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A watercolor painting by artist Violet Dauk of New London will be the grand prize during a special "Art in the Park" event Monday at the Willmar Stingers game at Taunton Stadium in Willmar. A total of five art pieces will be given away as part of the promotion. (Submitted image)

Willmar, Minn.'s, Art in the Park: The artist's story . . .

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WILLMAR - Combining her love of art with her love of baseball, Dauk created a special painting for the event.

In her painting, four children wearing black and yellow Stingers' baseball caps are standing along a fence watching a Stingers' baseball game in the background.

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"It's just an image that I have from going to so many games," Dauk said. "My family has been a baseball family forever."

Her daughter, Becca, 20, played softball in high school and her son, Anthony, 22, played baseball. Her family has also bought Twins season tickets since the Target Field opened in 2010.

She said she's honored to have her artwork chosen as the grand prize. "It's exciting, and it's real scary at the same time," she said.

Dauk has been painting since she was a little girl, but it hasn't always come easy.

She remembers listening to Bible stories at church. Her teacher would illustrate the story with chalk while she spoke. At the end of the story, she would turn off the lights and turn on a black light to reveal a hidden cross. That mysterious cross that showed up at the end of each story fascinated Dauk.

"In my young mind, the spark was lit," she said. "I would go draw or paint to just get away from it all."

Dauk was unable to take art classes until college. At first, she struggled to keep up with the other art students, but eventually she was able to draw and paint people with real muscles, she said.

As Dauk came closer to graduation, her family and friends constantly questioned whether she would find a job with an art degree. She became discouraged, dropped out of classes and never graduated -- it was her only regret.

Dauk said she never quit learning though. She draws inspiration from the world around her to create whimsical, colorful paintings.

"The way the light hits something or the color, those things speak to you," she said.

Dauk's artwork has been featured in many art shows, and she recently received an emerging artist grant from Southwest Minnesota Arts and Humanities Council to create more abstract pieces.

She knows the challenges of being an artist, but she has also seen the rewards. She encourages young artists to get advice from other artists and use resources like the WAAC and other organizations to get information and make connections.

To view Dauk's artwork, visit violetdauk.blogspot.com.

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