africa

Drawing

Vignette: Susan E. Brooks


“How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world?”
- Susan Brooks


"Burkina Boy and His Donkey" by Susan Brooks, 31x20in, pastel on mat board (2017)

"Burkina Boy and His Donkey" by Susan Brooks, 31x20in, pastel on mat board (2017)

Susan Brooks is a children’s book illustrator, drawing on her own life experience in Mozambique, Africa, and Turkish Cypress to create original stories. Her images are prosaic, with notes of affectionate sentimentalism. “As an artist I am fascinated with the human countenance,” explains Brooks. “I believe every person is created in the image of God, having an inner light that can sometimes be captured or at least hinted at in great art. The challenge of creating a painting that gives the viewer pause, that causes them to feel a connection with the divine through beauty, keeps me returning to my first artistic love, portrait drawing and painting.”   

On her website, Brooks talks about how some of her images are inspired by her encounters with poverty: “How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world? How can we help? Guilt and shame are not the answer. The answer is probably different for each one of us.”

Brooks taught art for many years, including her current position at Portland Christian School. She has worked in various mediums, but she uses primarily oil pastels now. “I have developed a style of painting with oil pastels that results in striking portraits that glow with dramatic light, various textures, and complementary color contrasts. I work with oil pastels on a textured surface of mat board or pastel paper, which allows me to build up many layers of color with a thick, buttery, texture in some areas, while leaving other areas thin, allowing the background colors and the texture of the surface to show. For me, working with oil pastels is the best of both worlds, allowing for painterly textures and colors combined with expressive mark making.”

"Tanzanian Children" by Susan Brooks, 17x20in, pastel on paper (2017)

"Tanzanian Children" by Susan Brooks, 17x20in, pastel on paper (2017)

Brooks is a member of the American Impressionist Society, Inc. & Louisville Visual Art, and has been included in Fine Art America’s Artist Listings.

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts from Lipscomb University 1985; Master of Education from Indiana Wesleyan, 2007
Website: http://www.susanebrooks.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sebrooks81/

"Keeping Up with Big Sister" by Susan Brooks, 14x11in, pastel on paper (2017)

"Keeping Up with Big Sister" by Susan Brooks, 14x11in, pastel on paper (2017)

"Ollie at the Beach" by Susan Brooks, 19x25in, pastel on paper (2017)

"Ollie at the Beach" by Susan Brooks, 19x25in, pastel on paper (2017)

"Tanzanian Children (detail)" by Susan Brooks

"Tanzanian Children (detail)" by Susan Brooks

"Reading with Poppy" by Susan Brooks, 25x19in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Reading with Poppy" by Susan Brooks, 25x19in, pastel on paper (2016)

"Ollie at the Beach (detail)"  by Susan Brooks

"Ollie at the Beach (detail)"by Susan Brooks

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. 

Written by Keith Waits.      Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. 

Written by Keith Waits. Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved. 

Painting, Illustration, Mixed Media

Feature: Michael John Braaksma


“What I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old…”
– Michael John Braaksma


Michael John Braaksma in his studio.  Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma in his studio. Photo by Sarah Katherine Davis for LVA.

Michael John Braaksma is a sculptor, puppeteer, and a scenic and costume designer for theatre. In a curatorial statement, Braaksma described his practice; “His multidisciplinary approach to art-making blends drawing, painting, sculpture, illustration, puppetry, mask-making, theatrical design and art direction together to create spectacular visual narratives. Folk tales, oral narratives, and mythologies linking inhabitants with their land and culture are of particular importance to Michael’s work.”

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

Still from 'Unicorn Xing' Tyler McDAniel cinematographer. Puppets and Set by Michael John Braaksma.

He recently wrapped his first short film based around his puppetry, and is beginning to work on a children’s book. 

“I’m a visual story teller. That’s a description that fits the all encompassing approach to my work,” said Braaksma. 

