Born in Plant
City, Florida, near Tampa, in 1934, Oleda Baker was raised
in Miami. At age 26, married and the mother
of a 1 ½ year son, she traveled to New York City
to become a high fashion TV and photographers' model. Her
modeling career, primarily under contract with the prestigious
Wilhelmina Agency, was her main activity for the next dozen
years . . . but that's not all she did.
While still modeling, she authored her
first book, The Model's Way to Beauty, Slenderness and Glowing
Health, published by Prentice-Hall. She went on to produce
seven more Beauty/Health books, published by Doubleday,
Putnam and Ballantine, as well as a quasi-autobiographical
novel, titled Reluctant Goddess, published by Jove. She
promoted the books touring the country doing TV Talk Show,
Radio and Newspaper interviews.
Still modeling and while writing her second
book, I Hate to Make Up (Prentice-Hall), Oleda founded Oleda
and Company, Inc.(1971), a Beauty/Health/Anti-aging products
company, specializing in Skin Care, Hair Care, Vitamins
and Supplements, Makeup, and Spa Products, among others.
Today, Oleda is still CEO of Oleda and
Company, Inc. that now offers some 300 products internationally
and maintains an extensive Web site, www.oleda.com.
Oleda Age 36
Oleda Begins to Paint
At age 36, still modeling for Wilhelmina
and writing her early books, Oleda developed an inexplicable,
strong desire to put her feelings on canvas. So, one day
she simply walked into one of New York City's art supply
stores and purchased everything in sight in order to get
started. She had never had a brush in her hand, nor had
she ever had a lesson in Art-and to this day still has not-but
somehow she knew she just had to paint; and she discovered
she had an uncanny, innate talent for it.
completing her first ten paintings, a dear friend and
art collector, whose personal collection
included original Monet's and Rembrandt's, on seeing Oleda's
work took her to show three of her paintings to art expert
Victor Hammer of Hammer
Galleries. Mr. Hammer, although he disavowed his expertise
in naïve art, thought enough
of them to have them sent to Mr. Otto Kallir, a renowned
expert in the field.
Kallir wanted to see more, so Oleda took three additional
canvases and met with him in his Manhattan
studio. Mr. Kallir thought so highly of Oleda's work that
he invited her to be one of five artists in the last
he would give before retiring. "I will introduce you
as my new, young artist," he said.
Sadly, Oleda could not accept this wonderful
offer. Mr. Kallir wanted thirty paintings from her for his
show, which was only a few months away, and Oleda, so new
to painting, and not sure of herself, didn't know if she
could paint even one more, much less produce that many in
so short a time. Moreover, she was then under contract with
a publisher to complete a new beauty/health book, she was
still modeling for Wilhelmina, and she was working on the
startup of her new company. Taking on another project of
completing twenty more paintings was just too much to commit
to. Still, Oleda's elation that such a famous art expert
would even consider her work stimulated in her an even stronger
desire to paint.
the 1980's Oleda had two shows in New York City at which
many of her paintings were sold. One
collector of naïve art, Mr. Allen Fortunoff, purchased
three of her works.
1986, Oleda was invited to exhibit her paintings at the
Wichita Art Association Museum. They exhibited
thirty canvases and asked her to be guest speaker at the
museum's members' only dinner, introducing her as the "New
York Naïve Fantasy Painter." They also arranged
TV talk show and newspaper interviews to help promote the
museum and Oleda's art. The museum bought one of the paintings,
My Sister, Francey, for their collection,
Shortly after that, Oleda closed her studio
in New York and moved her residence to Texas where, for
the next eighteen years she focused on the operation of
Oleda and Company, Inc., and, without a studio in which
to do so, produced no paintings during that period.
Oleda's Artistic Rebirth
Oleda and her husband, Richard, were married
in 2001 taking up residence in Boca Raton, Florida. Richard,
after seeing Oleda's paintings and pictures of her previous
work, and sensing her deep desire and love of creating oil
on canvas, had an art studio constructed on their home so
that Oleda could begin painting again. Delayed by the damage
caused by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the studio was finally
completed in 2006. Ever since its completion, Oleda, after
more than twenty years without a brush in her hand, has
been in it almost every day, once again painting her feelings.
After the studio was built, a dear friend, well known in
the art world, inspired Oleda to take her work very seriously.
She is doing just that
paintings express beautiful thoughts, flowers, animals,
birds, trees, angels, happiness, friendship,
and most of all, love and peace
it's very rare that
she will paint an unhappy canvas
but when she does
.it's still an expression of her feelings!
I get a unique, inexplicable feeling when I step in front of a canvas. It’s as if I’m in a cocoon, accompanied by visions, hopelessly lost, to be released only as my fantasies take shape in the oil. Sometimes, I feel as though I’m inside the picture itself, painting the scene around me. They are all an expression of my feelings and fantasies about flowers, trees, birds, animals, peace, femininity, love, nature and people.
What goes, and does not go, on a canvas excites me at every brush stroke. Which colors, which animals, which tree type or the shape of the flowers, do I fantasize this time? Which paintbrush will produce the effect I’m looking for? My mind races at every turn making decisions….every single leaf is important…my emotions surge. I might fill the studio with music—often loud, sometimes soft—but sometimes not, so that I can savor the quiet…depending on my mood, or the particular scene I’m working on. I often become oblivious to time until I step back to see what’s there.
I work only in oils. I love the consistency and depth I can create with them. Oils are more fun and more forgiving when I want to make a change. I love the texture, how thick they can be yet so thin when diluted. I work mostly with very small paintbrushes of various shapes and sizes, although I use larger ones for background when I begin.
Sometimes I work on 3 or 4 canvases at the same time waiting for the oils to dry on a section of one or two as I’m painting the others. I keep rotating so I don’t have to stop painting during dry time. People ask how long it takes me to complete a painting, but I don’t know since it varies so much. There’s no fixed timetable. “It takes as long as I need to get it right,” I tell them.
I start with a preconceived picture in my mind, without complete details, such as where will each of the flowers grow. The overview helps keep the painting in balance while I maintain flexibility without losing the vision. The feelings behind my paintings go deep…it’s as if the ideas and visions are down in a well and I must bring them to the surface and give them life…there seems always to be many waiting there.
I paint what I imagine, sometimes specific, most times surreal, As an untutored artist, my style is untainted by rules. My mind can be filled with unrealistic ideas and I’m free to paint whatever I feel. I want to create an intimate feeling between my work and the viewer.
My studio overlooks a small garden, a lake, many trees and window boxes I can fill with beautiful flowers growing year round. They are all part of my cocoon. I designed the studio myself. It has a long curved counter on one side that I sit at on a movable high back chair. While working, my canvas sits either on an easel on top of the counter or lies flat or at an angle; sometimes I stand a canvas on the floor or upside down. There is hardly any position a painting has not been through by the time I finish with it.
I still find it difficult to let a painting go -- to part with it at any price. They are part of me, my dreams, my fantasies, my stories. But I have come to understand that, if someone takes my painting into their home, the life I’ve given to my dream is shared and thereby expanded.