Into the Wild: Meet Artist Andrea Brunais

Written by Artie The Panda

For some lucky individuals, talent begets more talent. Andrea Brunais is one of those fortunate few. As an author, poet, photographer, and former newspaper journalist, this Bluefield, West Virginia, resident recently discovered she can also paint. And beautifully at that.

Kaleidoscope of Color

Living in the Mountain State affords Andrea ample opportunity to express her adoration of nature through painting. She is drawn to soft pastels because their pure pigments “create delightful explosions of fresh, saturated color,” says Andrea. Case in point: “Where the Waterfall Ends,” featured above. The depiction of gloriously backlit fall trees won Best in Show in the Appalachian Artist Association’s 2023 exhibit. Below, “Alone Yet One With Everything” is the pastel representation of an image captured by photographer Benjamin Allison that made Andrea’s heart sing. This painting earned a Silver Award in the international Shades of Purple 2022 Exhibition at Camelback Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Glass Enhancement

Andrea’s husband is her source for frames. He builds and stains reclaimed hardwood for all her paintings. However, she does purchase anti-reflective UV glass from Frame Destination. “My husband and I often joke that the paintings somehow look better with the glass over them,” Andrea tells us. “Even though the glass is the most expensive part of [framing], every penny is worth it.”

“Alone Yet One With Everything” was awarded Silver in Camelback Gallery’s Shades of Purple competition.

See More of Andrea’s Work

Andrea’s Facebook page is her primary portfolio. Her Instagram feed is gorgeous, and even includes a self-portrait in pastels (See 4/22/2020 post). Over the past few years, Andrea couldn’t resist combining her poetry with watercolor images of adorable orangutans, giraffes, and other wildlife — you can see the whimsy here. To discover her favorite artistic investment (for under $10) and how planning beats spontaneity (sometimes), scroll down to my Q&A with Andrea.

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Andrea Brunais…

  1. What is your background; how did you get started?
    I began painting right before Covid 19 hit. A lifelong writer and photographer, I had never painted before except to occasionally play around with craft-type projects. I never expected YouTube to change my life, but after I followed a couple of pastel artists, I took an online course or two. I was hooked! My earlier professional career had centered on journalism; later, on higher-ed communications. So I was surprised to discover that I seemed to have an aptitude for painting with soft pastels. I’ve painted for less than three years, but I’ve already won awards in juried competitions and been invited to do solo exhibitions.

  2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?
    Artists interpret the world in ways that express our highest humanity. I love the natural world’s beauty and its kaleidoscope of colors, and I can only hope to weakly emulate the astonishments of creation. So it’s a challenge to even hint at nature’s mysteries, to evoke some feeling of resonance, perhaps akin to what one feels at seeing the glint of sunlight on flower petals or the hint of a summer breeze! I feel a strong calling to works of beauty, and yet visual art also plays a role in shaking up the status quo and bringing political thought to deeper levels.
  3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?
    I like to dive into the middle of things. But then a voice comes into my head, something I learned early in this artistic journey: If it’s worth painting, it’s worth planning. Sometimes that means refining the composition, giving thought to the color palette, and doing thumbnail sketches to determine values and simplify the subject.

  4. In what ways does your work reflect your personality?
    Color! I love color. And sometimes my paintings are loose and quirky. Other times I can make a statement. An example is a painting I did recently for a pop-art-themed juried exhibit. I painted a portrait of poet Amanda Gorman, who stirred the nation with her exuberantly devastating poem, “The Hill We Climb,” on inauguration day 2021. I combined it with an excerpt of her speech.
  5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?
    I don’t often get them, but when I do, all I have to do is look at other artists’ work. Then I can’t wait to get back to the easel!
  6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)
    A red and green Cottage Mills Color Evaluator set. They’re made of thick acrylic, and when I hold them over a pastel stick, they neutralize its color. This is helpful in determining value. A good investment for less than $10. I also must mention that every one of my paintings is framed with custom reclaimed hardwood and Anti-Reflective Water White-ArtGlass AR70.
  7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?
    In keeping with my journalism background, I’m building up two social media sites called Handmade in Appalachia – one on Facebook and one on Instagram – to highlight the work of artists and artisans throughout Appalachia.
  8. What is your favorite color to incorporate into your art?
    Purple! When in doubt, add purple.

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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Last Updated July 12, 2023