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Artist’s memory lives on

Once a year, select works from Barb Brooks’ expansive watercolour portfolio are released to the public for purchase.

When the famous Jasper artist passed away in 2009, she left hundreds of paintings behind. Since then, they have been sold selectively, with the funds going toward two arts scholarships facilitated by It Only Takes a Dream (IOTAD).

This year, a dozen pieces will be for sale, Jan. 14.

“Barb painted like we breathe,” said Marianne Garrah of IOTAD. “She painted, painted, painted. It was her source of income, her source of livelihood, so she bartered, shared and sold her artwork to everybody in town.

“Most people in town own a Brooks: plumbers, people in the service industry, they definitely have a Brooks,” said Garrah with a laugh.

Terry Olsen, a long time friend of Brooks, certainly owns a few. In fact, after a quick count, she came up with seven of her friends’ paintings.

“Some were purchased and some were bartered, and I have no buyers or barterers remorse,” she said with a laugh. “Barb’s paintings are really a beautiful representation of Jasper.”

But it’s not just Jasperites who display Brooks’ watercolours; her work has travelled the world.

In 1994, she was the first Canadian artist to have a solo exhibit in South Korea, and at that show, she sold each and every piece she had on display.

Olsen said that was the peak of her friends’ career. “That was a really big boost for Barb.”

Before picking up a paint brush in her 30s, Brooks worked odd jobs around Jasper—“everything from looking after plants in a restaurant to baking bread for Tekkara Restaurant across the river,” recalled Olsen. “She made the best French bread you ever tasted.

“She was doing all kinds of odd jobs like that to support her and her kids. Then she decided to pick up a paint brush and she was instantly talented.”

Brooks was primarily self-taught, but she also attended workshops around Canada and the United States. Her most famous paintings are of aspen trees or wildflowers, but she dabbled in all different styles.

When preparing for the annual showing of Brooks’ paintings, Garrah goes through the artists’ portfolio and selects a variety of styles.

“I usually select some old ones from the late 80s when she first started. There are some wildflowers left, so I select some of the pieces that people always want, and I pick something that makes people go, ‘Barb did that?’ Something wild, crazy and weird.”

Barb’s work will be on display in Room 12, Building 32 in the Stan Wright Industrial Park, Jan. 14, beginning at 7 p.m.

The funds raised through the sale of Brooks’ paintings will go toward two $500 scholarships for up-and-coming artists.

One goes to someone wishing to pursue a college or university program in the arts and the other is awarded to an artist wanting to attend a workshop or residency. Previous recipients have included David Baker and Nicole Koebel.

To learn more about Brooks or the scholarship, visit barbbrooksartist.com.

Nicole Veerman
editor@fitzhugh.ca

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