Please Meet Nellie Edwards- The Talent Behind the “Teaching Madonna”

Please meet Nellie Edwards, the talented artist of The Teaching Madonna. Thank you, Nellie, for taking time out of your busy Advent preparations to share a few moments with Homeschool Heart readers. Can you tell us a little about your family please?

Yes, hello! We are the parents of eight, and our home-educating years were from 1989 to 2008.  (However, with 11 grandchildren coming up, there will always be learning in our home!)  Something fun, I’d like to share with you, is the fact that our children are all about two years apart and each one has his or her own birthday month – except for the oldest and youngest, who share the same birthday!  I have made sure to say “and all with no artificial ingredients,” when giving secular talks.  (It’s like the Lord arranged this, just so I could plug for Natural and Divine Family Planning!)

Were you art-trained?

No, I was not art-trained. I always wanted to take lessons, though, and figured on (doing) that when the kids were raised, but by God’s grace (through Mary’s intercession) I was able to just start, at the age of 52.  I tried to paint several times over the years and the outcome was always pathetic!

How you get started in painting, then?

I can’t help but believe that this is a case of Matthew 6:33…. seeking “first the things of God” (such as sidewalk counseling, as well as living and spreading the good news of Humanae Vitae) and Him  fulfilling the heart’s desire. I think it’s an answer to the prayer I voiced, upon moving to North Dakota, (where we had no family/ relatives) asking how I could help build the Culture of Life in such a rural place.

We started a family business, producing ornamentals of my design.  (I did business as “Mother of Eight Designs” which gave us opportunities to give witness to our faith)  Several years went by and suddenly, after praying about whether I should add more religious designs, I had a strong inspiration to paint Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, which I resisted, knowing I did not have the talent for fine-art painting and also since I had no special devotion to her.  I finally gave up and started, thinking if this was from God, it would be evident.  Well, not only was it “turning out” but at about the halfway point, I received a surprising request to give a Pro-Life talk at an annual Native Congress!  I nearly fainted….I had no previous such honor!  This was quite a confirmation!

Where did you get the idea for “Teaching Madonna”?

I know Patti Armstrong, (“Stories for the Homeschool Heart” co-author) who told me about doing the Homeschool Heart book and I sensed there should be “a Madonna & Child” in it, since Christ was home-educated.  I feel books like this are important….that it is vital to encourage families and wanted to help visually.

Can you explain the “Teaching Madonna” painting please?

Sure!  Knowing that Jesus learned at home, it occurred to me, to show him with His mother, Mary, studying a map – that of Jerusalem, where he would one day go to offer himself for our redemption.   The title can convey Mary teaching Jesus but it could also mean Jesus teaching Madonna! It’s good for parents to realize that God teaches us many important things with and through our children.

“Mother of Life” is not in the book but is a piece you recently completed it and consider an Advent piece. Where did you get the idea for “Mother of Life”?

This came out of the blue! (for Mary!)  I had started a piece which would be Mary, somehow cradling an unborn child.  I had done her face profile and was starting the veil in white, when a very strong realization came over me, that this had to be Our Lady of Guadalupe!  I had waved off the idea previously when asked (by several people) since Mary left her own image and I did not think that was something needed.

Can you explain the “Mother of Life” painting please?

Yes….Because I had done Mary’s face profile, I realized the opportunity to show the full-term-ness of her “with child” state.  (The bodice sash was a signal in the Aztec culture, that a woman was expecting)  I saw the importance of Mary adoring her Savior-Son….and believe this is a major reason for the inspiration – to encourage adoration, which will help build a civilization of Love!  The window of Mary’s prayer room reveals Tepyak Hill and we see the North Star over the Unborn Messiah.  Kids will have fun finding the “Big Dipper” amongst the stars….Many of my paintings (again, digital paintings) have hidden images.

You are a busy mom. How do you find time for creating your art?

Home education for us is at an end since our youngest (at age 19) is already out on his own.  Now, I spend an average of six hours a day, doing Sacred Art, which is a huge blessing to me.  I do take more and more breaks when the grandchildren (11 already) come looking for “Nina.”

How long does each piece take?

That is hard to track; I go so far on “B”, get an inspiration for “C”, offer up assorted crosses, get grace to make progress on “B” and so on with all the works thus far. (more than 20 titles now) I might be working on three or four (pieces) concurrently, over a span of 6 months or so.  The art has proven to be very much a spiritual exercise…one that gives visual evidence of graces gained when we “offer it up” as our mothers taught us.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a very sweet look at The Holy Family, with some cool symbolism.

What is your favorite piece?

I don’t really have one that is a favorite, since all have stories and personal experiences wrapped up in them.  That being said, if I had to choose, it would have to be “Mother of Life”.

How will you be spending Christmas?

I will be spending Christmas with all but our eldest, who lives now in England, with her little family.  Anyway, working on the Nativity as I am right now, makes it even more meaningful.  God has made us all HIS family!  “Come, let us ADORE HIM!”

Is there anything else you’d like Homeschool Heart readers to know?

Due to “Holding on to Faith” and a related amazing grace event, there are several Native people, working toward the goal of a national Pro-Life Indian organization.  It is interesting that the new 2011 Catholic Extension Society calendar features “Blessed” Kateri as one of the 12 saints!   Hmmmm!

I just want to encourage your readers to trust that God has a plan and “Do not be afraid” to go and do what He calls you to, for we can never imagine the rewards for doing His Holy Will!  Homeschool Heart is full of stories that are faith building/ sustaining, so read your copy and then praise God for all the souls God has moved into this wonder-full movement!  We are all little threads in the glorious tapestry Our Blessed Mother is weaving….to help the world see Truth!

Thank you, Nellie for sharing your beautiful talent with us both here and in the Stories for the Homeschool Heart book!

Nellie’s other work and her Immaculata Art website can be viewed by following THIS LINK.

Her painting “Teaching Madonna” graces one of the first pages of the “Stories for the Homeschool Heart” book. You can click that link to order.


Nellie Edwards, former homeschooler, mother of eight, grandmother of 11 and artist of  the “Teaching Madonna”

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