Insight into the Creative Process

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Stu Browning at work in his studio. Submitted photos

Stuart Browning

Medium: Drawings and paintings

Member of Granby Artists since: 2018

What inspired you to become an artist? What inspires your art?

I grew up surrounded by art. My father was a commercial artist and my mother also painted. I have always sketched with pencil or pen and ink. I took one course in college and thereafter maintained a sketch book. I find interesting scenery and old buildings put me in the mood to take a break and do some sketching. When vacationing, I usually find time to escape and indulge. It is a way to intimately know your subject in a way that taking a picture cannot match.

What made you chose your primary medium?

While I worked full time, I traveled a lot and the portability of pencil and pen and ink made them my medium of choice. However, since retiring I have come to enjoy watercolors and pastels and to a limited extent oil painting.

Recreating the color, shadows and highlights that I see presents a challenge I really enjoy.

Does Granby have an influence on your art?

I particularly enjoy drawing and painting old barns. Granby and the surrounding towns have a plentiful supply of some very old and interesting structures, many of which I have drawn or painted over the years.

Tell us about a satisfying art accomplishment you have had.

After retiring, I took some art classes and joined the Granby Artists Association where I enjoyed meeting other artists and participating in related activities. A highlight of my artistic activity was to participate in a plein air paint at Lost Acres Orchard. There I sketched, then painted a watercolor of the main barn and surrounding scenery. I enjoyed talking with everyone who visited my table at the event. The best part was yet to come: when I entered my painting in the Granby Land Trust show following the event, I was thrilled to find out that I had won a prize for my entry. My piece sold and the most satisfying part of the story is knowing that someone else has my painting hung on a wall and is enjoying it as much as I did.

My art absorbs me just like settling down with a good book. I am transported into my painting and experience the scene in my mind as if I was there again. It does not always come out like I want, but occasionally I will stand back and surprise myself. Success is when I like what I see and I am not conscious of the time spent.

Browning’s Fripp Island Shrimper, watercolor and ink
Barbara Schmitt and one of her bears. Submitted photo

Barbara Schmitt

Medium: chainsaw carving

Facebook: ChainsawBarb

Instagram: @ChainsawBarb

Member of Granby Artists since: 2016

The question of what inspired me to become an artist makes me realize that I was never not one. As a kid I studied photography and dance. I loved any excuse to be creative. I decided to change careers from working as a geologist to returning to school to pursue a degree as a landscape architect, which is a practical balance of art and science.

During my studies, I found that my special skill is visualizing and designing in 3D. After receiving my degree and working at a firm, I found small joys in the small amounts of creativity afforded in an office setting, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t until I picked up a chainsaw, put some music in my earbuds and attacked a pine log did everything come together.

My boyfriend Jesse owns a tree service business, and he encouraged me. He supplied the wood, the saw, and the safety knowhow. After my mom said she wanted, “One of those chainsaw carved bears,” I told her, “I can do that!” So, I gave it a shot, and my mom got a great Christmas present.

I’ve done many projects but one of the pieces I’m most connected to, and will never sell, is my yoga woman that I call “Inhale.” She was the third piece I completed, and she’s made from butternut and white walnut, collected locally. As a finished piece it inspires me to stop and breathe and feel connected. But during the process of creating her I had many moments of being in a flow state: being completely immersed in the process. It made me realize that, without a doubt, I was doing the perfectly right thing for myself. Since then, I can be in that attentive state for nearly any carving project. I simply love working with wood and seeing the grains and bringing forth beautiful shapes; it just feels amazing and brings me joy.

I am most inspired by patterns in nature and finding the inner spirit of the animals that I carve. My latest big project was a bear carved on-site at Farmington Valley Plumbing on Route 20 by the airport. And last year at Open Studios people may remember a wolf in progress. The wolf is very special to me because I had reached a new level of fur texture technique that motivated me to keep pushing to improve. That’s also why I joined the Granby Artists: to be inspired by the other amazing artists, to enhance my skills, and to be encouraged to share my work.

I think it’s important for everyone to find what special skills you have and to find ways of using those skills to bring you joy. You’ll know it when you try it.