Valerie Hubbard Damon

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Valerie Hubbard Damon

With titles like Grindle Lamfoon and the Procurnious Fleekers, Valerie Hubbard Damon's illustrated books clearly have a lighthearted tone.

But there's more to them than just entertainment for kids. Like the best of children's literature, her books appeal to the child in us all.

"I want to encourage the creative spirit for all children, and adults, too," she said. "These stories take place in a fanciful world, with analogies to the real world."

She mentioned recurring themes of empowerment, creative thinking, and nurturing a bond with nature.

Valerie's watercolor illustrations for her books burst with life and light. She likes watercolors, for the way they allow light to reflect off the substrate and shine back through the paint.

She also produces watercolors that stand alone, and they carry the same joyous spirit as her book illustrations. The fragility of life, and the frailty of living creatures, are a cause for continuing celebration. Some of her prints are even available as greeting cards, making them accessible to everyday life.

Valerie occasionally strays into some other medium. She produced a series of teapots as a "ceremonial presentation of water."

Her father was a career officer in the Air Force, which meant that the family moved around the country every few years. That gave Valerie many chances to reinvent herself, a process which continues to this day.

"When my mom asked, 'Don't you have any normal clothes?' I knew I was on the right track," she remembered.

Even before she developed her artistic talents, Valerie was drawn to the creative lifestyle and the "love of life" she saw in artists. She knew, "That's what I want to do!"

Fortunately, her parents supported her ambitions. "My mom was a wonderful artist," Valerie said, but her parents were also very practical, and they encouraged her to find a college where she could pursue a fine arts degree and also acquire a teaching credential as a fallback position.

She was fortunate to be recruited by Hallmark Cards right out of college, and to make an immediate living as an artist. "It was a great launching pad," she said.

While working for Hallmark in Kansas City, Valerie met her future husband Dave, and they have been together 40 years. They have three children and three grandchildren.

When the Damons began looking for a place to fall off the edge of the earth, they found Eureka Springs, where they live "off the grid," with solar electricity and water from a spring. The seclusion suits Valerie's artistry, and also encourages her love of gardening and cooking.

The artistic climate around Eureka Springs is a constant source of reinforcement. "We encourage and incite each other," she said.

Valerie continues to reinvent herself. She was absolutely captivating as a "Beetle Queen" in the Artrageous Parade in May. It took hours to paint her face, as she slipped into a new character.

"Happiness is a philosophical commitment, not just something that happens to you," she said. Her art gives us all a chance to share that happiness.

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