Those who have known my family forever will remember that I had a brother named Donnie who died of cancer at age 20, when I was 16. A few years ago I wrote the story of all that I was feeling and experiencing during that time. I wrote what I had never talked about to anyone. It had all been too painful. A few months after writing the story, I met a writer named Harriet Michael, who was collecting stories for a book on prayer. She said she was looking for stories about prayer, even unanswered prayer. I submitted the Donnie story to her, and she wanted to include it in her book. It has taken a few years for it to be finished and published, but it goes on sale tomorrow, and if you’re interested, here’s the link: Prayer Warrior Confessions
Originally, this portrait was created for the KRM We Create events in celebration of World Refugee Week in Louisville, KY. KRM provided the We Create artists with videos of interviews with refugees that had come to Louisville to find a home here with us. The young lady in the portrait above had been through so much suffering. She grew up fleeing from violence and living in refugee camps until God made a way for her to escape the constant fear and danger, and come to the US, and finally to Louisville. Her name means “blessing,” and when she settled here in town, she said, “For the first time in my life, I have a place to call home.” This lovely young woman has a heart to serve and help those in need, to be a “blessing” to others. This oil pastel portrait is currently on display at the 1619 Flux gallery as a part of the Provocative Perspectives Exhibition that runs until January of 2019. For gallery hours and events, go to https://www.1619flux.org/calendar.
A Celebration of Color: Oil Pastel Portraits by Susan E. Brooks will be on display at the Open Community Arts Center from July 2 – July 27, with the closing reception on July 27 from 6-9pm. The show is comprised of 16 oil pastel portraits completed within the past two years, including the very recent works created for the “KRM We Create” events for the World Refugee week Festival in June. Ten of the 16 artworks are available for purchase. Come out and see the work, and if you would like to meet me there, let me know!
I am excited to be a part of the World Refugee Festival in Louisville beginning June 16 – 24! Kentucky Refugee ministries has organized a series of art events in celebration of World Refugee Week. The purpose of the events is to celebrate the refugees that have come to Louisville and the blessings they bring to us as a community. The piece pictured above is fairly large, and it is one thing to view art online, but quite another to stand in front of an original work of art. Online you cannot experience the intensity of colors or the interplay of the various textures and strokes in a drawing or painting as you can seeing it “face to face.” So I hope you come out tomorrow to the Better Block Festival and to the Brown Theatre next Saturday, June 23. See you there!
It was one of the most difficult trips I’ve ever taken. We were traveling through Burkina Faso during our missionary days, and the poverty was overwhelming. I found myself, once again, the spoiled, picky, American girl who had trouble eating what the locals would have been thrilled to have. One time at a restaurant, flies were swarming so thickly upon our plates of chicken and french fries that the only way we could eat was to cover our plates completely with napkins, pulling a fry or a piece of chicken out from under it the best we could. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.
Speaking of flies, the donkey that I painted above had flies crawling all over his eyes that were swollen shut. They looked like two slits– they must have been infected. I had to use my artistic skills to open his eyes and make him look healthy and happy. The boy also was not as healthy and glowing as I painted him to be. The truth is that I had to change the sad realities of this boy’s life in order to create a beautiful painting that people would want to see. I’m not sure what to do with that, and I am ashamed to complain about flies on my fries when so many in that country had so little to eat.
How do we respond to the stark contrasts and overwhelming misery that exist in our world? How can we help? Guilt and shame are not the answer. The answer is probably different for each one of us. If only painting away the infections and the hunger would make them disappear. I don’t know how to fix our broken world, but I do see people helping, one person at a time. Thank you, all of you who are loving, serving, and helping, one person at a time. God sees you.
I discovered oil pastels while studying art in college. I don’t know why I picked them up in the first place, and I remember being frustrated with them in the beginning. One of my early attempts was a ballerina whose face looked like that of an ape, sending my professors into spasms of laughter. It’s a painful memory I’ve probably never shared publicly until now.
In spite of that failure, I kept at it, and I found that if I used a textured board and kept my work large, strikingly colorful portraits began to emerge from the background. The pastels were so intense that I had to mix the colors on the surface of the painting. I’ve found that not having the exact skin colors of pastels forced me to used a mixture of colors that became magic for me, and I developed my own style of portraits using oil pastels. I thought you might enjoy seeing an earlier stage of the work, along with the finished piece.
