The official poster of the 51st Ullr Fest features the Norse god of snow surrounded by a multitude of animals native to Colorado. Mountains rise behind them, and in the foreground they have gathered the Olympic rings.
The poster’s creator, artist Valerie Dunning Edwards, said that she drew inspiration from the 2014 Olympics mascots and the animals she saw in the backyard of her former home on Peak 7.
Although she’s participated in other town poster contests, this was the first time she’d entered the Ullr Fest contest, and the first time that she’s won.
“I was ticked that I was selected because oftentimes hand-work is not as popular these days as some of the computer-generated things,” she said. Edwards used colored pencils for the poster, a medium she had not used for a while.
A native of Ohio, Edwards is an artist by trade and has traveled throughout the East Coast to various festivals and art shows. Her subjects are often wildlife.
“I was influenced by my dad,” she said. “He was a hunter, so I learned about animals through him. I lived on a farm in Ohio and just loved wilderness and animals and anything to do with nature.”
Moving to Summit County three years ago encouraged her love of the outdoors. Edwards loves to cross-country ski and hike in the surrounding mountains, where she draws further inspiration for her artwork. Sometimes that inspiration comes in the form of found objects, such as interesting piece of wood.
“I’ll be walking in the mountains and I’ll (say), ‘Oh, my god, there’s a fox.’ I’ll see a piece of wood and to me that’s an animal,” she said. She collects the various pieces and brings them back with her to find their artistic potential.
Switching between a flat project like the poster and 3-D artwork like wood sculptures is natural for Edwards. She has a year of formal art education under her belt, but most of it she’s taught herself.
“I’m not an artist that’s stuck in one genre, “ she said. “I travel the gauntlet from abstract to fine detail work to just about anything — watercolor to oils to acrylics to clay. I just like art; I like creating.
“I have no lack of ideas, just lack of time,” she added with a laugh.
For her next artistic venture, Edwards is considering taking to the road. She’s researching artistic residency options throughout the United States and is interested in traveling to a variety of places.
“I’d love to be able to travel around the country and utilize the elements found in those different areas and create pieces that are specific to those areas — animals that live in different parts of the country, different vegetation,” she said. She doesn’t have a particular area in mind; she’s just interested in seeing all of it and garnering whatever artistic inspiration she can from her surroundings.
“I just think your mind can travel, like when you go to Moab (Utah) and Sedona (Ariz.) and Zion (National Park), all those places, the colors of the rocks, the lighting is so different. Your brain works differently in those areas than it does in a forest,” she said.
Wherever she goes, she can be found outdoors, keeping her eyes open for nature to reveal her next inspiration.
“I think there’s so many little details in nature that are just fascinating, that oftentimes we just walk by and don’t even notice,” she said. “I love painting like that and capturing just one little special element, this little treasure that’s kind of hidden.”
Edwards’ work can be viewed at the Arts Alive Gallery in La Cima Mall on Main Street in Breckenridge.
“I have no lack of ideas, just lack of time.”
Valerie Dunning Edwards