Fanny Bilodeau: Everything makes a Beautiful Memory

Have you ever seen a chicken strumming a ukulele, barbecuing corn or surfing? In Kauai artist Fanny Bilodeau’s mischievous mind, chickens are always doing something comical and she loves to capture them on canvas for our enjoyment.

One of Bilodeau’s most popular chicken paintings is “Hens Misbehavin’,” that takes place at Hanalei Bay. A wiener dog is driving a minibus full of frisky hens. One of them is plopping an egg out the window, another one is watching to see if it’s going to crack and roll. Two of them are hooting at a rooster who is highly annoyed. A chicken on the roof of the bus is already wearing his snorkel, and there’s a little wagon full of chicks in the back.

“When I first started painting chickens, I didn’t know if they were going to sell well or not. It turns out, people just connect with them,” she says. “I’m so happy because I would do them just for me. I’ll never stop painting chickens.”

Bilodeau’s more serious work ranges from tropical flowers so real looking you can smell their fragrance, fruit that looks like you can pluck it from the canvas, to a series of old “camp” houses at the Waimea Plantation Cottages, restored from the bygone sugar plantation era.

“The stories those cottages could tell you are inspiring,” she says. “While I was painting them, I’d meet people who would tell me, ‘Oh, that was my house,’ and they would share their stories about living there.”

While Bilodeau has immense talent for sublime beauty, it’s silliness that she has the most fun with – and that keeps art gallery patrons giggling. One of her favorite topics is illustrating mynah birds’ true colors.

“They are such little hoodlums. You always see them scrapping on the side of the road and making trouble,” she says. Her painting, “The Imposter” depicts a mynah bird with a bright red rooster comb on his head – held on by a chinstrap – trying to pass himself off as a rooster.

“While I’m painting the chickens and mynah birds, the real part of me gets to come out, not just the serious artist,” she says.

Every day is filled

with what I love

Though Bilodeau was a gifted since she was child and even produced a line of greeting cards, it wasn’t until after she was married to husband, Ron, and they were raising four children together that she began her transition to becoming a full-time professional artist.

One day while working in an art gallery, well-known painter James Coleman came in. Bilodeau asked him how artists can become really good.

“He said, ‘Fanny, you’re never going to get good sitting here selling my art. You need to quit your job, go home and paint.’” Ron approved of the plan and things began moving fast.

“Almost right away we made a few prints. I put out 12 prints at first. When those 12 sold, I took the money and made 24. When those 24 sold, I did 48,” she says. “All of a sudden you start hitting all these plateaus and it starts coming easier and faster and better. You just surprise yourself.”

Once Bilodeau became established, Ron was able to retire from construction work. The couple now works together, with Ron helping distribute Fanny’s art to stores and galleries. “He’s such a nice man, we always get along,” she says.

“Now every day is filled with what I love. I just get so excited that I can’t wait to paint the next picture.”

Slow down to

really enjoy life

Bilodeau says she enjoys Kauai’s easy pace, having the time to examine the texture of a flower petal, to ponder how to “show” the smell of fruit on canvas and how she’s going to capture sound in her art.

“In other places it’s ‘hurry, hurry, hurry.’ When you’re an old person lying on your bed and you know you’re going to die, you will think, ‘Why didn’t I stop and look and breathe things in and enjoy my life? Why did I hurry so hard?’ We’ve got to slow down to enjoy life,” she says. “When we do, everything makes a beautiful memory.”

• Fanny Bilodeau’s beautiful “Cottage #10” is the cover of Pamela Varma Brown’s book, “Kauai Stories,” that includes a longer version of Bilodeau’s story, and stories of 50 more fascinating Kauai people. Visit www.kauaistories.net.

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