap contacted us and wanted me to continue doing color separations for them long distance! They overnighted my projects to me. I worked on them and overnighted them back. I didn't have my big light table anymore. But GrandDad Balyeat had some old ones the Tribune had gotten rid of when they upgraded and let us use one of his.

1974
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Drawing of GrandDad Balyeat and  Granny.
early drawing from concert posters used
Our Tent Meeting in the desert 1984

1975

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1981

Getting Started

1981

Getting Started

"My mom bought me a set of kid's watercolor paints to try my hand at color. I painted three pictures with that set. The pigments were so thin I had to paint them all in different colors to make the set stretch."

1985 one of my first prints.jpeg

My mom bought me a set of kid's watercolor paints to try my hand at color. I painted three pictures with that set. The pigments were so thin I had to paint them all in different colors to make the set stretch. GrandDad had one of those pictures hanging in his home for a long time. It was deer in a fall scenery. Bob was having a hard time getting a job for the first time in our marriage. Uncle John and Aunt Peggy wanted to invest in us starting our own business to support ourselves.

 

We tried to start a mobile Christian bookstore for small communities that couldn't support a Christian bookstore. After Bob bought a bus, remodeled it, bought books and bibles, he decided to have Christian gifts too and had jewelry and hatpins and tie tacks. He said he really wanted me to learn how to paint so he could sell my pictures. So he gave me $20 to go buy real watercolor supplies. I went to the Glass Art Shop and asked for the purest red, yellow and blue watercolor paints they had, and green and brown in case I couldn't figure out how to mix them, which makes me laugh to remember now. To this I added black and white, and a number three round brush, and some paper. 

 

My first year I sold one commission for $20, and my customer didn't like it and gave it away! I kept painting, though, and tried to sell them at yard sales and old car shows, anywhere I could think of. I started out drawing my paintings in pencil and then inking them, as those were my comfort zone. Then I painted watercolor over my drawings.

I was expecting Johanna now and found out my mom had cancer. We went to Oregon and spent a whole month there. Bob sold the jewelry and watches etc., and my art at a huge flea market called Ali Babba and the 40 Thieves to help support us for the month while we were in Oregon. I painted my drawings of old cars. I didn't sell any but gave them to my dad to sell at his gas station and eventually gave them to him and my brothers.

1982

My mom came to Montana the year Johanna was born, and she held Johanna for me in-between feedings at my first art show in Holiday Village mall with the professional women's art guild. Bob built me a display with pegboard, and I covered it with my paintings in cheap mats with shrink wrap. I sold nothing.

 

1983

We kept trying. I hand-painted gift tags. I drew pen and ink drawings from Granny's family pictures and made notecards to sell. We tried a table at the CMR art show with these. I again sold next to nothing. Bob set up at the fair with my watercolors and the jewelry and watches. I bought cheap mats and shrink wrap on a group order with the local art guild and painted bright watercolor monochromes with salted backgrounds. I also painted a few pictures and entered them in the art exhibit at the fair. I got no ribbons but sold a buffalo picture for $20! At the time, that was a memorable success.

 

I also painted a large sunset painting of geese over Freeze Out Lake and sold it at a Republican party art auction fundraiser. It sold for $200, and they gave the artists 50% of the proceeds! Bob also sold some paintings at the fair. After such a slow start, these things were very encouraging.

 

1984

We traveled for 9 months this year. I took my paints with me and did a few sketches and painted them of the scenery as we went. Our friends sold a couple of them in Florida at their wood-working booth as decoupage art on their plaques.

​1985

This was really a breakout year for my art. I started selling roses for Valentine's Day. By then, I was putting verses in all my pictures. They were in watercolor and were now selling for like $25 to $46. They were 11x14 Originals that were just the paper unframed. 

