About six years ago, Dawsonville woman Vickie Croft was diagnosed with Lyme disease. She has been artistic and loved making crafts her whole life, but when she suddenly had so much more time at home because of the painful disease she began creating art out of anything she could find, from rocks to soda cans to canvases.
Since then, Croft has painted thousands of rocks to disperse in the community for people to find, and has just completed her most recent project: a brightly colored decorative wall in front of her house made out of hand-painted bricks.
Croft’s first big project was painting rocks, an idea that was inspired several years ago when she found a painted rock while out in Cumming with her sister. She began painting rocks to distribute to parks and other local spots, and since then she has painted over 3,400 rocks. She still loves to paint small rocks for her daughter, a teacher at Robinson Elementary School, to take to school and hide for the students to find.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Croft said that suddenly the rocks she’d been able to purchase in bulk to paint before became impossible to find. Because of this, she had to get creative with what she was able to turn into artwork.
“I started doing these bricks because during the Covid thing for some reason nobody had the rocks,” Croft said. “These bricks have been way harder to paint than the rocks, but they didn’t have any rocks.”
Croft painted hundreds upon hundreds of the bricks, and as she accumulated more and more of the pieces of art she knew she had to come up with a way to display them. In front of her house stood an old brick wall that was falling apart, and she came up with the idea of rebuilding the wall with her freshly painted bricks.
“The brick wall was there and I had mosaic stuff all over it but it was all falling off it had been there so long,” Croft said. “So my friend scraped it all off and hauled all the bricks down here and hauled them back out there and stuck them on the wall.”
Croft’s friend, Brett Jackson, pitched in hours of his time to help her rebuild the wall, taking down the old mosaics and the old bricks and replacing them with the new ones. According to Croft, she would haul the five-pound bricks inside in a box set on her walker, carry them upstairs two at a time in a bag so she could paint them, and bring them back down for Jackson to place on the wall.
“Every day I’d look out and he’d bring bricks down so they’d be sitting there, so I’d bring them in, get them upstairs, paint them and bring them back down,” Croft said. “I painted them faster than he could put them up, but it’s probably taken about 8 months or so… it’s been a lot of work."
But after all the work, Croft said that the end product, a large wall built out of 700 of her painted bricks and standing right outside of her house, has been incredibly rewarding to see every time she walks past her window.
Croft said that her artwork has been an outlet for her during her battle with Lyme disease, which has made it hard for her to walk or to stand for long periods of time.
“I can’t do anything — I’ve gotten way better than I was, but I paint all day,” Croft said. “I have to do something; I can’t just sit, but I can’t stand for long periods so I’m doing a lot of sitting so I paint constantly.”
She has always been crafty, but she said that she really took up painting after she retired from her career as a nurse.
“When I retired I started painting,” Croft said. “I’ve always done crafts but never painting so I have paintings everywhere, I don’t have any more room.”
She added that her inspiration for rocks, bricks and canvases alike can come from anywhere, from seasonal designs to animals to ideas she sees online.
“I just look and look for inspiration; Pinterest, really anywhere,” Croft said. “The ones for the kids are little rocks, so I have to do small little things, but it’s easy on rocks because they’re smooth.”
Moving forward, Croft said that she is now painting on pieces of boards taken from pallets, which her son-in-law cuts for her to paint.
“My daughter’s husband has been getting pallets, and then he cuts me the boards and I put three of them together; that’s my favorite cause they’re kind of rough and make your painting look kind of old and I just love them,” Croft said.