Featured Artist Brenda Howell
Interview by Karen Hunter McLaughlin

See more of Brenda’s work at – brendadhowell.com

KarenNBrenda copy

Karen (L) and Brenda (R) at the NY Botanical Garden

Good friends and fellow members, Karen Hunter McLaughlin and Brenda Howell sat down recently for this conversation…

Karen – So, how do you choose a subject for your work?
Brenda- I actually paint/construct what inspires me at that moment. I’m not an artist that will do multiple studies of one subject. To be honest, I find that boring. Despite that, think my work holds together because it’s all me.

Right now I am working on a series of encaustic mixed media ‘portraits’ of derelict Philadelphia buildings and I am going back to my Fiber roots…I am embroidering common weeds on handmade paper made from trash.

K- Yes I LOVE those pieces! I especially like seeing them in progress. I can’t wait to see the finished work. Will they be in our Fall anniversary exhibit?

B- Well, that’s one way to light a fire under me!  I hope so.

Brenda Howell - ShowMe

Show Me

K- You know I have always loved your aesthetic, which I’ll describe as gritty. Why do you like to use found objects in your work?

B- I don’t know why. I just know I am drawn to the ugly, the neglected, the unloved–smashed bottle caps found in parking lots, anything rusty, trash blown against a fence. I truly find beauty in these things. When I heard the Japanese word wabi-sabi for the first time I was relieved. I’m not as weird as I thought.

K- HA! I love your weirdness. It’s one of the reasons we get along so well.

I know you were a Fiber major at Tyler. How did that evolve into your amazing encaustic work, did you find a connection between the two?

When I was at Tyler, one of my instructors was an encaustic artist. I saw her work and knew it was what I wanted to do. The textures you can achieve, the luscious paint colors, the ability to incorporate found objects as well as it’s unpredictability, it all resonated with me.

K- What work are you most proud of?

B- I am most proud of two things actually. My four children are truly amazing despite my best efforts. Ha!

The other is whatever I’m working on at the moment. Sometimes it takes a herculean effort to get in the studio, to stay in the studio, AND be present. I probably should reread that Art and Fear book.

K- I have a very dog-eared copy of that book myself, and I agree your kids are kind of amazing. We are, like, some of the first members of our artist group and we’ve gotten to know each other really well, which means a lot to me. Can you share what the cooperative has meant to you and your art practice?

Brenda Howell, To The Shulamite Woman

To the Shulamite Woman

B- I know all members are deeply appreciative of our connection woth each other. I joined at a time when all my children were at home or moving back home to save money. Making artwork was not happening regularly, if at all. I joined because I need the accountability and I need women in my life who ‘get’ that raising children and making art is daunting and frustrating. I’m not sure I’d still be making art without this group.

K- With you on that one. Even with children who have moved on to adulthood, it’s still difficult to make art. Our group of similarly situated artists is such a inspiration and motivation, right?

B- Absolutely.