 

That year we made $2,000 from my art. Bob told me that if I could sell enough artwork, I could buy the really cool piano I had wanted for $1500. I wanted to make music, which had gone by the wayside. So we started to put more effort Into selling my artwork. Bob signed up for another art show; it was our second time at the CMR Russell art show in their gymnasium; the booth space was spendy, but it was a good show.

The first one I did there, I didn't make much money. But this time before we went,  Bob said, "Okay, we're going to do this art show, and you need to paint 100 flowers, 50 of which need to be roses, and 25 of those red." He bought me the supplies, and I painted and painted and painted 5x7 roses. So they were all uniform size and subject and what he felt was a good mix for demand.  Bob rented a balcony booth with two 4x8 sheets of plywood put in a V, which he covered in bright blue fabric and made giant letters that said, originals $5 that you could read from anywhere in the gym.  We didn't frame them or anything. We just took straight pins and stuck the paintings onto the fabric. I think we sold 400 dollars’ worth, which was a huge improvement over our previous show there. We didn't sell everything, but we just about did. So that was my first successful art show. Because Bob took an interest in marketing and he did an excellent job.

 

From then, we started developing that a little bit more but didn't take it seriously. We were trying to raise money for that piano, so we kept working towards that. Bob got a license with the Assembly of God for Christian Workers papers, and we started traveling, singing, and preaching and ended up in Hungry Horse, Montana, at the Assembly God Bible Camp because there were no more places for us to go. We were living out of a car with two tents by then, and Bob was looking for a way to bring in some income. So he decided to sell my pictures. He put that blue fabric around the hood of our car and then shut it with the pictures pinned all over it. 

 

Bob also went all over the county selling the paintings wholesale to gift shops. The gift shops needed them protected, so we bought shrink-wrap and an iron and found cardboard to cut for the backs and made them gift store ready. We did pretty good with that and made quite a bit of money and were able to buy a bus. By the end of the year, we had sold $2,000 worth of artwork. That was the first year that we felt legitimate.

 

So then we took off, and were going to go to Arizona for the first time with the artwork and stopped in Ogden, Utah. That's where Bob bought a booth in a mall and set up my paintings.

I was painting by this time 11X14 Originals of wildlife as well as flowers and sceneries. Someone told Bob that if we framed the paintings, they would sell better for more money. We couldn't afford frames, so he said, "I have a frame shop; you put my business cards on your table. I will frame one of your pictures for free, and you send them to me to get them framed when you sell them. So they'll know what they look like finished, and we both win." It worked really well and sold a lot of of them. When he sold all of those, the guy gave us his suppliers, something people never did. 

 

I can't remember how much we made from that deal, but it was enough to pay for driving our bus to Arizona and finding a place to stay for two months. We made it to Arizona, but we were still trying to go into Ministry and music. The artwork was still kind of an emergency source of funds. Bob tried several things to get a job down there, from teaching at a Bible college to roofing.

 ​

​1986

One day the bus broke down on the side of the highway in between one job in the other, and someone came and towed us to someplace he thought we could get help, a church group on the west side of town. We were stuck for money again. Bob got a job digging ditches for cable TV, and he worked from dawn till dusk every day for four or five weeks, trying to get the parts to fix the bus.

 

Then we had a weekend off, and we just needed a break. We loaded everybody up and went to the flea market clear on the other side of town, where we sold my artwork. We made more money that weekend than he had made all week digging ditches dawn till dusk, so he thought, why would I dig trenches when I could sell my wife's artwork? So he took the money that we made there and invested in more frames and mats. And we never went back to the ditches. At this point, he said, "You know, this could be viable."

 

So, we went North and bought a carpet cleaning business from his brother, Mike, on our way. He thought that I would sell my art and he could detail cars and we would just find a way to make it.

 

Well, he worked hard cleaning carpets all week long, and we held yard sales, and then we did an art show on the weekend and made more money than he did all week doing other work. He's like, what we really need to do is do this full time.

