Unknown talent sprung forth, blossomed into a business

Lalonda Baker runs Fine Arts Framing, which is open three days a week, in addition to her work at the Platte County Record-Times and shares her artistic talent with Wheatland.

WHEATLAND – Although not having any previous training in art, Lalonda Baker found a passion for it and following that, led her to opening Fine Art Framing, where she paints and frames, inspired by her life experiences and firm faith in God.

Baker, besides working as a receptionist for the Platte County Record-Times, owns an art business, Fine Arts Framing. She does framing and paints, mostly pastel painting, and she does a little photography.

Fine Arts Framing opened May 2019, and business has been steady. It is open six hours a week.

She has lived here in Wheatland for about 12 years, though her husband, Jeb, is a native to Wheatland.

“Opening up this was probably the scariest thing I think I’ve ever done in my life,” said Baker. “I’ve never had my own business; that’s scary.

“I definitely like the independence,” said Baker. “It taught me that I’m more independent than I thought I was and that I was able to do it,” explained Baker in regard to what opening her own business has taught her. “That gave me a lot of confidence in myself that I didn’t think I had.”

She recounted that although people encouraged her, she was the only one who could present the idea of opening an art business to the town council.

She faced some pushback because her business would be in a residential area. However, the building used to be a plumbing business, and it was never removed from being part of a business district and moved to being in a residential one. This was one reason she had the ability to open her business at its current address.

“I’m lucky that I was grandfathered and that I was able to open up here. That was the biggest blessing. God always knows what’s going to happen.”

The reason she chose to open up in the building Fine Arts Framing currently reside in is because her husband already had it, already renting it from Steve Sherard and Rex Johnson. Her husband owns Baker Builders, and they both work out of the same building.

“What the blessing was that Jeb already had this building, and so his business, I don’t have any overhead because he takes care of all of that. I’m able to run my business out of his building.”

Her work at her art business and the Record-Times provides Baker a good balance.

“I also enjoy working at the Record-Times too, mostly because I wasn’t very busy in here [Fine Arts Framing], that [working at the Record-Times] gives me more of a chance to be around more people, meet more people in the community,” said Baker.

She learned how to frame at a previous job and has done it for about 10 years, and she sells Wall Mouldings from Texas, AMPF Mouldings from Denver and Engelsen Mouldings from Michigan. The most popular of the three is Wall Mouldings.

People come in and ask to have things framed. Baker has a workbench in the back where she does framing and matting. She also has matting in a variety of colors people can choose from.

She has been painting her own pictures for over 30 years, but she has had no prior training in art, has never taken any classes. She started doing art through first sketching. Her daughter had a library book about animals. When she was sitting at the kitchen table, helping her daughter with her homework, Baker just started sketching some of the animals in her daughter’s book and realized her sketches came out well.

She has sold prints of her art. Her biggest seller is “Reunited,” showing two horses touching noses. She also won Best in State with “Reunited” in 2015.

She enjoys painting wildlife and animals, such as grizzly bears and horses. Both her parents painted growing up, her mother painting scenery and her father, wildlife. Her sister also paints scenery.

“That is honestly the hardest part,” Baker said, in regard to choosing titles for her pieces.

Some of the inspiration for her paintings comes from stories she has heard, such as her husband’s bittersweetness at selling his first bull when he was in 4H, which inspired her painting, “Sold at Fair”. Also, her inspiration comes from seeing reference photos she likes that she combines to make one, cohesive painting.

“I want them to feel something,” said Baker in regard to what she wants people to take away from looking at her paintings.

She uses reference photos for her paintings to make sure she paints the sunlight from the same direction throughout, some of her paintings being done with anywhere from two to three of four. Baker uses pastel chalk and pencils, but started out with pencil before adding color. Although she has tried oil painting, she sticks with pastels.

“That’s probably how I got into pastel,” Baker recounted, “because I started out just with pencil. The pencils, I guess I’ve worked with them for so long, I’ve learned how to blend.”

“The artist here in town, Barbara Shaffner, she has been inspiring to me. She does everything. She does pastel, oils, water,” said Baker, on who inspires her.

Additionally, God has been an important source of support and inspiration in Baker’s life, one she embraces with gratefulness and joy.

“This is all our Father. Our Lord has given me this talent,” said Baker in regard to her artistic talent.

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