1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?
Always an art kid! I loved to draw at an early age. I had a fantastic Jr. High art teacher that taught me how to see as an artist and draw. I also took private lessons from her. When I started painting, my mom would complain that I didn’t own an article of clothing without paint on it. I hardly ever thought to change my clothes before painting… I just had to get started. I still have this problem. I continued studying art through college. However, I had not thought of art as a career until later in life. I started a double major in art and chemistry at the University of Utah, but only completed a B.S. in Chemistry. I had always thought that art would just be a hobby that I would enjoy from time to time. However, while I was in graduate school for chemistry, I had no time to paint or draw, and found myself very unhappy. So, I took a community watercolor class ensuring I would have at least 2 hours per week devoted to art. This was my first lesson that art was more to me than a passing hobby, it was essential to my happiness. I have made it a priority ever since. I also found my true love during those community classes: watercolor! I finished a Master’s degree and worked for a number of years as a Toxicologist, while being sure to make time for painting. However, it wasn’t until my husband and I had our first son, and I decided to stay home, that I also started a career as a professional artist.
I like a lot of styles, but I guess my favorite would be impressionism. I like paintings that look like paintings, not photographs. I like to feel the impressions and feelings that an artist had for the scene, not just a record or statement of what they saw. I also like paintings that tell a story. Some of my favorite master artists would have to be Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, and Edward Hopper. Some of my favorite more recent artists are John Pike, Joseph Zbukvic, Alvaro Castagnet, Robert Wade, and Dean Mitchell.
|Flat Iron and Hunter's Home.|
3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?
I find beauty in everyday life, the so called “mundane”. Ordinary people going about their everyday lives inspire me. I especially enjoy painting ‘en plein air’, where each painting reminds me of where I was, of the experiences I had, the sounds, smells, and the people I met. My paintings are always more about a moment in time than about a particular location. Being a landscape artist, my favorite way to get inspiration is to paint on location, painting ‘en plein air’. I love to be outside, experiencing the place I am painting, in an attempt to paint my impression of the place. I also get inspiration from photos and sketches of places as I travel. I like including figures in my landscape and cityscape paintings, so I often sketch figures from observation and my own imagination. These sketches are not only useful tools, but good practice for when I paint ‘en plein air’. After all, people are usually not standing still as I paint. I have to be quick!
|Moo's Cows and Dusk.|
4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.
I love the wonderful sense of freedom, and slightly controlled chaos, that watercolor provides. All of my paintings begin with choosing a subject, whether I am on location or painting from photographs. I look for interesting shapes, designs, and light patterns. After a small value sketch, where I plan my composition, I lightly draw on my paper for a general guideline. I then paint a first wash in one go, only painting around a few areas that I want to remain white. This first wash is my favorite step, fast and messy! While the first wash is drying, I look for inspiration in the scene, in the people I see, and in the paint on the paper. I start to look less and less at the scene in front of me, and more at my evolving painting. This helps me to focus less on the details of my subject, and more on my impressions of where I am. If you would like more details about my process, please refer to my blog: http://briennembrown.com/blog/65193/painting-on-location. I have a number of posts that explain my process in detail, and I also have many step by step demonstrations.
|Brienne working en Plein Air.|
5. What is a typical day in your life?
Haha… A typical day in my life at this point doesn’t always involve art. I have two very active boys, ages 3 and 5. So, my days are crazy and chaotic. However, like I said previously, I have made a commitment to make the time to paint. My boys are now in kindergarten and pre-school, so I get about 20 hours per week for art related activities. I will walk you through a typical art day…
I wake-up at 6:30am to get my oldest out the door and on the bus by 7:20am. I then get my youngest ready for the bus by 8:10am. With both boys gone, I eat breakfast and take a quick shower in peace. Now it is time to get to work. If I am going to paint ‘en plein air’, I grab my stuff and leave. If I am working in the studio, I get my reference photo and sketchbook and start planning my painting. Depending on the size, I can usually finish a painting by 12:00-1:00pm. I have learned to work fast…I have to. Also, even though my painting time is short, while I am with my boys, I am thinking of my next painting and planning some of it in my head. This helps. My youngest gets home around 1:30pm. The rest of my day is spent with the boys and doing house work. After putting the boys to bed, I usually spend some time each night for the ‘business side of art’: updating inventory, photographing art work, printing out reference photos, updating my website, or anything else that might need to be done. I would love more time to paint, but that is just not possible at this time in my life. I know it will come. For now, I have made a commitment to myself to do what I can, and not put the brush down while my kids are young. I am an artist. I paint because I have to! It is necessary!