One of my first paintings,1985

October 1987

October 1987

Here is the black Louffe carousel I painted from when I got to lock in with the carousel in Spokane while they were closed and paint. This was while I was expecting Susanna.

1982

1982

I made a coloring book for all the niece's and nephews

1988

1988

A painting I did for my Kiddos.

1985

1985

This is an ink drawing I did of Granny ( Granddad's mom) from her photos. We stayed with her for a few weeks until we got a place to rent after we got back from our trip around the country back in 1984.

1988

1988

This is the koala I painted and we gave to Tom Jackson to give to his wife for Christmas when we were driving through Los Angeles_

1984

1984

Our Tent Meeting in the desert

1983

1983

A print on cardstock of gift tags I drew and hand painted to sell GrandMom Balyeat caught my misspelled word on the the old-fashioned Christmas one before I marketed them.

1983

1983

The original lay-up for our first music concert in Great Falls.

October 1987

October 1987

When I locked in with the carousel...this is the White Louffe. I sold out of this one. I don't even have a print left to show you. It was the gentle horse_ because it was the one of two on the whole carousel Louffe carved with its mouth shut

This is in Hungry Horse in front of our campsite where we lived in a tent for a while. A pastor we knew loaned us a cabin close to this. I painted there with the kids while Bob traveled and sold my paintings and raised enough money to buy us a bus.

 
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1986

Reaching Reality

Reaching Reality

"We did a ten-day show and made $3,000; it was our biggest show ever. We were so excited we went out and bought an ice cream cake from Baskin Robins."

Bob invested in some art magazines called Sunshine Artist that told you about art shows nationwide, and he found a tour called Woody Woodhead promotions that did the Northwest and signed us up. The only problem is we already sold our bus and got a little Dodge Omni that was more practical for in town.

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Teeton Geese 1989

We went on our first start tour with a Dodge Omni and the three kids and a tent, our very first art show with so-called full-time art. We were in the small show for 10 days. I was painting originals since we had no prints, selling 11x14 originals and then matting them up and framing them as 16x20s and selling them for $40-$60, which was a really good price for Original art. We hit trouble when we got to the art show and found that the art promoter sold 16x20 framed prints for $25. And so it was direct competition for people that didn't care about them being Originals. They were just fine wall art.

 

After the first weekend didn't go so well, we rearranged and got a smaller spot in the middle of the mall. We ditched the whole stand we had with chairs set up like easels and made a very small stand covered with pictures. I stayed at a friend's house with the kids and painted all day long stayed while Bob sold art, and we made $1000 that week. We continued on tour, going to malls in more cities, and that's the way it went all summer.

 

We went from one show to the next, and we made a good income. That was the first year of Hidden Verse Art, starting in February or March. We started out in Twin Falls, Idaho, and then went to Oregon south of Salem. We did two or three shows, and then we drove North ending in Washington. In Bellingham, someone gave us tickets to go to the World's Fair in Vancouver, BC, and we had a lot of fun attending.

 

We made lots of friends, and I got to go to lots of places, and we were making money. We worked our way up from the car, getting a carry-all pulling a tent trailer, then selling that to get a full-time trailer. We just kept going, going, going, and kept trading vehicles. As the vehicles wore out, we got another one. We came to the end of all the tours we had signed up for around the Yakima area. So Bob looked in his magazines and started looking for more shows and found the World of Art Tour, which would be doing a show in Billings, Montana. He juried in over the phone. They just wanted to be sure that you were the artists and that you could work in the mall. This was their criteria since they were a working artist show.

 

The Woodhead promotions tour was a craft show, but this one was an actual art show.

That show was tricky because, on our way there, we had stopped and serviced the wholesale account at the Christian Book Store in Kalispell that we had opened when Bob was wholesaling my art to stores. We forgot the entire box of Originals there In their store, and then we drove to this brand new big art show where they gave us a prime location right across from the mall management and the tour manager.

