“I was born with an artistic eye and I love to create. But you never end up where you think you might,” says Boulder artist Brooke Connor, who worked as an environmental chemist for 28 years. After getting a master’s degree in chemistry, she came to a realization: “Chemistry isn’t necessarily fun,” she says. “So while I was supposed to be thinking about complex organic molecules in meetings, I would doodle to keep me focused”—something she’d done since childhood.
After a lifetime of creating black-and-white line drawings, Brooke discovered alcohol ink markers and used them to color her line drawings. Digital art opened another dimension. “It allows artists to experiment with millions of different formats not available with traditional art.”
H+G: Please describe your artistic style and medium.
Brooke: I draw wildlife by incorporating human-made patterns and unexpected color into the shapes made by muscles and bones. I use alcohol ink markers on Bristol plate or digital applications like Photoshop, Procreate and Illustrator. Fabric, ribbons and repeating patterns inspire me, and you’ll see a lot of these in my illustrations. My basic formula is: I love color, especially when it surprises you. I tend to avoid primary colors. I always start with a line drawing so that the pattern shapes are realistic. I like to illustrate a single animal so the viewer can connect with the animal and maybe feel like the animal is connecting with them. And I often create patterns in place of texture.
H+G: What is your favorite thing about creating art?
Brooke: Some people get a rush from, say, running marathons, rock climbing, racing or skydiving. I get the same kind of rush from drawing, just minus the initial adrenaline jolt. Art is internal, and for me, solitary. I can’t share my exact feelings, because they aren’t available in words.
H+G: What is your greatest challenge about
Brooke: To not feel guilty when creating digital art. It feels like cheating to draw on a screen, since you can redo something as many times as you like until you get it right. Plus, there’s no such thing as erasing too hard and shredding the paper in the process. You can reuse the same brush and it never wears out. You can save your mixed colors for years and they never dry up. You never run out of your favorite light blue. Pencils never need sharpening. And there are no last-minute trips to the art supply store. Digital art is really going to challenge traditional art techniques going forward.
H+G: What inspires you?
Brooke: Light, because it can change yellow into red and green into blue or purple. I’m always looking for unexpected color and pattern.
H+G: What terrifies you?
Brooke: My imagination is overactive—it’s all I need to convince myself there are monsters under the stairs. My mother once looked up at me while washing the dishes and said, “Don’t ever do LSD, you don’t need it.” But what really terrifies me is losing the ability to enjoy the things I finally have time to do. If I lost my eyesight I would not know how to enjoy life the way I do now. I have a dear childhood friend who, tragically, became a quadriplegic, and while lying in the hospital waiting to hear if the paralysis was permanent, his wife asked him what he was thinking. He said, “I’m thinking about how I am going to live my new life.” So the fear of losing something that brings me such joy just means I would be given the opportunity to learn to enjoy something else.
H+G: Why are you drawn to illustration?
Brooke: It satisfies my need to create and be creative. Boredom is torturous, especially for children. To avoid boredom as a child, I would draw. My school worksheets were filled with doodles. No teacher ever scolded me for it, but I did have one teacher in fifth grade who told me to quit putting enormous curlicues on each letter when I signed my name. That was my first artistic rejection, but I didn’t feel bad about it because I knew it was the teacher who didn’t get it, not me.
H+G: What artists do you admire?
Brooke: I’m currently drawn to Blu Smith, a Canadian artist who creates abstracted landscapes using organic shapes that glow with an atmospheric quality. I also spend hours looking through Pinterest, Instagram, Colossal and other sites for eye candy and inspiration.
H+G: What is your favorite pastime?
Brooke: Hiking with my Nikon and telephoto lens. I take thousands of detailed pictures—a bird’s gaze, a caterpillar, a leaf. I experience great joy when I see a color that shouldn’t be there—for example, when rocks look blue instead of gray or the sky is yellow instead of blue. I love it when patterns I thought were human-made are found on a butterfly’s wing or a flower’s petals.
H+G: What do you want your art to say?
Brooke: Instead of saying something, I hope my art evokes good feelings in those who see it. I purposefully don’t make scary or angsty art, because I believe almost everyone likes to be happy. But even more so, I don’t get why anyone would seek out misery and put it on a wall. I know it’s a popular genre for some, but my favorite emotion is happy. And that’s what I like to draw.
View Brooke’s newest works at the Denver Arts Festival in the Central Park (formerly Stapleton) development Sept. 18-19. She also exhibits at Red Canyon Art in Lyons; Show of Hands in Cherry Creek; Wandering Daisy in Breckenridge; Earthwood Galleries in Estes Park; Evergreen Gallery in Evergreen, and other places. Visit her online at brookeconnordesign.com.