Adding color, texture to Nevada City
LeeAnn Brook Fine Art
gallery and studio
231 Broad St., Nevada City
Hours: Open daily, 12 to 5 p.m. or by appointment
Despite her work as an established graphic designer for more than two decades, LeeAnn Brook’s first love has always been painting. Early on in her career, she began looking forward to the gaps between deadlines when she could pick up a brush and begin a new landscape piece on a clean canvas.
Over time her work evolved, melding her keen eye for nature photography and the rich texture of collage into her paintings.
Brook’s love for art began at an early age while growing up in the countryside of Glastonbury, Connecticut. At 23, she was accepted into the prestigious Connecticut Society of Women Painters and exhibited in shows and galleries in New York and New England. Remarkably, she won more than 20 awards in juried shows in just three years.
“I carry images of my future paintings around in my head for weeks and months at a time, letting them dwell long enough to consider all the possibilities,” Brook later wrote in her book, “Points of Inspiration,” published in 2015. “Inspiration may come from a walk in the garden the day before, or from a photo I shot several years ago. It may come from the color of my Italian tablecloth, or from a rain-streaked windowpane at a restaurant.”
In the late ’70s, Brook moved to Nevada County where she and her husband raised their children. As her body of work grew, so did her loyal clientele, many of whom would attend her pop-up shows or make the trip down the long country road to her studio. Customers sought out her unique multi-media approach and signature work, which tended to take the form of large contemporary pieces.
Then, one day, it happened — something Brook had always hoped for. It was the tipping point — the moment she was making more money in fine arts than in graphic design. In July of 2015, she opened LeeAnn Brook Fine Art on Spring Street in Nevada City, one of the first artist-owned galleries in Nevada County. However, because the location was slightly off the beaten path, the initial foot traffic was mediocre.
“I did gain new clients slowly,” said Brook. “But first response was, ‘What have I done?’ It got better.”
When a charming, historic retail space came up for rent around the corner on busy Broad Street, Brook jumped at the chance. It had all the elements she was looking for — natural light, brick walls, hardwood floors and natural light. She instantly knew it was right.
Today, LeeAnn Brook Fine Art on Broad Street has the unique feature of incorporating a working studio where visitors can see Brook’s works in progress and talk about the process with the artist firsthand.
She also features other regional artists, with pieces ranging from photography and hand-turned wooden vessels to hand-felted lamps, handmade furniture, sculpture, textiles and ceramics — all in a tastefully curated setting accented by Japanese antiques. Brook, who does all the curating and marketing, adds a new body of work every month. Currently, guest artists’ exhibits are booked at the gallery through March. During the holidays, she hopes to bring in unique seasonal items highlighting the work of local artisans.
“My mission for the gallery is to bring in art people haven’t seen before,” said Brook. “But I also love having my own studio on site — while I’m painting I’ve discovered that I love talking about art and the pieces I’m currently working on. I’ve always wanted art to be more inclusive — too often it exists in a bubble where only certain people are supposed to ‘get it.’”
Brook says she feels fortunate to be in the midst of a new wave of young local artists who have opened their own businesses.
“People forget how unique we are here — to have so many business owners who are selling the products they create,” she said. “Other people’s work keeps me inspired. That’s one of the reasons my own work has shifted and gotten richer. It’s the creative influence.”
Brook’s creativity has also inspired others. She was named the 2015 winner of the Dr. Leland and Sally Lewis Visual Arts Award by the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes an individual who serves the community or enhances the city’s image or economy by participating in or creating artistic institutions or events.
“I’m lucky to live in a community that is supportive of the arts — I’ve had people thank me for opening the gallery because it adds something to the community,” said Brook. “I feel a new energy in town and I want to be part of it. These are exciting times. The key to my success? I just keep showing up, that’s all.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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