Art Exhibits – Past and Present

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticArt Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticI’m participating in a new joint show with a fellow watercolorist Bernice Wood at the Artists Attic in Downtown Lexington.  This event has made me consider all of the shows I’ve been involved in over the years, along with the changes I’ve witnessed.  Recently my shows have taken place in areas where I’ve just moved and know virtually no one, at least in the adult world.

As I look back at the 80’s and 90’s in Austin TX, I realize how fortunate I was in my youth.  At age 24 I joined the Capitol Art Society, a wonderful group who welcomed me, mentored me, and cheered for every success.  Our group shows were magical, and took place in stunning venues.  We had a coop gallery too.  Artwork sold well for all the artists.  Ironic for me since my work at the time showed a lack of experience.  Before I left Austin in 2007 I enjoyed art shows where lots of hand-colored limited-edition prints of birds sold.   Austin was filled with bird lovers.  It’s hard to say which was more enjoyable:  The engaging bird-related conversations, or the art sales!

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticAfter moving to Concord MA in 2007 I met new fellow bird and art lovers.  I had a show the first year I lived in the area.  It inspired two commissioned pieces and sales of several small hummingbird paintings.  Before I left the area in 2013 I’d had several shows.  More importantly I taught watercolor and drawing to dozens of students, many of whom became friends and soul mates.  I learned new skills –  How to paint landscapes and flowers in order to teach my students.  This learning/teaching experience made me a better colorist than I’d ever been.  During my seven years in MA I definitely witnessed a drop in sales for all artists, and was thankful to be a passionate teacher.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticFast forward to 2013 and our move to Lexington KY where horses, not birds, rule the roost.  Oil paintings are much more common and popular than watercolors.   I’ve met a group of delightful and talented artists at the Artists Attic.   Out of 26 members only two of us are watercolorists.  Artists in all media have seen a drop in sales over the past decade.  The reasons are numerous:

  • The economic downturn
  • A flood of competing visuals on social media
  • Modern digital cameras allowing easy creation of personal and inexpensive artwork
  • Mobile devices and apps which allow easy creative manipulation and sharing of photos

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticSadly at the peak of my ability as a teacher and painter, I’m struggling to find students in the area interested in learning watercolor and drawing.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticThe current exhibit at the Artists’ Attic has given me an opportunity to show my best work.  Compliments abound!  Like all artists I appreciate the sentiment, but these days such sentiments rarely turn into sales or opportunities.

The one thing moving through the U.S. has shown me:  Change is the only constant and I need to adapt in order to survive and thrive.

Art Exhibit Barbara Bromley Artist's AtticTo that end:  Horses, UK, and the beautiful Kentucky countryside will join birds and people in my paintings.  A love of learning has always been one of my biggest passions, so bring it on in the Bluegrass State!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Tribute to Albert J. Russell

Maya Angelou wrote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Simply put, my dad made me feel cherished.  Four years after his death this feeling remains.Watercolor painting of the word Cherished, adorned with flowers and hummingbirds

He treasured his family.  I think he actually thought all five of his children were perfect, or maybe he just treated us that way.  He lost his mother at age seven and learned early the power of family.  Shortly before his death he told my husband that life had turned out so much better than he expected.

I believe when he met and married my mom, in Japan of all places, life began again for him.

Pencil skectch of father and daughter, Artist:  Barbara Bromley a.k.a. artfulbarbI’ve included the drawing I did after his death.  As usual art helped me to cope.  The drawing was done from a snapshot taken at his surprise 82nd birthday party.  Normally there would have been lots of photos from my own camera.  Unfortunately I landed in the hospital the night before.  When I finally arrived at the party unshowered, exhausted, and bedraggled, he looked up at me with pure joy.  As always, even at age 82 and wheelchair-bound, his strength of spirit lifted me up.

Pencil sketch of old man walking away, carrying a flowerI’m so glad that I agreed to the photo because it captured how I felt toward a dad who was/is my hero.

