Coldbrook artist aims for realism, life, warmth in paintings

Amanda Jess
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Coldbrook native Brianne Williams has been working in the NSCAD-New Glasgow Community Studio since September.

Brianne Williams is a living shrine to the sea.

Her space inside the NSCAD-New Glasgow Community Studio is chock-full of seafaring symbols: endless buoys, numerous water-themed paintings, several pieces of driftwood, ropes and a lobster trap.

The 24-year-old Coldbrook native is currently an artist-in-residence in New Glasgow. She can easily be recognized by her realistic and simultaneously abstract aquatic artwork. It’s her biggest inspiration for her work, partly because she comes from a fishing family.

“I even look back, and (realize) I’ve always liked boats. It’s a topic I’ve never really come away from.”

As a realistic painter, she works from photographs, most of which she takes herself. Although she’s creating an image from an image, she puts her own touches into it. She also notes that water is abstract in itself in its shading and the way it moves.

“I’ve heard this, ‘If you’re painting realistic, what’s the point? Take a photo.’ There is a point. With my paintings, and taking an image that’s realistic and trying to create it with my water and my shading and my colour, it doesn’t look like a photo. It looks like a painting. It brings it to life, and it brings it to colour. It’s warmer, and you just don’t get that, and the fact that there’s someone’s hand behind it. Seeing a painting, you know it’s probably taken a month. There’s just this love that comes from this image.”

Since coming to New Glasgow in September, she’s surprised herself with the amount of paintings she could produce. If she budgets her time, she estimates she can average three small to medium sized pieces a month.

After graduating from NSCAD in 2012, she took a year to paint and work in retail before applying for residencies. New Glasgow was an easy choice with Williams’s father living close by in Black Point. She had already spent a summer here a few years ago.

Having spent so much time in many seaside communities, there’s no reason to question why she would be obsessed with the ocean. She went through a phase of painting excruciatingly detailed ropes, causing her to step back and take a break from them.

“It’s hard. (People say) ‘Oh, you’re a painter. That must be so fun.’ It comes with its challenges.”

Spending hours painting a tiny section of rope, it’s easy for her eyes to dry out, for her back to cramp and to become frustrated.

It’s also difficult wondering if she’s going to be able to sustain herself as an artist in a time when people aren’t buying, she says.

The positives outweigh the negatives for her though.

“You need to root for yourself because no one else is going to.”

One of the best feelings is when she’s within an hour of finishing a piece. She gets a rush of endorphins and excitement as her hard work begins to pay off. There’s a satisfaction from solving how she’ll paint certain things as well and watching her progress since she started painting in school.

She had been drawing for a long time, but really came into her own as a painter at NSCAD.

Williams will be in New Glasgow as part of the residency until the end of August.

Organizations: NSCAD-New Glasgow Community Studio

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Coldbrook, Black Point

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  • Dave
    April 09, 2014 - 09:33

    Keep up the good work. As a professional photographer, I have questioned why people would consider painting from a photograph "easy" The detail, because it is a representaion of what the the eye...then the photographer captured, would be more difficult. There are many succesful painters, who make a decent (and some such as Bateman) or better living with this method. I have taken so many photographs over the years, that if I was presented with an easel, canvas and paints, at that very moment, I know I would forget the little details. Kudos. You have inspired me to put away the photoshop, and pick up a real brush.