Virginia McConnell’s artistic ambitions always seemed to get thwarted. When she was young, she wanted to be a commercial artist, but she was discouraged. Then, she wanted to be a window dresser for the big department stores like Macy’s, but they stopped hiring people to do that exclusively. She tried to get into drawing blueprints, but she didn’t have enough experience.
So, Virginia became a nurse’s aide at Wesley Hospital in Wichita. Soon she got married, and she later became an LPN and an operating room technician. But she never lost her creative drive.
“All this time didn’t have time to do my art. But I always managed to do some things. I did my house like I wanted it and used my creativity that way,” she said.
In 2010, Virginia moved back to Kansas from Colorado, after her husband died. Shortly after she got an apartment in Winfield, a postcard came in the mail advertising drawing classes.
“So I just entered. Some people are timid, and I just did it. No guts, no glory, right?” she said. “Then one day I had a picture, and I thought, ‘Wow, I did this.’ I hadn’t done that before. That’s how I got started. Now my whole house is full of pictures.”
Now, one of them is poised to be included in the 2018 Art is Ageless calendar. Virginia’s pastel “I Love You So Much” won the blue ribbon for drawing in the Art is Ageless competition this spring at Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor (she also took first in the photography category). The drawing depicts two burrowing owls nuzzling each other adorably. Virginia drew it from a photo she saw in a wildlife magazine, and she got permission from the photographer to reproduce it.
Being featured in the calendar was a wonderful surprise, she said. “I was so excited, oh my gosh! I was jumping up and down, and my dogs were looking at me weird; they thought a bee had hit me or something.”
Today Virginia enjoys getting together regularly with a group of women over 50 to make art together. They are guided by an art instructor at Southwestern College who collects a small fee, which she uses to buy art supplies for her college students.
Although she’s a prolific artist, Virginia has no plans to do it professionally. “I haven’t sold a thing, and I don’t want to,” she said. “If you sell then you can’t enter in the county fair, and I love that part.”