 

When we set up our display, we discovered all the boxes we had were empty frames, and we had no art; It was devastating. So I set up out in the trailer painting Originals as soon as I could. I painted like crazy, six pictures at a time; one would dry, and I would do the next one in the same color pallet. I did a lot of 11X14 simple sceneries just so I could fill the tables.  I painted all day long, every day, about 20 pictures a day.

 

We had some wonderful friends that came by, whom we know from the assembly of God, and said, can we take your kids to our house to play with our kids? As soon as I got the tables pretty much filled, I started painting wildlife and florals and to give some variety. And they started selling for $40.

 

That was the last show for World of Art that year, and then they all went to do Christmas shows for six weeks. So, Bob talked to the mall we were at in Billings, and they leased us a huge store for a reasonable price which we could afford to pay because we just did a ten-day show and made $3,000. That was our biggest show ever. We were so excited we went out and bought Baskin Robbins ice cream cake to celebrate.

 

All we had to do for the store was make it secure at night. We bought a bunch of closet doors and made a wall closure that we could lock up at night. Then we made lots and lots of displays to hold framed pictures and give the floor some Contour. I had at that point sold a thousand original paintings that year. In November, we started experimenting with getting prints. We had a photo lab in the mall take photographs and make prints for an excellent price on 100 5x7s. Bob matted and framed everything in really nice oak frames at this point.


We made flyers for the back of my prints with a little story about the artist and contactinfo. The first one of these was a picture of me standing in front of our campsite in Hungry Horse. I wrote all of the stuff out by hand, and then we got Xerox copies. At this point, my originals started getting more expensive, and the prints became $20. By Christmas, we sold a thousand prints. That was our first year as Hidden Verse Art, and we definitely had a full-time job.

1987

So we traveled with World of Art and then filled in with a couple other tours. We took on tour in Florida and took on another tour in the Midwest. We did Tennessee, and Alabama, and Arkansas. World of Art helped us grow to be more professional, effectively making us raise our standards to be a part of the tour. They were tolerant with us our very first show when we showed up with cardboard boxes that had all our product in them, and we emptied them and flipped them over and put a cloth and our pictures on top. They were like, "Okay, that worked, but this is what we want you to do." They wanted us to have lighting on our displays and some showpieces. So that's when I started painting 20x30s and where I got the Teton geese and the buffaloes. 

 

Things were going so well we thought, oh man, we could have more kids! We had been just trying to survive, but now we were making enough money to travel and improve our situation and product. We didn't make a huge amount of profit every year, but our expenses were all covered 

we took turns taking care of the kids, but often Bob would be in the mall so I could be with the kids. By the time Susanna was born, Jonathan was 10, and that really helped. He was really, really responsible, and I trusted him.

Then the kids also got involved. They all had their own little art business Jonathan did wonderful ink drawings and colored them with colored pencils, and he made money. Then Joel did calligraphy, and they both could display their work at our booth, and they would help with sales. Often, we would work the booth as a family, and the baby would be under the table right in front of me.

 

1989

It was somewhere in the middle of that, the third year maybe, that I started feeling like we were off track. I started thinking, "I started selling my pictures so I could make music, and I don't have time to make music anymore." So that's when we started developing music again. We went to Estes Park, Colorado, and did a lot of learning on performance skills and songwriting. We began competing in singing and songwriting, which was very exciting for me.

1986
1986

1986

So when I say I painted simple watercolor sceneries in either monochrome or duo-chrome...this is what I meant.

1986

1986

This is an 11x14 duo-chrome

1987

1987

I did literally 100s of these that were never printed. And I don't think any of them made it to the lithograph stage of my prints.1`987

1986

1986

These had photographic prints...the prints were hard to read...was still learning how to make the verses show up in the prints

1987

1987

"may your lives be rooted in love" I used as a cassette cover for the songs I recorded by the St Louis Jesuits.

1989

1989

A happy couple of pigs! I painted this whimsical rendition for my pig collectors.