When God invented grandchildren, He outdid himself — forgive me, but all of you grandparents know what I mean. I couldn’t be more crazy about mine! They have changed my life forever, as a matter of fact, because I wanted to write books for them. After writing books for them, I was able to get a paid writing job for a local children’s book publisher. One good thing led to another, and I have my amazing grandchildren to thank.
Just recently, the company that will be publishing my book later this summer was featured in Insider Louisville Magazine. Here’s a link to that article https://insiderlouisville.com/lifestyle_culture/louisville-based-baxters-corner-creates-fun-interactive-childrens-books/. Baxter’s Corner is a great local company that is focused on creating children’s books that promote healthy values.
Meanwhile, I’m working on writing and illustrating the third book inspired by my grandchildren, which is a surprise that cannot be revealed until it’s finished. If you’re interested in seeing the first two books, go to http://www.lulu.com/shop/susan-e-brooks/ariel-princess-of-the-forest-mischievous-cheetah/hardcover/product-21832502.html.
In recent years especially, I have felt almost a burning desire to write–about my life, about my thoughts, about funny and interesting things that happen at my job, about the goodness of God, about experiences with internationals–stories slap me in the face nearly everyday and demand to be written! Writing for me is a wonderful way to really savor your life, to be able to live the fun parts over and over again, and even to invent some fun in your mind if you’re running a little short.
In the summer of 2014, I was inspired to write and illustrate a children’s book for my granddaughter. That was way more work than I ever imagined, but I also found that something intuitive or imaginative happened when I started to write: the story took a direction I never thought of in the beginning, ideas sprang out of nowhere, and the creative process, a mystery to me, made writing that book, Ariel, Princess of the Forest, an adventure.
I figured out how to publish it with an online company called lulu.com. Presenting the book to my granddaughter and her parents and seeing her giggle about the illustrations of her favorite stuffed animal going wild, was about as good as life gets for a grandmother.
Once I started for one grandchild, I was committed. Apparently my children think I need to keep busy, because they’ve since added two more grandchildren to the count, for a grand total of six children’s books due so far!
The next summer I created a book for my grandson, Joshua’s Journey: The Secret of the Chameleon, loosely based on an experience our family had in Mozambique. After going through the grueling work of self-publishing again, I decided that it would be nice to find a publisher.
One thing led to another, and thanks to a sweet friend pushing me to go to a writer’s meeting, I made some connections with a local publisher. The publisher wasn’t ready to republish my books, but she was impressed with them, and decided to hire me to write for her children’s book series!
I have just completed my first book for Baxter’s Corner publishing company! Baxter’s Corner’s goal is to create books that will teach healthy values. They hired me to write about one of their characters, Ellema the elephant. Ellema and the Big Rig will be published early next year. Baxter’s Corner already has an established illustrator for the series, Mary Ellen Stottmann, so I was hired only for the writing. I appreciated working with the “Chief Pencil,” author and editor Linda Baker. By the time my third and final draft was accepted, I was relieved, happy, and ready to do my victory dance! I was paid to write! A dream come true! God is so good!
Selling an original painting is like saying goodbye to a dear friend. Recently I sold this oil pastel of a young girl we encountered while traveling from Burkina Faso to Niger back in 2005. The buyer is a complete stranger from a far away state who came across the painting in my Etsy shop, but I was happy to hear that she had actually traveled to the region, and has a heart for the children of the area. I feel that God used the internet and my artwork to connect us– two people who have never met, and probably never will. A part of me, an intangible part that is colors and marks and feelings that are uniquely mine, will dwell with her family now, blessing that family, I pray, as I was blessed to see the beauty and the image of God in the young girl at the border of Burkina Faso and Niger.
Getting ready for the Trolley Hop this week! I’ll be there Friday night, June 17, from 6-9pm, displaying original pastels and acrylic paintings, as well as prints, cards, and my books. My booth will be located in front of VIP Quality Awards and Gifts, at 409 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN.