COVINGTON -- Vincent Van Gogh's 157th birthday might not be special to many people, but it is for local artist Carol Veliotis.
Since she opened her gallery, Van Go's Studio at 5172 Floyd St. in Covington, in November, she's been waiting to celebrate his birthday.
"I was already planning this last fall," she said. "I've been looking forward to it."
She named her studio in honor of Van Gogh -- and even has a mural of his famous "Starry Night" painted by her daughter Maria on one side of the building -- because she's always admired his work and his life.
"I love his work -- it's bold," said Veliotis, admitting that although she enjoys his work, she does not imitate it, since she mostly creates found and recycled art. "He changed art and created a new movement."
At first, his art was dark, but the last two years of his life, he painted bold prints from inspiration in France. In his day, many artists and the general public despised his work, calling it unfinished and raw since he sometimes only squirted paint onto canvases, Veliotis said.
"I like the validity of his work and the brightness in his landscapes and portraits," said Veliotis, who has many of his paintings in her home and some books about him in her gallery. "He was so innovated and way ahead of his time."
She said he died when he was 37 years old, after painting for 10 years and only selling one piece to his brother, which was probably out of sympathy. Now, she's trying to sell her art at age 62, when most people retire.
"I want to honor him, poor guy," she said.
On Tuesday, several area artists who are featured in her gallery joined her for the celebration, in addition to others. At noon, they lit and blew out 157 candles on 157 cupcakes in vibrant colors that Van Gogh painted with like purple, yellow, blue, green and white. Throughout the day, the gallery gave out sunflower seeds and held several door prizes and drawings, especially of sunflowers and irises, some of Van Gogh's favorite flowers.
"I wanted to have a big event in his honor and to bring in new people to the gallery," said Veliotis, whose gallery features paintings, photographs, sculptures, figurines, ceramics, soaps and other items from area artists.
Even Van Gogh himself stopped by the studio -- Dan Marineau, a Covington resident, owner of The Inn Bed & Breakfast at 2119 Emory St. in Covington and organist for St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Monroe, dressed up as Van Gogh, complete with a bandaged ear.
"It's been fun," said Marineau, who Veliotis said looks like a certain picture of Van Gogh. "As an artist, it's always good to do something to stretch yourself a little bit. I also like to support local businesses, like mine."
Veliotis hopes to make this an annual celebration and eventually paint another Van Gogh mural on the outside of her building.
The hours of Van Go's Studio are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It will open on Sunday and Monday by appointment.