Barbara Brody's Biography
Barbara Brody was born in Chicago Illinois in 1941, and now lives in rural Pennsylvania.
Studying Graphic Design and FineArts at University of Iowa.
In later years I realized that the discipline and focus I learned at the Art Center was, and continues to be, immensely beneficial in my working life. I left the Art Center after two years, married and settled in Davenport, Iowa, where I continued to do my art. At the age of 21 I became affiliated with my first gallery in Minneapolis Minnesota. Since that time many years ago I have always been affiliated with galleries, no matter what other employment I had. In 1971 I opened a photography studio where I started to professionally practice my hobby of photography; specializing in annual reports, casual portraiture and agricultural photography. It grew to be quite successful, however, wanting to spend more time with my sons, I gave up the studio in 1976 and became the Executive Director of a Bi-State Social Service Agency.
During this time I also became a Marketing Director for Iowa’s first HMO. In 1984 I finally realized that what I wanted to be, was what I had been doing all my life. I acquired a bank loan and opened up BH Brody Studio, designing a successful commercial wall décor and accessory line, while continuing with my fine art and the galleries. The more design I did, the more the galleries wanted my pieces and after several years I had the pleasure of closing my commercial line and working with my art pieces full-time. Over the years I have had numerous gallery exhibitions in both the UK and the USA and my work hangs in many private and corporate collections worldwide. Today I live in rural Pennsylvania where it is quiet, people smile and the pace of life is slower. I can see the sky forever from my studio and back yard.
My inspiration comes from life inside and outside of me. I love colour, dream colour – it is my soul food! So many things inspire me... mostly what is around me. All somehow comes forth in my work. If I were to pick what inspires me the most... it would be both my innate ability and desire to create, and nature and humankind’s landscape. I am captured by the sky – it is pure magic to me.
Stay in one place or travel, the sky stays with you and always changes. Or the colour of a fresh peach, reflections in water or windows, even an oil slick is fascinating to me. Studying some of my favorite painters techniques, palettes and images can also be helpful. I absorb it all inside for another time.
Where I live is truly inspiring – I live in a mountains in the distance they are new, fresh and surprising to see everyday. I often get into the car and drive, with no destination in mind, breathing in the views as I go. I will follow a view or a sunset not caring where I might end up – those moments are wonderful! That is usually enough to bring me back to the studio refreshed. Sometimes I will try and photograph the landscape, however, the photographs never quite have the impact of what I saw. For years I have been doing 1”x1” quick line drawings of the roll of the landscape.
Occasionally I will look at both the photographs and drawings for reference. Most of the time they stay in a pile with other drawings or get stuffed into a sketchbook. It is the seeing and drawing that somehow stays with me in mind and heart, and comes together in some way. There are also times when I have no idea where the painting came from. As a book lover I often read about painters I admire and am pulled to writings on the American Indians and their relationship with nature and spirit. People seem astounded that I never lack for ideas. Ideas, to me, are just part of life and myself. I guess one could say I am having a ‘love affair’ with my work and nature. My art is my play and sustenance! I feel blessed that it is my livelihood. Inspiration comes from my heart, my core, the world around me, reading, seeing, studying and reminding myself that all I need to do is ‘touch the materials’ and I’m off and immersed in my work once again.
I’m a colourist and mainly a contemporary landscape painter. I am also addicted to collages and constructions. My technique has evolved over the years. Eleven years ago I found out that I was chemically sensitive, and had to give up oils and chalk pastels. It was like loosing your best friend. Now I work mainly with acrylic paints and then draw over the painting with wonderful soft oil pastels.
Painterly I’m not; my strengths are in colour, form, texture, and contrast. I prefer to do ‘suites’ of work, which I have been doing since my college days and it works for me.
Typical suites are usually from 6-15 paintings. My beginning is preparing the canvas and the studio. I read, draw pages of single line 1” square thumbnails depicting the roll of the landscape and somehow it all comes together.
I tear my canvas, giving more texture and spirit to the paintings. I then draw on my canvasses giving them the first of many washes of colour. Next, I hang them on my studio wall and write notes and perhaps a drawing about each image. I begin again, following my notes (not always) until the pieces sit right with me. The next day I return to the studio and look at the pieces with fresh eyes. This is also the time when I might pull out pieces that aren’t working. I believe re-working a painting and studying the ones that won’t work can bring much wisdom.
After all of the paintings sit right with me, bring out the oil pastels. It is then time to draw – embellishing the landscape over the colour filled acrylic. Oil pastels are sensual, bright, fragile and messy – a stick can be used up in minutes! I use dots of colour, as symbolism, or as a technique to bring out a colour or area, or to tone down. I think of the dots as points of interest. The drawing brings texture and spirit into the work. Again, I hang the pieces on my studio wall and note any changes that are needed. The hand painted border is last. I love borders and have been using them for years. They can set a mood with colour by bringing out the painting or subduing it. Maria Montessori taught and believed in ‘freedom within structure’. Perhaps the border is my structure. The pieces at this point have been signed and all that is left to do is use the left side of my brain and entitle, inventory and photograph every one of them!
I get to the studio around 10am, which is only 10 feet away. I read the note I had written to myself the night before and I pick out appropriate music that reflects the work at hand that day. The music can be relaxing, or stimulating, and/or meditative – it impacts the pace of my work and mood, and can even drive me to dance and sing. What a sight! I take a leisurely lunch around 2pm, return to the studio around 3.30pm and work until 6pm, sometimes later. When I am in the groove or ‘magic time’ as I call it, it is hard to stop. I am like a train without breaks! There are many weekends when I just keep on going and friends never fail to remark that need a life.
My studio is in organised disarray, but brushes are always clean and paint jars sealed and palette covered. Oil pastels are separated into their cool and warm trays. There is a studio supply closet with a deep inventory of supplies. With no vendors nearby I have a constant fear of running out! From my studio I can see; my cutting garden, a field of corn until growing seasons end, a huge sky, not forgetting my once a day personal sunset!
The driveway is a wonderful place to dry my brushes, weather permitting – although last week I drove over every one of them forgetting they were there! When I am working I’m totally focused, and after I have finished many paintings I am utterly exhausted. I take a few days off to attend to other things in real life that have been ignored. I clean the studio that I had trashed with the last painting session and think about the next group of pieces and other pieces still not finished. I check supplies and re-charge my batteries with gardening, socializing with good friends, good food, and my famous ‘get lost’ drives in the country. I then start the ride all over and begin again. I love my work. Why do I paint? I have no choice. It is my sustenance.
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