Fall  1986

Fall 1986

I painted these in the mall in Bellingham, WA on our first art tour when we were still living in the tent trailer. We sold out tent trailer at this mall and bought the old camp trailer from the 60s that kept us warm that fall.

Fall 1986

Fall 1986

The numbers in the corners were our first try at printing limited edition prints. These were photographic prints, only 3x4? Print size! I never did finish printing all 700. I still have my little book where I kept track of how many I had printed and signed so far.

1989

1989

T Shirt Transfer for World of Art Tour

early bio for Jonathan, Joel, Johanna and Susanna

Joel's calligraphy bio

Joel's calligraphy bio

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1991

The Struggles

The Struggles

"Our debt got over $100k, and we couldn't pay it. We couldn't get a job to pay it; there was nothing we could do that would make that much money."

We did retail shows until Jonathan turned 13, and then we started to look for other options. Bob went into wholesale and consignment really big so we could take more time off the road and stay home to build relationships with other homeschool families. We moved to Missoula and started going to homeschool campouts.

1991
Kinda Kountry Kristmas craft show  art f

1992 Kinda Kountry Kristmas craft show

Drawn from the display of crafters.

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

Charlie Russel Week

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week

1997

1997

When I painted for the Russell show at the Heritage Inn I painted 5x7 originals and hung them on the wall of my shop downtown in a backroom. That way they were consistent with each other and not too repetitive...made so I could think of what to paint next

1997

1997

Charlie Russel Week "May grain abound in the land."

1997

1997

When I was painting 100 originals for the two art shows Charlie Russell week. We sold these 5x7 originals framed and matted up to 8x10s at Harriett's Gallery at the CMR show. Many of them were cowboys and farm and hunting paintings.

sketch of 20X30 antelope race I gave away in a drawing at Balyeat Art Show

1998

1998

Sketch for the painting I painted for a Republican party auction when I was congressional committee woman. They auctioned it off at the Lincoln Day Dinner and our congressman, Rick Hill bought it...he was elected to US Congress that year. He and his wife gave me a ride in their truck when I was walking in the 4th of July parade in 1997...I was tired!

A study for the singers in the December calendar of Pure Praise kids

Trout 1998

Trout 1998

I painted this one for the showing at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive center in Great Falls when it opened. I was a member of Western Heritage Artists for several years. The interpretive center was one of our projects we raised money for. The fish was a cutthroat trout, named by Lewis and Clark on their trip through Great Falls. This one was a mount by one of the Kersten boys..the first fish he caught if I remember right.

December 1999

December 1999

I painted this the year I miscarried. I managed my grief by painting in the mall all day.

Wholesale display

Wholesale display

2000

2000

This is an example of pictures I sketched as we traveled. I could picture them as paintings...that I have never painted. People used to ask me if I ever ran out of ideas to paint. Far from it. I paint everyday in my head...with my eyes.

Hidden Verse Art - Back

Hidden Verse Art - Back

We went from traveling and retail to wholesaling and staying home. We started really pursuing consignment, wholesale accounts, gift shows, Christian booksellers, international conventions, and we hired reps to sell. We really tried to expand because our boys were getting older, and we were hoping to grow the business big enough that it could support more than one family.

Joel wasn't really interested in the art business. He wanted to do something more physical and exciting, so he looked for other opportunities and eventually got into construction.

 

Jonathan was totally committed to the art business. He grew with the art business and

into the wholesale. He took over the office, built us a website, tackled the bookkeeping, did shipping and receiving, and paid the bills. He also kept up with all the matting, bagging, and framing. He could hold the office end down all by himself by the time he was 18. I didn't paint as much as I did that first year when I did a thousand paintings as we were getting enough prints. I slowly cut back to 500 a year, then 300 and 200.

