Artist aims to turn passion to profit
VALLEY — Those who attended the Fourth of July celebration event in Valley most likely saw plenty of kids enjoying the event with painted faces.
The person behind the facial painting was Valerie Eskridge, a self-taught artist who is building a business out of her passion.
Based out of Columbus but expanding into the Greater Valley Area and other parts of the Southeast, Eskridge runs her own art company, Creations By Val. When not working at her corporate job for M&Ms, she gets commissioned to create murals, paint items for people or make artwork on faces and bodies at events.
Her business stemmed from a lifelong passion for art that grew out of her early days watching the PBS show “Bob Ross: The Joy of Painting.”
Wanting to imitate that art style but not having the money for the proper supplies, Eskridge painted on whatever she could get her hands on.
“I grew up low-income, kind of poor, so I didn’t have money for any canvases or nice paint sets,” she said. “My dad was a carpenter, so I would paint on anything. I think that’s where [the business] came from, just having to be resourceful.”
Her father fueled her desire to create by building her an art studio. At age 15, Eskridge took a job at the art supply store Michaels, which not only allowed her to purchase better painting materials, but gave her exposure to art as a profitable venture.
“From working in a retail store I think I learned a lot on the business side,” she said. “That helped me incorporate my art into a business.”
Though her high school didn’t have an art program, Eskridge worked with an English teacher to better refine her work, eventually winning several competitions for making cheap tempera paint resemble nicer, more expensive oil paints through her technique.
“After high school it was off and on with my art business,” she said. “I couldn’t really get into it like I do now, but whatever job I was in I kept incorporating it.”
Working several jobs in the corporate space, Eskridge kept building her business acumen while continuing to create. Painting everything in her home in Columbus, from the sidewalk to the shed, people started taking note of her talent.
“Random people would come up and ask if I could do things and business started really growing,” she said. “Local churches and businesses wanted me to do murals for them. It was just word of mouth that got me work. Word of mouth and hard work.”
Getting serious about her business two years ago, Creations By Val has provided Eskridge with a steady stream of work and revenue. It’s still ancillary to her day job, but she expects that within a year or two it could be her sole means of income.
“I had my doubts before,” she said. “I thought ‘Art? Who really wants it? Who really needs it?’
It’s amazing though, because I do so many different things now with mailboxes or murals or on your body. It’s limitless what you can do with art, so I think it’s very possible that this becomes a full-time thing.”