July 2013 Artist of the Month | Brenda York

We’re proud to present our July Artist of the Month, Brenda York! Brenda was a finalist in The Artist’s Magazine’s 29th Annual Art Competition. Her abstract oil painting, Dreamer (Not The Only One) (oil, 16×20), is colorful and thoughtful in sentiment. Read on to learn more about her style and process!

www.brendayork.com ~ Idyllwild and San Diego, California

Brenda York's Finalist Painting

Dreamer (Not the Only One) (oil, 16×20) by Brenda York

As far back as I can remember, I have drawn and painted faces. In fact, there is much evidence pointing to the fact that I spent an inordinate amount of time drawing Sister Mary Francis Catherine in 3rd Grade instead of paying attention to math class. In addition to my studies of the good Sister MFC, I also earned a BFA at Arizona State University and continued my fine art training at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, The Athenaeum in La Jolla, and Idyllwild Arts Academy.

I feel that creating art is a form of communication. It’s a way to narrate life and try to make sense of common human experiences. It’s also a way to re-frame your personal life story. I do several outdoor art fairs every year, and I keep a running list of the crazy questions I get. Then I’ll post the top 7-10 wackiest questions on my blog every year, and the most frequently asked question is, “Did you do a lot of psychedelic drugs in your youth?” Go figure.

Most of the paintings I’ve made in the past year have been about letting go. That seems to be a theme in my life, and it therefore inspires the paintings I make. This piece, in particular, is about my kids going off to college, moving to the mountains, and living in a forest, after living in an urban area their whole lives. It’s about being open to the next chapter.

All my paintings start out as tiny little sketches in my Moleskine sketchbook. I do tons of 1 in. to 2 in. thumbnail sketches every week, so when it’s painting time I always have plenty of material to work with. Sometimes, when I am planning for a show that has a theme, I will dedicate a sketchbook to that show so I can see how the ideas for the paintings work together. All of my paintings come from my imagination but I find plenty of inspiration in real life—it’s stranger than fiction! [Click here to tweet this great quote!]

My color choices are mostly instinctual. I almost always start with complementary colors—I love the tension that occurs with colors that are opposites on the color wheel. I don’t over-think my choices except to push myself to try new combinations once in a while. In the final stages of a painting, I will try to repeat colors, (especially background colors), and I use glazes to pull together a composition and create harmony. I always paint on black gessoed canvas. I came to my current style by looking, practicing, and looking more, and then just showing up to do the work, almost every single day. I work mostly in oil paint and cold wax. Lately, I’ve been including some bits of collage to shake things up a little.

My work used to be very realistic, (yes, I can draw a portrait that actually looks like a real human being—hard to believe, huh?), but I wasn’t excited about the work. I started looking at art that did interest me, analyzing what made my heart skip a beat. I even started an inspiration book of images of other artists’ work that I admired. Now I keep Pinterest board called Art I Love that I peruse in times of inspirational black holes.

Over time, it became obvious to me what types of images I was drawn to and also what I felt was missing in my own work: whimsy, color, symbolism, narrative content, etc. I started incorporating these elements into my work, but it didn’t happen over night. Painting nearly every day has pushed me through the phases of developing my style much faster than if I was working on only larger pieces over a greater span of time.

My favorite part of this painting is the monocle eye. It’s a little bit creepy and a little bit mysterious—kind of like those mirrored sunglasses. The toughest part was getting the clouds to look weightless, floaty, and believable.

Brenda York

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