​1992

We finally found a lithograph company that we could afford, Color Q, out on the east coast. They had coupon specials, buy a hundred prints get a hundred free. They did gang separation, meaning if we did paintings that were all basically in the same color palette, it would be much cheaper. We could gang-separate them onto one big sheet and print that sheet and cut it, which was much more cost-effective than getting each painting color-separated.

I painted The Christmas Bears when Susie Pedrow went with me to do an art show at one of our wholesale accounts in the Choteau Christian bookstore. She had a gift shop, and I did a demonstration in her store for Christmas. She had Christmas bears that I set them up on my table, and I painted right there. That was a fun memory for me.

 

​1993

And another one of our big breaks that really changed my print record was when I started painting for Bear Crossings, a Boutique show. They had totally themed rooms, so I would pick up the colors from their rooms and paint Originals to match. That is when I painted the Iris and Fence, the Hummingbirds and Roses, and Chickadee and Pines, all of which went on to become bestsellers. I did several years with Bear Crossings and increased my print record to match their stuff, and it made our business more viable.

1997​

We rented a location downtown to give Jonathan a place away from the house that he could work. We moved into a very nice business building across from Great Harvest Bakery, which had Harriet's Gallery in it, which was right on one of the busiest roads in town. They gave us a move deal to try it out since they were hoping to build an artist village right there. It didn't fly, and we ended up not even covering our cost, even with free rent.

 

1999​

Bob hit the road and repped Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming thoroughly, trying to build our wholesale business. Then we did wholesale shows, but he found that when he had other people repping for us, they didn't sell as much as he could sell. We needed to travel and meet our customer base in the different localities and see if it was a sustainable business Nationwide that would support two families.

 

So he bought the cube truck and set it up to live in. Then loaded up with thousands of prints that we had packaged into sets of 50 by category and set out to travel to wholesale conventions. That is when we spread out, and I started painting other things. We went to the Seattle area, and I started a whole series of lighthouses. When we started selling wholesale all over the country, some states had different laws and more regulations. So when we bumped into those barriers, we bought a business license and paid for our name, Hidden Verse Art.

 

We were paying Jonathan $1,500 a month to cover the back office, which he was working as a full-time job. The problem we ran into with wholesale is it cut our profit way down and increased our expenses. We had to invest thousands of dollars in displays, we always replaced damaged and shopworn products to keep the displays fresh, and we traded with our customers if they filled their rack back up to 50 and take back what hadn't been selling.

We got to the point where we were struggling again.  We kept trying to expand our product line because people can only buy so many pictures before their walls are full. So then the customers that loved us would say, "Oh, I have these. I've given them to everybody for the birthday and for Christmas my walls are full. I just love your work, but I can't buy any more." So at one point, we went into calendars. But we had no clue what the calendar business was like, and we were too late, and people had already bought their calendars. We didn't know how to sell calendars, and we ended up in debt so big we needed to get a credit card to pay it off. It cost us years to regain our balance.

 

The wholesale business overgrew itself and couldn't support itself anymore. We couldn't support Jonathan; we weren't even supporting ourselves. Our stack of debt kept getting bigger and bigger. We started having to pay our net-30-day accounts on credit because we were selling our product on net-30, and you have to buy your product before you can sell it. Our supplier debt got over a hundred thousand dollars, and we couldn't pay it. We couldn't get a job to pay our debt. There was nothing we could do that we would make that much money.

2000

So we bought the bus because we could tell that we weren't going to be able to keep driving that truck forever. That decision was a disaster. We ended up paying, I think, $30,000 in engine work for it. We decided wholesale was not working. We would go back to retail, and we gave the wholesale business to Jonathan. We had three months' worth of receivables out there that we'd already shipped; we had tons of product. We split it with him and let him take over the wholesale business to help support him and then we went back to selling retail.

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2001

New Horizons

New Horizons

"We were limping along, starting to get into the black. We were not there yet, but we were finally turning the tide and paying off our debts."

