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Artist captures lakes on canvas

Carol Johnson Schneider’s affinity for Hubbard County lakes is apparent in her work. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
The framed work will be presented to the governor and lieutenant governor.2 / 2


For centuries, artists have captured landscapes, iconic figures and events - the power of the works stirring imaginations for infinity.

A signature piece defining the 2013 Governor’s Fishing Opener will be presented to Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon before their departure next weekend.

The Fish Hook chain of lakes, the site of the event, is portrayed on “canvas” by Carol Johnson Schneider, her reverence for Hubbard County’s bodies of water evident in her work.

Guests to the area will receive commemorative cards with the artwork, 525 being printed. Signed and numbered limited edition posters, 150 of them, will be sold exclusively at Cattail Creek. And her original work will adorn the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber headquarters.

The Gilmore Lake resident grew up spending summers on the lake, Little Pelican by Nisswa, specifically.

When “CJ” and husband Buzz vacationed on Bad Medicine in 1996, they determined, “we love it up here” and decided to head north “over the pine and birch line” from Brainerd.

They looked at “hundreds of lakes before finding Gilmore. And we haven’t regretted it since,” Schneider said of the move 11 years ago.

The retired art director and interior designer had long been a hobby artist, with a penchant for folk art.

“I just want to paint,” she told her co-workers, although she admits her work was enviable. “We were princesses of the tower. Every vendor was after us,” the Norwest Banks interior designer said.

The lakes projects formed as a dream, the artist waking from slumber with 10,000-plus subjects awaiting depiction. Her whimsical vantage point is not the typical lateral view, but from the upper atmosphere.

Schneider rounds up as many maps depicting a given lake as she can find, then, using a grid, she scales it out.

Her first project was painting a Hubbard County lake map as a window shade for the bathroom - until Buzz intervened.

“This cannot be,” he told her, and she headed into Cattail Creek Framing with her project.

“We sold a ton,” she said of the response. “Tammi (Hensel) has been my cheerleader and mentor ever since.”

The lake is at the center of her work, with features exclusive to the area ­- loons, pines and Lady Slippers on the perimeter.

“I take liberty with the shoreline,” she said, adding a disclaimer: “This is not for navigation; it’s a piece of art, to be enjoyed.”

After the Hubbard County’s lakes were completed her next project would portray Crow Wing County’s 252 lakes “as a tribute to my childhood.”

But that ended her “county” endeavors. Lake Gilmore became her next undertaking, followed by Little Sand. Triptychs of the Whitefish, Pelican and Gull lake chains would evolve.

Schneider had toyed with the idea of volunteering to produce acrylics of the GFO lakes as a fundraiser for the event. “But I chickened out.”

She and Buzz headed down to their winter home in Port Charlotte, Fla. in December.

Meanwhile, in Park Rapids, discussion ensued regarding “souvenirs” of the event and gifts for the dignitaries. Schneider’s work was given an enthusiastic nod and a call was made to her home, the answering machine recording the request.

Arriving home April 1, a month earlier than most years, she listened to the message.

“I jumped at it.”

Work began April 7.

“For 62 hours, I was chained to my desk,” Schneider said. “Buzz cooked and cleaned.”

Her original work was then taken to the printer to be scanned. She was at work this week signing and numbering the posters that will go on sale ($17) Wednesday at Cattail Creek on Main. (A waiting list is evolving.)

As for future projects, she plans to portray houses for clients, watercolor her medium.

Lakes, like houses, she points out, hold exclusivity. “There’s a total comfort. It’s their lake. I paint what’s nearest and dearest.”