When Linda Bradshaw begins a painting, it starts with place. That place could be the view just outside the window of her home studio in Pennington or on Main Street or in the greater Hopewell area. Even Vermont, where she shares a second home with her son’s family, provides inspirational scenery; or it could be on any of her travels.
Wherever she goes — the beach, Central Park, New Hampshire barns — Bradshaw totes her kit bag, complete with everything she needs to create her watercolor paintings: easel, brushes and water, palette and paint tubes, pencils and paper, spray bottle. She has a folding chair and table (watercolor can’t be painted from an easel because it drips, she says). While she’s painting, people stop to chat.
“I know tons of people because I’ve either taught them or their children,” she says, imitating the motions of the crossing guard, whose children she taught. The crossing guard will be in her painting of Main Street, Pennington. She has also painted the Kunkel House on Delaware Avenue in Pennington with its turret, gables, and stone porch.
But finding the scene is just the beginning. From there she overlays her vision, and then creates the scene from her head on paper, adding detail and nuance. “I love the details,” she says.
Bradshaw will be exhibiting her work at the Pennington School’s Silva Gallery. “Images in Water and Light: Linda Bradshaw” is on view Monday, November 30, through Friday, January 15, with an opening reception Friday, December 4, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., coinciding with Pennington Borough’s holiday walk.
After teaching art for 26 years in the Hopewell Valley schools and in New York, Bradshaw retired but has kept busy: exhibiting during Pennington Day and at Artsbridge in Stockton, Artists of Yardley, and PEAC Gallery in Ewing, and mounting one-woman shows at the Medical Center of Princeton and the Veridian Gallery in Pennington.
She was among the group who established the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, co-chairing the committee for the Stampede, last year’s event of 69 artist-painted oxen placed on view throughout the region to help put the council on the exposure map. Along the way it raised $150,000 for the fledgling organization, both through an online auction as well as a gala at Grounds For Sculpture.
Bradshaw’s own ox, “Rooted,” covered with birch trees, now lives on a farm in Westchester, Pennsylvania. She describes it as the guinea pig, painted in acrylic, on which she experimented with various finishes to withstand the weather.
Co-chairing the committee turned into a two-year full-time job, she recounts, after the initial invitation: “Come to an 8 a.m. meeting about a cool art project” with the mayors of Pennington, Hopewell, and Titusville.
She and co-chair Carol Lipson purchased the 69 oxen from the Theme Factory for less than $2,000 each, thanks to seed money from benefactors, and put out a call to artists to submit their bio, concept, and a drawing. In the end, every artist who submitted was accepted. Bradshaw recounts doing a great deal of research on other organizations that had done similar projects, such as the Mules of Bucks County and the North Carolina Cow Parade.
“Rooted” grew out of her love for trees. “I got hooked painting birch trees in Vermont,” she says. “I like the white against white” (in scenes of snow). Her winter birch paintings show the depth of the forest with their patterns in bark, echoed in patterns in the sky. She also likes to paint leaves turning yellow against a striated sky.
Among her other paintings is one of a plump woman in a straw hat at the beach, seated and reading a newspaper as children and a dog frolic around her. “It reminds me of my mother,” says Bradshaw.
In a painting of a yellow cottage in Martha’s Vineyard, colorful towels hang from a clothesline. An old castle town in Italy with narrow streets is reminiscent of Utrillo’s street scenes. There are clapboard beach houses in Nantucket, boats in Ireland, and mailboxes in Marblehead, in colors ranging from faded blue, red and purple to pink and green against fall foliage. “Stop the car!” you can hear her saying as her husband drives by at 70 miles per hour.
Bradshaw has a painting buddy, Susan Ewart, with whom she spends Saturdays going to St. Michaels Preserve or the Delaware & Raritan Canal in Lambertville.
Wearing a flexible Roberto Coin necklace that can take on new shapes, depending on how you bend it, Bradshaw says that she often paints and cooks at the same time — the studio is in a family room open to the kitchen of the house she has lived in with her husband for more than three decades. “You learn to do that while raising three children,” she says. Now ranging in age from 31 to 40, those children have four children, and the grandchildren have become a favorite subject for Bradshaw.
When a friend’s father died many years ago, the friend gave one of his paintings to Bradshaw. “It was a magical gift that turned me on to watercolor,” she says of the painting that still hangs in her studio. She has been a member of the Garden State Watercolor Society for 20 years.
After working out at the gym, she paints for three to five hours every day. In Vermont, when not skiing, she paints from her bedroom. There is a covered bridge rebuilt after it was destroyed by Hurricane Irene that has attracted her eye. These days, she’s especially interested in painting children and sends messages to her friends asking them to send grandchildren photographs she can practice from. The show includes a painting of her grandsons sipping lemonade through straws.
Bradshaw says her ability to paint came from her father, an accountant, employment counselor, and master tool and dye maker. Her mother, who took care of the family and the home, “had a great eye for color,” she says. Her paternal aunt taught her to color. The Mineola, Long Island, native won school contests for painting store windows.
“All children are artistic, even if they don’t make it their life’s work,” says Bradshaw, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Adelphi University and has 30 hours toward an MFA at C.W. Post College. She studied watercolor with Roberta Carter Clarke, Joel Popadics, Mel Stabin, and Mary La Forge. Bradshaw and her husband moved to Pennington because he was working for Dow Jones. “I love being in the country,” she says. “I still hear the cows.”
Images in Water and Light: Linda Bradshaw, Silva Gallery, Pennington School, 112 Delaware Avenue, Pennington. November 30 through January 15. Opening reception Friday, December 4, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Free. 609-737-4133 or www.pennington.org/arts