A Bloomin' Good Time: a visit with local artist Evonne Vey
By Katelyn Turner

The Calvert Recorder Friday,September 17, 2004

So Annmarie Gardens will host its annual Artsfest this weekend during which several hundred artists will display their work. For many, it's the chance to get their name out in a public setting in the hopes of selling a work or procuring some work. But for Evonne Vey, Artsfest is not necessary. Perhaps it's her talented use of pastels and acrylics or her specialty—animal portraits—that make her so popular around the world. Or perhaps it's her kindness and willingness to tell some of the best stories about her former home, Australia.

I think it's a mixture of all of the above that makes Evonne Vey so popular among friends and strangers. So I definitely couldn't pass up Vey's invitation to meet her bunnies and try out some Australian cuisine at her house in Lusby.

Vey was born in Melbourne, Australia, but she seemed to have an itch for adventure. So she moved and worked for a brewery for a bit and then began working for the Australian government for about eight years. Vey then moved to Carnarvon in Northwestern Australia, where she spent 18 months working for NASA at the Honey Suckle Creek Tracking Station. Trained in data and computer processing, Vey was a computer operator for a 1218 computer. Essentially, she worked with computers that tracked the Apollo 13 as it moved from one horizon to the next in space.

In her off time, Vey was quite the socialite. She recounted parties and balls held among the employees. But then one day, Fred Vey, an engineer with Goddard Space Center, visited the NASA station in Australia to check the computers and discovered something even better than computers: Evonne in a cute miniskirt. Fred Vey met Evonne on April 5 and the two were married May 2—that was 30 years ago. Some day, I'd like Evonne Vey to reveal the secrets of her successful marriage.

Anyway, after Fred and Evonne Vey were married, the couple moved back to the United States to New Carrollton. They attended a party in Huntingtown hosted by a fellow employee from Goddard and Vey fell in love with the area. She said it reminded her of the wildness of Australia. So the couple bought the house across the street.

Around the same time, Vey began working extensively with the Calvert County Humane Society. She became vice president of the group for a while and worked tirelessly to fight the cruel treatment of animals in the county. In addition, she wrote a weekly pet column published in the local papers.

Some readers may remember Vey as the local authority on treatment of rabbits. I spoke with her around this time last year about her push to pass a bill that would ban the giving away of animals as live prizes. Vey is passionate about her cause for she feels each animal should be treated how a person would wish to be treated—with compassion. I met her five bunnies and fell in love with her two Shih Tzus, Polly and Oliver. All were a happy bunch that clearly loved Vey very much.

Around the time of her involvement with the humane society, Vey began shell designs that grew in demand. She said her husband, Fred, had worked on Johnston Island for quite some time. To occupy himself he collected lots and lots of seashells, and when the two married, he brought his collection with him. So Vey soon became known as the "shell lady."

So it wasn't much of a stretch for Vey to begin painting. In addition to the shell designs, Vey had always been creative. She took classes on commercial art and during her time in Australia, she designed many posters and cards for events. So if A plus B equals C, then Vey's designs plus her love for animals equals pet portraits. Vey has painted portraits for all sorts of animals and all sorts of owners. She recently completed a pet portrait of one of Commissioner Linda Kelley's pot-bellied pigs. She donated a painting to the San Diego House Rabbit Society in San Diego, Calif. for their upcoming "Bunny Fest" this weekend. Vey said she considered it a great honor because the San Diego House Rabbit Society is well known throughout the world and they do a lot of good in promoting humane treatment and understanding of rabbits.

But mostly Vey receives her commissions through the Internet (www.evonnesartcreations.com). Her portraits are in such high demand, and it's no wonder—she captures the very soul and personality of an animal in each picture. Whether it's with pastels (Vey's favorite) or acrylic paints (the easiest to ship without causing damage), Vey can simply look at a plain photograph of an animal and paint the animal in a beautiful scene that adds to its personality. One of my most favorite drawings was a pastel of a young Mennonite girl with a child and the family dog. The three are caught in a moment of play and relaxation. Vey won "Best in Show" from the Calvert Artist Guild for that pastel.

Vey did lament that she would be unable to attend Artsfest and PRAD (Patuxent River Appreciation Day) for she said she would miss her friends and local artists who often return to the events. But she said she just has so many work orders coming from the Internet, she can't add any more. She also displays with the Wylde Women in their gallery in the Maryland Antique Center in Leonardtown. Vey is quite the busy artist.

As I tried my first curried egg sandwich, pickled onion and glass of Black Swan merlot, Vey grinned. She explained that pickled onions were great with Australian beer and the Black Swan merlot came from the Black Swan lager in Western Australia. Vey began to recount the beauty of Australia. We talked about how most of Australia is very much a desert climate. But Vey said oh, the wildflowers that bloom in the desert are quite a sight. I thought about Vey's description of the flowers, blooming bright purples and yellows and I found it an appropriate analogy for her. You see, Evonne Vey is just like those desert flowers. In the hardest times, in the harshest environment, when you so desperately seek a welcoming face or the embrace of a friend, Vey is there to offer support, advice, or simply a funny story. This artist, storyteller, and friend of animals truly is quite the uniquely beautiful desert wildflower.

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