Irene Brady finds the nature of art in the natural world
"I had this idea that I could change the world," said Irene Brady, addressing why she began sketching and teaching nature.
It's an idea she has sustained through her life of dedication to capturing the world around her. So, how does an artist change the world these days?
"The way to do it is to educate the children," said Brady, a many-times published author, illustrator and former Southern Oregon University professor. Since the '80s, she has been giving author visits to schools throughout the Northwest as well as teaching workshops form Oregon to Costa Rica.
A friendly, jovial, ever-inquisitive but ever-professional artist, Brady got her start in all three trades during her childhood on a farm in Idaho. She was a girls' 4H instructor and her young ladies' first assignment was to write reports on horses. Brady recalls having trouble finding sources for them, so at 19, she decided to write her first book, "America's Horses and Ponies," which was published five years later by Houghton Mifflin. Over the years, she published and illustrated ten more books and has also illustrated works by other authors. The art itself is detailed and razor-accurate, while still capturing the emotive quality of the animals she spends so much time in the presence of, lending a fun feel to her work as well.
As far as inspiration, however, Brady got her start at a much younger age. "When I was three years old, my siblings all got polio," said Brady. "My mother had to exercise them all day long. Having a three year old tugging at her was just more work, so she would sit my down and have me draw for her. She would say how beautiful my work was and have me continue. I've seen the stuff I drew then; it's no different from what other kids draw. But I was told it was beautiful, and I believed it. That's what makes an artist, or keeps someone from being one; if they're told that they can't be."
It's a spirit that Brady hopes to pass on, through her books, and her workshops.
"People have a lot of fun, and come away really astonished with what they can do," said Brady. "It really jazzes me, teaching people a new skill." This gift and passion ties in with Brady's broader philosophies of the value and connection people should have with the world around them. "I want to open people's eyes to nature and I can't think of a better way to do it."
This leads to Brady's goal of becoming a cruise ship art instructor.
"I'd like to do more traveling and work with sketching the tropical world," said Brady. "But also, the people who tend to do this tend to be rich, and they tend to control what goes on in the world. I want to help them see this (intricacy of the natural world); to help put it in their minds for when they make decisions, as well as give them a skill that will help make them happy for the rest of their lives."
Examples of Brady's work are most prominent; she started illustrating biology textbooks as her then-husband worked through a Harvard education, and has since written her own self-published text-book, which she incorporated in her teachings at SOU. A key Brady confronts through teaching is that people often approach art through their left brain, creating iconographic or symbolic caricatures to translate the world around them. Brady teaches them to use the right side of their brain as well, designed to create intricate and detail-rich portrayals of the world around them. This immersion facilitates a broader, almost transcendent connection wit the natural world she is so passionate about. She finds this to be a quality children have less filters in the way of embracing.
As a chronicler of the natural world, Brady is liberated from much of the temporal mindset that is so prevalent in modern society. Constantly exposed to natural cycles of life and death, Brady isn't afraid of much. "I'm not afraid of death and such," said Brady, of the insight she has gleaned through years of observation. "I might be regretful of some of things I didn't get to do; but then I wouldn't actually be around to regret them, so it doesn't really matter"&
166; "I think life is wonderful. I love living it. I enjoy sharing it with other people."
How Brady hopes to do this presently is through her upcoming April Costa Rica art class, where she hopes to teach nature exploration skills to aspiring artists in an exotic setting. People can sign up for through March 20th. "The place is incredible. I've been sketching it for 10 yrs.," said Brady. "It's a blast. Everyone will have their own focus"&
166;all I can do is teach them to see." For more information, log on to .