Age: 50… (mumble) | Title: Design Whisperer
How early in your life did you discover a love for art?
In second grade, I was drawing on my report card cover and the teacher said, “You are an artist!” It resonated with me. Every year after that it seemed I was the class artist. My goals were to be a fashion designer and the President of the United States. At least everyone would look good! Ha!
But you sort of strayed from it a little bit?
I was in a creative writing class in junior high and that stirred my imagination, giving me a love for writing. In high school, I took a journalism class and eventually became the editor of the high school paper. Naturally, I wanted to be a journalist and while on a college tour of Eastern New Mexico University, I saw the PBS station and knew right then that is what I wanted to do. I began my broadcasting career in college at 17 years old, spending every waking hour and weekends hanging out at the TV station and learning about all the equipment.
It didn’t take long for art to find you again, though—even in the journalism field.
While I was majoring in broadcasting, I minored in art. While I was working at the PBS station as a student, the art director left and I asked to fill that position. I was directing a television show at the same time. It was the best of two loves.
You spent the bulk of your career in Florida. How did you end up there?
After I graduated, family matters brought us to Orlando. I got a job right away at WOFL-FOX35 working in master control. In 1983, broadcast engineering was largely male dominated, so I was the only woman in the department for four years. When the station got a new graphics system, I went for the position as the first on-air electronic graphic designer… and got it! It was so new and cutting edge. I had the opportunity to travel and learn new ways to bring moving graphics to the small screen. I was one of the first women in Orlando to be in an on-air designer position. After 13 years at FOX, I applied for the Art Director position at the CBS station in Orlando and worked at WKMG-TV6 for the next 13 years. I loved working in broadcasting as an artist. So much creativity and learning on the job with my crew.
While you were caught up in graphic design at work, did you focus on any other types of art at home?
I really had a busy life with a demanding career and two sons involved with school and sports. I was always quick sketching at work to show how animations would move or how the anchors would stand next to graphics, so that still kept me involved with the tactile experience of pen to paper. It wasn’t until my boys got closer to graduating high school when I started to paint at home. I had to design very tightly for television and I wanted to loosen up and have fun and get messy. I was slapping paint on the canvas and getting back to my roots. I joined a group of artists in Casselberry where we exchanged themed art journals and studied “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Creating in those sketchbooks inspired me and taught me how to work with different mediums. I created a sketchbook of caricatures of my family saying wacky things for the Brooklyn Library and submitted it for their permanent collection.
Where did your career take you next?
After my sons graduated, my husband and I moved to Steubenville, Ohio. I had never been to such an industrial area in my entire life. My eyes drooled with all the machinery and the architecture in the area. Very exciting. As it turns out, the newspaper was looking for a graphic designer and I got the job! I believe in synchronicity and the publisher came in one day holding up a caricature map of a city and asked, “Who can illustrate something like this?” After working on those sketchbooks, I had honed my skills and I raised my hand. I just finished my fifth caricature map with the Fun Map of Lynchburg. It is now a 1000-piece puzzle.
We love the Lynchburg puzzle! How long did it take to complete?
It took me three months to draw everything. When I am creating a piece of art, I first see it in my mind. I would go to sleep and dream of drawing and placing everything.
How did you decide whom to feature?
With a timeframe in mind, I went to everyone I could get to in Lynchburg and sold spots on the map. Some of the people I included because I needed folks to model for me. My friend’s children, my art friends and, of course, my husband is fishing in the front.
What goes in to designing and sketching each building?
I sketch out the whole lay of the land on paper. Where the river goes, where the mountains will be, where the different areas of town will be located. I take pictures of the buildings and the people so I see their features. I also use Google and Bing maps to get placement of buildings in relation to each other. I create each drawing in its own file and drop it into the big map so I can move it around if needed. The main map gets to be about three gigs. I’ve pushed it to four gigs, but Photoshop starts balking.
While the caricature maps are your “bread and butter,” you love experimenting with other kinds of art. What else keeps you busy?
I love pastels, acrylics, colored pencils and encaustic wax. Encaustic is the oldest form of painting. Beeswax and resin are heated to a certain temperature and pure pigment is then added. “Encaustics” originates from the Greek word enkaustikos. I started painting with encaustics on the back of cigar boxes. I like being outside painting nature and street scenes with pastels. I am a consummate learner and recently started painting with acrylics.
And you’ve enjoyed getting to know other artists in town in a very creative way.
I started an altered art journal group here in Lynchburg because I need the camaraderie of other artists. We meet once a month and swap journals and teach each other our different methods of painting with all kinds of mediums and tools. My current journal’s theme is “naked.” This group is so creative and I love the surprise of what everyone has created when we meet. So fun.
As an artist, what inspires you to paint or create?
I take my camera everywhere I go and take pictures of whatever inspires me. Tight shots of mushrooms, bugs and flowers are so wonderful. I like it when a little bug sneaks into my photo and I don’t see it until I download my photos into my computer. Whenever my husband and I travel, I get some interesting phone photos as I take pictures of whatever we’re passing. It’s usually a “look at that!” as we’re zooming by. I start thinking about my photos at night when I’m drifting off to sleep and what I can create from them. I’ve put my street scenes on earrings, in paintings and on cigar boxes. Inspiration comes from taking a walk in the neighborhood and seeing the asphalt cracks after the rain. Learning new techniques with different mediums makes me question how I can use them in my next journal entry or painting. I see faces everywhere and humor always inspires me.
What advice do you have for other aspiring artists?
Learn the basics of your craft. Know what your paint or medium does and how to use it. Ask questions. Make friends with lots of other artists. Take classes. Paint or draw every day. Go to sleep with a design challenge and then dream of the solution. Keep files of inspiration. Watch videos. Go to movies. Listen to music and podcasts. Read. Be curious and open. Push past your fear. Don’t judge.
What do you like best about being an artist in the Hill City?
I find inspiration in the natural beauty that surrounds us. I enjoy the company of some very smart, talented creative folks and we learn from one another. There are some exciting art and creative experiences offered here in Lynchburg and more places are opening up for local artists to share their work with the public.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My website is www.lillianbrue.com. I am also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter as Lillian Brue art.