A lifetime entrenched in the art world has enabled Sandy Brooke to work across art movements and discover different media, all the while exploring the influence of travel in her life. Meanwhile, a career in art education has provided her a way of challenging not only her students, but her own work by always striving towards critical thinking and excellence.
Never having had any formal art education prior to college, Brooke initially considered a medical degree at the University of Oregon at her father’s suggestion. Upon learning the study would include dissecting frogs…she turned to the art department. “I can’t kill anything!” she exclaimed. “I walked into the art department…and was told I looked like a painter.”
Whether the professor predicted her long career as a painter, or Brooke took it as a self-fulfilling prophecy, the lasting influence of that decision has led to a rich and rewarding career as an artist and educator.
After graduating with her Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA), her painting continued to evolve. “I was doing very abstract, large geometrical work...Frank Stella was the king of art and everyone wanted to be him, but I didn’t know anything about realism or abstract impressionism,” she commented. “So I tried that.”
Her consistent willingness to experiment with different artistic movements proved to work for the young artist, and soon she was showing in galleries in Portland and teaching art classes in a local junior high when the travel muse struck.
“I went to Africa. My father was with U.S. AID…and we ended up traveling the country on safari,” she said. Brooke came home from the trip with countless photos, mostly of the animals glimpsed on safari, and the lions and zebras turned into photo-realistic paintings.
“Everything I do is influenced by travel, newspapers, magazines, TV and media. I’m completely captivated by it,” Brooke explained. In an acrylic abstract series called Postcards, she drew on inspiration from a trip to Boston and Cape Cod, layering paint to create a depth of imaginary space between the value of colors.
Local artist Suzi Bradley Sheward’s western style, sense of humor and vibrant use of color has created a unique niche for her artwork. Not only is she a three-time Sisters Rodeo poster artist, Sheward’s creative inspiration is based largely in the Central Oregon landscape and lifestyle.
Immediately drawn to the area after a trip up from California to attend the Small Farmer’s Journal Horsedrawn Auction & Swap Meet in 1997, she thought, “This is the place,” and promptly rented a barn to live in. The adventurous and sometimes unconventional spirit of Sheward brought an added verve to the community; some of her life experiences including professional vocalist, sailboat and motorcycle racer, Berkeley boutique owner, airplane pilot and most important of all, mother.
Her artistic inclinations, and love of horses, began at and early age. From first sitting on a horse at two years old and drawing sketches on table napkins at five, to taking art classes in high school, attending art college at Long Beach State, studying commercial art in New Jersey and continuing to own and ride horses, Sheward’s constants in life have been art and horses (not necessarily in that order).
“I studied with Sam Savitt, the famous horse artist, and took other courses throughout the years whenever I could,” she said. Her artistic interests ranged from welding and sculpture to painting (especially western subject matter) and recently leather work.