By Stacia Friedman
The thrill of the hunt for art collectors isn’t to buy the work of established artists but to identify up-and-coming young artists whose work has yet to be discovered by the New York gallery scene. These savvy collectors are closely following the career of local abstract painter Colleen Brand.
“In March, I was just starting to hang my paintings at Malelani Café in Mt. Airy when a patron asked the price of a piece,” said Brand. “He bought it on the spot, before the exhibition opened.” By the end of the show, Brand had sold eight paintings.
This kind of attention is nothing new for Brand, 37, who graduated with honors in Graphic Design and Advertising from Moravian College. The recipient of First Place Awards from the Plastics Club and from Fleisher Art Memorial, Brand has continued to study at Fleisher since earning her undergraduate degree.
“I’ve taken around 20 courses at Fleisher,” said Brand, who grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and now resides in Hatboro. “I studied ‘Painting Intuitively’ for several sessions with the late Karen Baumeister. I also took courses in lithography, figure drawing, digital photography and oil painting.”
Breaking into the art scene takes both talent and luck. Brand credits Main Line Art Center with providing her first opportunity in 2009. “They included me in a show for emerging artists under 30,” she said, since then showing her work at community art centers, cafes, restaurants, banks and galleries.
Juried shows followed, including one at Philadelphia City Hall. Brand has also sat on the boards of several art organizations and is currently a member of Philadelphia’s Northwest Artists Collaborative, which supports artistic development and encourages opportunities for local artists.
Brand has had over 20 solo shows and participated in as many group exhibitions in just the last eight years, garnering awards and briskly selling her work all along the way.
“For three years I participated in a solo show at a restaurant in Rehoboth Beach and have collectors in D.C. and Maryland,” she said, all while working full-time as a web and graphic designer for a non-profit organization. “I try to dedicate six hours a week after work and on weekends to painting in my home studio,” Brand said.
According to books and movies, artists are supposed to suffer. Or, at least, cut off their ears. In this regard, Brand is an iconoclast. “I am dedicated to having fun while creating art,” she said. Using acrylic paint and other mediums, she creates paintings by a combination of pouring, dripping and smearing.
“I started pouring paint on raw canvas in 2012, before I really knew how to do it,” she recalled. “Now that I have learned the nuances, I like to incorporate abstract landscapes into pourings … When colors collide, they create something beautiful within the chaos that ensues. I sold these pouring paintings a few months later and, to date, have sold over 60 paintings to collectors across the U.S.”
Influenced by abstract painter Mark Rothko and artist/singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell, Brand’s work conveys her whimsical attitude. Their beauty and originality also make her paintings compelling. Looking at a Brand painting, you might feel as if you are gazing down through the clouds at a topographical map of the earth. Or exploring a mysterious world in the ocean’s depths. The only consistency is the quality and visual pleasure of her work.
“When I get a commission, I ask the buyer to send me a photo of the wall on which they intend to hang the painting. Then I Photoshop a version of the finished work into their image and send it back for their approval,” she explained. (Imagine asking Picasso for a photo to see how his painting will go with your drapes.)
How long before New York galleries get wise? “I was already in a juried show in a SoHo gallery and am waiting to hear about another show in the Fall,” said Brand.
To see Brand’s work, put on your track shoes. She will be showing this month on Saturday, April 22, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at Glenside Arts Festival; Sunday, April 23, 3-5 p.m., at a reception for Northwest Artists Collaborative Show at High Point Café on Carpenter Lane near Greene Street; Sunday April 30, Noon-4 p.m., at Fairmount Arts Crawl.
For more information, visit ColleenBrandArt.com.