We went back to retail traveling with World of Art, and we started to thrive again. Then, on 9-11, the Twin Towers went down, the malls went dead, and business just fell flat. I remember the first show we did after the Twin Towers, there was nobody in the mall, and we could barely cover a booth space. It was a shock; this was the top-class World of Art Tour, showing in places where we had good customers before.

2001
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Mural poster

Mural poster

Painting on the mural in Billings with D

Painting on the mural in Billings with D

2005

2005

Press on toward the goal

Press on toward the goal

Detail from mural painted for Great Falls fairgrounds 2005

Seek and you will find

Seek and you will find

mural painted for Great Falls fairground 2005

detail from mural painted for the Billings fairgrounds buffalo hunter

detail from mural painted for Billings fairgrounds buffalo

People were just very insecure, and everybody changed how they spent money. So we had to make some changes pretty quick because we were barely covering expenses. As the world market changed, we needed to change with it.

 

One of our fellow artists told us that we should try fairs. He said he did the fairs a few months out of the year, and they worked well for him. He got us the contact to get the trade magazine for all the fair managers for the entire country. Bob started calling them and pitching my art. It helped a little but was very expensive. We also sang on the free stages at the shows we were set up to sell at.

 

2002

Our World of Art show promoter invested in us switching to music by buying us costumes after our first year of singing at fairs. When we started singing, we got an art booth at the fair. Bob pitched them our family band for the free stage because they couldn't pay us anything. One of the fairs that year said we can't pay you to sing on the free stage but will give you a commercial booth space and a place to camp. We were like, "Seriously? sounds like a winner!" We learned that we could trade commercial booth space and a camping spot in exchange for us singing on the free stage.

We grew in our presentation and all the things we had learned at Estes Park, Colorado, we could finally put into practice. We also developed as a family band, which hadn't really been a thing before.

 

We were limping along, starting to get into the black. We were not there yet, but we were finally turning the tide and paying off our debts instead of every year being farther in debt. It was going the other way, which was really encouraging because it's a sinking feeling at the end of every year being farther in debt than the year before.

 

I still painted originals, not nearly as many, because I had a big family, and we were swamped. So I painted one a week at the most. We ordered fewer and fewer new prints because we had a lot of print stock. Then we started investing more and more in music. We would have never gone into music before because we were making good money in art. However, when we reached a point we barely made enough money to pay our booth fees and travel from art and found our music could now do that, it made sense to switch. It was a welcome opportunity, as the music was what we had wanted to do in the first place.

 

2006

We did fairs for three months out of the year and faded the art out. It got to be more and more music and less art until I got to the last Balyeat Art show in 2006. That was my 20-year mark. I didn't expect it to be the last year, but after that, we just stopped.

​2007

We were in a mall show in Grand Forks, ND, and the mall manager asked the show promoter for a couple artists to paint walls. Someone recommended me. I had never painted murals before -I was a watercolor artist. But we needed the money, and I prayed and believed I could do it. I took my watercolor palette to the hardware store and asked for paint the colors to match it and bought rollers and a ladder and brushes and tarps for the floor. I learned how to blend washes for all the background colors with rollers, putting a mix of each color on my roller. Then I used chalk lines to graph in my drawings and painted the details with 2-4-inch brushes. I loved it!
While I was painting that mural, Bob was on the phone with one of our fair contracts. He wanted to know if we could do something with children as a hands-on educational project for their "Kid's World." I told Bob I could paint murals with the kids, as I now knew I could do it. That landed our first mural contract and many more followed. I painted acrylic murals on signboard, masonite, cinder block, and sheetrock. I painted oil murals on steel buildings with corrugated siding. It opened up a whole new world for me.
The hardest challenge I had was painting an indoor mural by painting on 4X8 sheets of board outside under a tent and mounting them later inside the building. The panels were 8 ft tall and 4ft wide, but the tent's sides were only 7 ft! We ended up having a rectangular framework constructed in the tent 4ft wide at the ends and about 16ft long and mounted the boards to it in a panorama that went around the perimeter. I would have a sheet from the last scene mounted first and the blank ones next to it so I could seam the painting together. It was amazing to see how it fit together when they mounted it on the Trades and Industry building wall after the fair was over!
I learned so much from the challenges and grew in my art. I loved painting with the kids and helping them to be part of something big. They signed their names and can go back and show their kids what they got to help with when they were young.