I read this quote recently in a greeting card:

“You honor him by the way you live your life”

Dad, I’m still trying!!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Transitions – oldsters and youngsters

sam-dance-costume340x600It’s been a bit more than a month since I turned 59.  As I consider my own transitions I’m also struck by those of my grandchildren.  Sam (5 years 9 months) is in his last week of Kindergarten.   We recently attended a show where he performed a Spanish dance with the entire class of Maxwell Elementary.  The children were in costume and paired up.  Sam looked so grown up!  It seems like just seconds since his birth made me a Grandma.  He and his 2 1/2 year old brother Gabriel have filled my heart.  They are more incredible than I could have imagined, and I have quite an imagination!

Sam teaches me about technology.  At age 2 he Skyped us early one morning from his bed, all by himself, using his mom’s iPad.   I myself didn’t know how to Skype without the help of my fellow grandparent (an engineer).  At age 3 1/2 Sam pointed out to me that my Nook could actually make sounds if you turned the volume up.  I didn’t know it had a volume control……

Sam and I teach each other.  He learns about nature from me as we go on long walks.  We often make no-bake cookies together,  and he says he’s lucky to have a grandma who’s an artist.  We’ve made many art “masterpieces” together.  Collaboration is a key word for us.  Here is some of Sam’s work in crayon and marker:

Clearly the best transition during my 50’s is the one involving grand kids!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Grandma’s Kiss

When my son Nick was young we lived in Austin TX, often visiting family in Michigan for the summer.  Our first trip was a very long car ride, and Grandma Russell had been impatiently awaiting our arrival.   GrandmasKiss-For-Web-300x291She was so excited to see Nick that she planted a big, very visible lipstick kiss on his cheek!  It touched my heart so, I knew this was something I had to draw.  I wanted to make it special so I drew a heart of flowers around the portrait. Prior to that time I had not been an avid flower painter but this event got me started down a new path.  I hope you enjoy the drawing – to me it’s a golden oldy, loaded with sentiment!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Life Transitions

Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind. – Fred Rogers

I’ve always found “new beginnings” to be a double-edged sword. - Transitions Post.  Watercolor image:  Fly Away HummerAt the ripe age of 50, after 27 years in Texas raising our kids, the move to Concord, MA was difficult.  No more close friends nearby who knew the song in my heart…. No more cozy places where my children grew up.  Wonderful places like Zilker Park, McKinney Falls, the city of Austin, the state capital building, San Antonio Riverwalk and Zoo, the list goes on and on…..

My artful “new beginning” in Concord took 3 years to get off the ground.

I started teaching watercolor painting and drawing in a lovely hobby shop called Dabblers.   That teaching job led to another gig:  Teaching at the Weston Council of Aging which brought such joy and growth to me and my students.  Teaching at Weston helped me become a master colorist.  Who knew?!! Painting landscapes, etc. for the first time due to student request forced me to learn.  As always, the teacher becomes the best learner in the room 🙂

I met new friends who were artistically matched to me.  Some started out as private students, others were students in my class.

After seven years in Concord MA…. Fast Forward to a new beginning in Lexington KY, home of our grandchildren, the best on planet earth.  Here they are for my (and your) enjoyment! - Transitions Post.  Watercolor of sam on the beach with - Transitions post.  Pencil Sketch of Gabriel with Horse

At this point we’ve been living in Kentucky for almost two years.  As we discovered in Massachusetts, it takes a few years to begin to feel at home.  Making friends, a bit of headway in the arts community, and of course the proximity of family have all helped in this transition.  I think this blog will help too!

Watercolor Hummingbird Signature

Happy 59th birthday to me!

Welcome to my blog!

Come join me as I celebrate my last year in the “frantic fifties” and document my “Artful Passages” into my sixties and beyond.   In my artful blog/journal I’ll use writing, painting, drawing, and photographs to chart my blog-journey.

Since its my birthday and all, I deserve some cake don’t you think? In lieu of the real thing, let’s serve up a couple watercolors instead.  Lots less calories! - Watercolor Birthday - Watercolor Birthday Cake

Thanks for making this passage with me!


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