By Jill Brabant
Brie Dodson is a realist painter who enjoys painting fresh vegetables and fruits, juxtaposed with carefully chosen objects from her still life collection. She “paints small” because she prefers to focus on just a few simple elements in a composition, and finds elegance within those limitations. She also paints small landscapes of the Chesapeake Bay region and her Virginia home’s hunt country, along with portraits of the farm animals she encounters.
A native Texan, Brie (rhymes with “Maria”) moved to the Washington, D.C. area during the Johnson administration. She attended the College of William and Mary, and had a diverse career – working as a radio disc jockey, submarine field engineer, journalist, illustrator, and art director. Her family includes four sons, ages 15 through 34, and her husband, Tom, a classic car buff. In the year 2000, Brie switched from commercial art to fine art. Shortly thereafter, as her two eldest sons were nearing adulthood, her third son was born. Seventeen months later, Brie and her husband were blessed with yet another son – a Christmas baby. So, in her early 40s, she was starting over in many ways. Up until then, landscapes had been her preference in subject matter for painting. The joys of raising her young sons also brought the challenges of simple outings to the grocery store turning into big adventures. She began to appreciate the beauty of the produce section along with the tempting shapes and textures of what was fresh that day. Luscious vegetables and fruits, especially the unusually shaped ones, caught her eye and demanded to be painted.
Brie’s work has been featured in “Gallery & Studio,” “The Living Church,” “Art and Christianity,” “ManhattanArts,” and other publications. It has been exhibited in New York City, Washington, D.C., and several states; and resides in various private collections. She is a former board member of both the World Bank Staff Art Society and the Fairfax Art League, and currently belongs to the Loudoun Sketch Club.
Some of her paintings have a spiritual aspect, “Other & Further.” They are on permanent display at The Episcopal Church & Visual Arts website, and were exhibited at the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2006. “Sacred Ground” won Best in “Future Visions” in the 2007 Masterpiece Elite Salon Art Contest co-sponsored by Masterpiece Artist Canvas and “The Artist’s Magazine,” and was displayed at the National Art Materials Trade Association convention in Chicago. In 2005, “The Soul Takes Flame” was presented at the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City.
Q: Why do you enjoy being part of the LSC?
A: It’s my kind of place. Low-key, low-pressure, my fellow members are friendly and gracious, and the caliber of work is high. I also value the scope of activities available – the winter workshops, paintouts, and exhibition opportunities; as well as the newsletter, emails and Facebook group, all of which help me keep on top of the local art scene. Not to mention the wonderful Christmas party!
Q: When did you start painting?
A: When I was small, my mother hand-drew picture books for me – heirlooms now – about my cousins and family. Not surprisingly, I was drawing all the time by the age of four. My signal life achievement came the next year, when I won a newspaper’s coloring contest in Tyler, Texas. 🙂 I grew up painting alongside my mother and grandmother, spent most of my time in the art department in high school, and generally kept moving forward, the sometimes along the sidelines. I’ve had many career detours, but in the ’90s, a very fine gentleman named Rob Howard helped me find my way into commercial art, and that kept me gainfully and happily employed. When my third son was born, I switched over from commercial art to fine art, partly in order to have a more flexible schedule.
Q: What has been the biggest influence on your art?
A: Intuition. When a painting works right, you can feel it. I try to listen to “the little voice.” There are days when I feel “freed” to paint intuitively, and days when I can’t get there. On the latter, I just keep plugging away, relying on my gut feel for where I need to be as opposed to where I am.
Q: What is your favorite painting tips you would like to share with other members?
A: Don’t hesitate to alter the consistency of your paints, especially your whites, to something that works well with your painting method.
In the later stages of painting, I like to use Gamblin Tack Reducer, which is linseed oil made into a gel. It’s intended for printmaking purposes, but Gamblin advised me that it’s fine to use in painting. The gel consistency and simplicity of ingredients work well for me. As a bonus, it’s quite economical.
Learn as much as you can about the tools of the trade, both techniques and materials.
There are some excellent technical resources out there, such as the Traditional Oil Painting and Painting Best Practices Facebook groups, and the MITRA forum.
Q: What living artist has influenced you the most?
A: Sara Lamb. I admire her way of portraying common, humble ingredients – soap, chocolate, butter, milk, pastries – with thoughtfulness and respect. It elevates her subject matter to a level of beauty that reaches me.
Q: What artist from the past would you like to have been an apprentice with? and why?
A: Since I’m time-travelling anyway, may I choose more than one? Adriaen Coorte, because of the reverence with which he portrayed his subject matter. Pieter Claesz, for his sheer technical chops. Clara Peeters, for struggling with the obstacles inherent to her gender while growing as an artist. Vermeer, because … Vermeer. And Joseph Decker, during his “soft” period. I would really like to know what was going on between him and his easel at that juncture.
Q. What motivates you to keep creating?
A: Farmer’s markets and the Wegmans produce department. There’s something that really grabs me about beautiful vegetables and fruits. Also, antiquing. Once in a while I will come across a piece of silverplate, pottery, or glassware that calls out to me. I have to paint it. Simple as that. And then there’s that magical moment when painting transcends painting and becomes a direct connection with the creative spirit. The paint goes down like butter and everything is right, and it is glorious.
Q. What is your favorite museum?
A: The National Gallery of Art. When I visit my favorite Lady, Vermeer’s Girl with the Red Hat, I have learned that if I clasp my hands firmly behind my back, the guards will let me lean in close and examine the brushstrokes.
Q: What is your favorite painting technique?
A: I use a mixture of brush and knife, partly because picking up a painting knife often seems like a more intuitive and direct way to work. Also, though I’m hardly the first artist who has said this, I don’t necessarily want my ways of mark-making to be obvious.
Q. What is your proudest achievement?
A: The fact that my four sons are wonderful human beings. That’s not my achievement, but theirs. Life has to balance with art. In the end, it does.
Often, Brie’s refrigerator is filled with painstakingly wrapped produce marked,”Do Not Eat!” She enjoys the juxtaposition of colors and shapes that these delights from the market bring and it entices her to start new painting. You can view her fresh produce of creativity at briedodson.com.