In his studio, there are characters hanging from the walls; some are fully formed, some are just heads or faces. Many actually are puppets, but others are stand-alone art objects, some sized to be affordable at art fairs and events like the Flea Off Market.  Regardless of the artistic purpose of each character, they all seem ready to spring to life at any moment. “All my work has a strong sense of narrative,” said Braaksma. “They are all named, with rich back stories, and complex rationales as to why my little entities are here.”

The artist was born in Wisconsin, and comes to Louisville by way of Chicago, and time spent at Hope College in Michigan for a BA in scenic and costume design. In between Braaksma’s story takes a bit of a turn. “It’s essentially Mean Girls,” joked Braaksma, citing the popular film about a young American girl who grows up in Africa. 

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 |  BUY NOW

"Memories of places I've never been" by Michael John Braaksma, 18x24in, acrylic on canvas, $400 | BUY NOW

“When I was two, my parents decided they loved Jesus a lot, and became missionaries. They move the family to the Kenya-Somalia border, with no electricity or running water.” Braaksma lived in Kenya from age two to age nine and he says the time affected him greatly. “I’m doing some clay sculpture right now and it ties me back, there was a seasonal river where all the local children would sculpt animals, so what I’m doing 25 or 30 years later is an echo of what I did as a four year old kid in remote Africa.”

Braaksma believes in free sculpting each piece rather than casting his work. “I do everything free sculpting. Especially for the work I do, and the voice of the characters I’m drawing out, the idea of each form having its own shape and angle,” said Braaksma as he worked on a series of small unicorns he was preparing.  “Even though the work I’m doing now is related, it’s unique in a way, and I think there is a movement to those precious things.”

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 |  BUY NOW

"Celestial Nymph" by Michael John Braaksma, 12x10x6in, paper mache, fur, found objects, $300 | BUY NOW

Braaksma says “precious things,” and one can almost hear the capital letters; his ideas about precious things key into his belief that there is a reaction to large corporation and the “Big Box” lives of many Americans. They want smaller hand made items - Precious Things. 

In addition to informing his practice of sculpture, Braaksma says his time in Kenya changed the way he imagined. “Being so young and having such totally different extreme experiences of reality, it sort of shapes the imagination and what you see as possible. Reality and your existence seems more fluid when you’re used to stretching your brain at an early age, being bilingual and all that.”

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

"Wilbur the octopus" by Michael John Braaksma, 16x20in, mixed media on canvas, NFS

For his recently wrapped short film, Braaksma, worked with local filmmaker Tyler McDaniel. Braaksma says the film reflects his own inner life. “It’s funny, but there’s some cynicism, as makers, people interested in our own narratives and our own sense of value, do we lose the context of seeing our selves as directional, are we missing the boat on where we’re going? I feel that way.” He added, “Sometimes my world become small and isolated.”

Braaksma believes that strong images, such as the handmade creatures and characters of his work, are necessary to reach modern audiences. “Strong visuals are so critical for pounding through this facade, the sarcasm or cynicism, or dismissive nature of story telling that has erupted because of our over exposure to constant media.” 

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Age: 32
Education: BA in Theatre, emphasis in costume & design, Hope College, MI
Website: https://lamaland.carbonmade.com/

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 |  BUY NOW

"Terrence the Turtle" by Michael John Braaksma, 5x7in, acrylic on paper, $100 | BUY NOW


Eli-Keel.jpg

This Feature was written by Eli Keel.
Eli Keel is a Louisville based freelance journalist focused on arts and culture. Nationally he’s written Salon.com, The MarySue.com, Howlround.com, and Pointe Magazine out of New York. Locally he’s written for Louisville Public Radio’s news division, both the radio and the web (wfpl.com), Insiderlouisville.com, LEO Weekly and Leoweekly.com. He’s also contributed to Louisville Magazine, The Voice Tribune, Modern Louisville, Churchill Downs Magazine, arts-louisville.com, and thecoffeecompass.comHe also writes plays.


Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.

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