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2008

A New Day

A New Day

"I enjoy painting and coloring with my grandkids, and I'm really excited that they like to draw."

I did a few dog portraits for people who were faithful customers. I remember one dog with its leg in the cast. I tried art lessons, I always thought I'd love to teach art, but I found out that I am really a one-on-one person, So I have a tough time with a class. I don't like telling people how to paint something. I'd rather sit down and paint next to someone, and then they can ask questions. We could even work on the same picture, but I struggled in the classroom setting.

2008
Captive-of-Klapilton-book-cover-front-sc

Captive of Klapilton by Charity Balyeat
Art by Nancy Balyeat 2020

2019

2019

Seraphina: Peace in the Peril by Charity Balyeat Art by Nancy Balyeat

2019

2019

Emma on a Trip by MaryAnna Stover Art by Nancy Balyeat

2018

2018

Edward: Crisis of the Crown by Charity Balyeat Art by Nancy Balyeat

2019

2019

Philip Battle of the Banished by Charity Balyeat. Art by Nancy Balyeat

2018

2018

Frederic: Quest for Freedom by Charity Balyeat Art by Nancy Balyeat

March 2019

March 2019

Out my window in Clifdon Ireland

Study of "The Sower"

Study of "The Sower"

My teacher painting of what the students of Creative Kids Connect for Christ art class painted. 2018

2018

2018

Creative Kids Connect for Christ art class.

2015

2015

This is a painting I did for an art lesson with a small class.

2018

2018

Here is a student painting from a class I taught to 4H students a few years ago. It was a large class where I had several helpers and parents and children painted side by side.

2016

2016

This is from a painting class in 2016. I wanted to make fabric out the pattern but never got around to it.

2019

2019

These are paintings done with James and Amanda's kids while we traveled through Montana. We would stop and stay at campgrounds and the kids would paint a picture with me. All these are cooperative paintings where we all painted on the same picture. I would paint one part and they would copy it for the rest of the picture.

2015

2015

Charity and I toured the sea turtle hospital in the Florida Keys. I painted this from one of the pictures I took there. This is an example of how I picture journal my life.

2017

2017

Still using art for my homeschooling! Diagram in colored pencil for art and science.

2015

I didn't do any art for several years, then Charity asked me to illustrate her first book, Eleanor: The Daring Princess. That was really awesome because, for many years, I wanted to illustrate children's books. I had one that I made for Jonathan when he was a baby called Jed's Red Shirt that I had written and Illustrated, but that was something that I never completed. I did a watercolor for the cover and pictures inside Charity's second book, Matilda, but when she found out she couldn't do them in color, I thought it didn't make much sense to do them in watercolor for black and whit pictures.

 

2018

So I went back to my roots, to ink drawings like I started with, for her next book, Fredric. Then she said she liked the watercolor black and white, so I went back to water coloring the ink drawings for some of them for her.

 

2019

Then I did Emma Goes on A Trip, and that was a totally different art form. I printed out photographs and traced the picture's edges like when I did soil maps, then colored them in with colored pencils. After that, I put them all back into the computer and did a composite, which was a lot more technical than I was used to. I found out it was too time-intensive and very overwhelming.

2020​

I just did one last one for the cover of Captive of Klapilton to finish out that series.

I did teach an adult art class that Adult Education hired me for.

Now

Now I take pretty pictures for my Instagram, and I enjoy painting and coloring with my grandkids. I'm really excited that they like to draw and enjoy passing on my experience and love of art to them.