Local Arts

Wait: Are those pine needles pink?

Bradford uses tens of thousands of strokes – and purple, blue, even pink – to capture the branches of a pine tree. Her use of unusual colors is one aspect of her work that sets her apart from other painters, art observers say.
Bradford uses tens of thousands of strokes – and purple, blue, even pink – to capture the branches of a pine tree. Her use of unusual colors is one aspect of her work that sets her apart from other painters, art observers say. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

She’s been a professional artist for decades, but Bradford says her technique and relationship with color continue to evolve.

So often, she says, artists “exploit” color, using such intense color and vivid combinations that the eye is drawn to a painting more because of a hue and less because of technique.

“For a long time, I took this notion that I wanted to try to paint without exploiting color,” she said. “I’m really a colorist. ... I wanted to see if I could make successful paintings repressing color. So for a long time I did things in a really natural palette with very little fantasy. And then I decided to bring the color back, so I just started putting it in uncanny places.”

On the day we visited, a painting of a pine bough hung on the wall, still in progress. The image looked so natural, but a close look reveals strokes of purples, blues, oranges and pinks comprising the tree bark and needles.

“I really want these pine needles to look like explosions,” she said. “To make it more firework-like, more interesting, more compelling, I decided to plug in all these other colors.

“And I’m not sure where it’s going to end up because I have many months of pine needle work ahead of me and it may surprise me in the end. I like light hitting it as a warm yellow,” she continues. “It probably looks kind of dark gray or black in nature but it’s much more fun and interesting in nature purple instead. You’ve still got darkness, as in nature, but with a twist.”

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