|A Plein Air set up and Black Moshannon.|
This is an interesting question…I like a lot of styles of art work. As I said before, my favorite style is probably impressionistic paintings. However, I am drawn to many styles, subjects and mediums. I guess what draws me most to a work of art, besides good design, is an intangible quality that I call expressionism. One of my college professors took us to an art show of an artist whose name I don’t remember, but her style was described as ‘abstract expressionism’. I can’t even describe the impact those paintings had on me. The paintings were more than wonderful abstract paintings. As I studied them, I felt a range of different emotions and was completely drawn to them. That is what I strive to convey in my work and what I like to see in other artists work. Now, one thing I love about art is that different artists will connect with different viewers, but I think that is what artists try to do.
|Shorty's House and Whitehall Fields.|
My main interests, at this time in my life, are my family and my art. However, I also love to read fiction, some non-fiction, and (surprise, surprise) art books. I play the piano, or I used to. My boys don’t let me play much anymore. Every time I start, they come to help… and I am sure you can imagine how well that goes. I like to play sports, especially softball and volleyball. I play volleyball once a week with some great ladies and it has been a great stress reliever. Among other things, I like to hike, camp, and cook.
8. Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?
I think of myself as a full-time mother and part-time artist. However, as my boys grow older, I will get to make more time for painting.
9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?
Boy, this is the toughest question you have asked. I don’t think I can pick one favorite. I have many for various reasons. Each one reminds me of either a place or time in my life. Also, I am always looking forward to the next painting…
However, two that stand out in my mind are ‘Discussing Grandpa’s House’ and ‘Garek’. My painting, ‘Discussing Grandpa’s House’, I painted from a photo I took of a wonderful old house down the street from where I live. No, it is not my grandfather’s house, but my grandfather had passed away earlier that year. The man that owns the house has been placed in a rest home, so it has fallen under disrepair, but I love it. With the experience of my own grandfather, I could just imagine the family’s discussion of what to do with the house after their father/grandfather passes away. This is something that happens in many families at one point or another. My other painting that I like, ‘Garek’, is a painting of my youngest son. I like it not just because it is a painting of my son, but the method I used. I actually painted this during a workshop I took. The artist was giving us ideas for mixed media paintings. This was done with watercolor, fluid acrylics, and oil pastel. I think I like this painting because it was so fun to paint. I have done others paintings with this method, but I love this one because it just seemed to paint itself. That is an exciting, but rare event. This is one of those paintings that I will never sell.
|Way's Fruit Farm.|
10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?
The best advice I got, was from a friend and fellow artist, Rob Adamson. He told me to just paint and show my work, the rest would take care of itself. At first, I didn’t believe him, but he was right. Keep painting (or working in whatever medium you do), perfecting your art, and get it out there for people to see. It is not quick! Here is some more good advice:
“Don’t think of going into art to become a millionaire. Go there because there is no other choice. Something deep inside you propels you, a voice that demands to be heard.” -Carl Purcell
|Painting Demo and Finished Piece, Autumn Morning.|
My workspace is just a spare room in our house. It has an important feature: a door that locks! This helps keep my boys out. One day my oldest found a squirt bottle and proceeded to spray one of my paintings. Luckily, he didn’t totally ruin it, hey maybe he even helped it… But, I will tell you that he never did that again. I have two working tables and a large easel for larger works of art. I have shelves for stuff, always lots of stuff. I have my ‘plein air’ bag always ready to go. I have a flat file to hold paper, unframed paintings, mat board, etc. One project I have this spring is to build some storage for framed paintings. Right now, they are hanging on my walls and leaning against other walls. I need more room! It is an ongoing discussion I have with my husband…
|Discussing Grandpa's House.|
Sure. My biggest setback was probably when I stopped painting during graduate school like I explained earlier. Now, I wasn’t a professional artist at the time, but I have always been an artist at heart, I just had to learn that. Other than that, I am not sure I have had what I would call setbacks, more detours. Having more children have been detours for me. Also, I have not set really high goals for myself yet until my children grow older. But, I have been improving my art by painting as much as I can. Though I always want more time…
I have set goals to make more time, to paint more often, especially ‘en plein air’. Also, I am working on earning signature status in the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society. These are my main goals and achievements I am working on right now. I have other more long term goals, like teaching more workshops, which I really enjoy. However, some of these goals might have wait until my boys are older and I can make more time…
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and letting me show off your lovely work.