Thursday Spotlight: Prilla Smith Brackett

Tell us about your background.

I was born in New Orleans, and grew up in West Hartford, CT. My background is in the social sciences – a BA in Psychology and Sociology from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in Sociology from UC Berkeley. After quitting a social service job, by chance I tried throwing a pot. I fell in love with clay, took a few classes, and for 6 -7 years worked as a studio potter. I also learned to draw from Eleanor Dickinson in San Francisco. A job change for my husband took us to Lincoln, NE, where I went back to school in 2-D. At UN-Lincoln, after getting undergrad art credits out of the way, I got a MFA in drawing and painting. My family moved back east to Cambridge & Boston MA where I’ve painted and exhibited for many years. In 2003 I started learning how to do monoprints, and now my studio practice includes both monoprints, drawing, and mixed media painting.

Name some people, artists, artistic genres, etc. that have been influential in your work.

In San Francisco Eleanor Dickinson was a role model for me: She was a successful artist, who was also married with children, and a feminist. My graduate school work was influenced by the pattern painters of the 1970’s and 80’s, Vuillard, and Bonnard. I’ve studied the work of Cezanne, the Canadian painter Emily Carr, Arthur Dove, and Joan Mitchell, among others.

Where and how do you get your ideas?

For many years I’ve been interested in landscape, and would get ideas when traveling to landscapes new to me. Then I became interested in expressing ideas through landscape. In one large project I wanted to suggest the negative impact of humans on the landscape. Liking the romantic notion of northern forests, I did research on old growth forests, and decided to explore the forests’ relationship with city trees. The images came from photos I took hiking to pockets of old growth forests in northern New England, and from trees in my city. I figured out formal ways to suggest threat and commonality. For the last several years I’ve been working with the juxtaposition of the natural and the domestic, in particular these same old growth forests and old fashioned furniture from a house that had been in my family for 90 years. I enjoy the problem solving involved with both developing an idea, and developing an individual painting or print.

What materials do you work with? Describe your technical processes.

In mixed media paintings I work on panels. The most recent paintings have begun with acrylic underpainting and printing to build up a rich visual texture. I’ve used black Cretacolor leads and acrylic inks to draw, build up textural areas, establish the image, followed by thin layers of oil glazes, and areas of oil paint. My monoprints of the last year have started with a texture woodblock which I print twice, with 2 different colors, followed by the woodblock with the forest image. I use furniture stencils, or sometimes a semi-transparent chine collé to add a furniture image. And I also print patterns of very small furniture line drawings, or a larger furniture drawing, using a polyester lithographic plate. I like to use these various building blocks again and again, in different combinations, with different color choices.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of being creative? What is the best part of being creative?

The most challenging part of being creative is coming up with new ideas. Luckily, new ideas often come from working, from doing the work. The best part about being creative is that you get to figure out what you want to do! You have the freedom to invent for yourself, from yourself. No one else is telling you what to do.

What advice would you give to someone seeking advice about being an artist?

Be very sure you want to be an artist. It’s hard to make a living and difficult to juggle family. Look at a lot of art, read widely, travel as much as you can. It’s important to have a broad knowledge of history and culture. Develop a good group of artist peers for mutual support, sharing of ideas, help with networking. Develop a strong work ethic.

Prilla’s website
Prilla’s Facebook page

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Wellspring #7, copyright 2012, woodcut, pronto plate on Kizuki Kozo paper, 22″ h x 20″ w

3 thoughts on “Thursday Spotlight: Prilla Smith Brackett

  1. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.

    Regardless, just wanted to say excellent blog!

  2. Prilla, Your advice to artists is sound. I love your work, and I enjoyed reading about your path in a concise format. Thanks.

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