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Wednesday, 14 June 2017 17:56

'When I'm painting and drawing, I'm free': MMF Featured Artist Amanda Brooks

Of the many works she’s painted, Amanda Brooks has a favorite.

It’s of a little boy in a tie-dyed shirt, a hand covering one eye, curiosity gleaming from the other. The weight of the summer heat is visible on his short, brown, shaggy hair as he sits in the grass at the Master Musicians Festival. He is 3. His mother is 24. He plays peekaboo with her and she snaps a photo.

Later, she would use that photo to brush his personality onto canvas with acrylic paint.

Now 11, the little boy in the painting is Amanda’s oldest, winner of the fifth grade art award at Meece Middle School and his mother’s admiration. Jase, who also enjoys painting, now has a sister, Haley, 9, and a brother, Clay, 5, and they all dabble in Amanda’s passion, often accompanying her in her basement studio while she sketches commissioned portraits or brings horse racing to life with watercolor.

MMF 2017 artist Brooks Jase

Amanda Brooks painted this portrait of her son, Jase Combs, from a photo she took of him at the Master Musicians Festival.

This year’s Master Musicians Festival featured artist, Amanda, a Somerset resident, is a first-grade teacher at Hopkins Elementary School and owner of Clay & Paper Studio. She graduated from Somerset High School in 2001, a time and place she remembers fondly for the art education it gave her and the opportunity she was given to turn something she loves into a business venture.

But she’s been an artist much longer.

“My mom always let my sister and I have art materials since we were old enough to do anything with them, since we were 3,” Amanda said. “We’ve always painted, ever since I can remember.”

“We” — a term Amanda uses often, because she is a twin. Her sister, Amber, also paints and teaches and is a constant source of guidance and inspiration.

Amanda can’t remember a time she didn’t want to be an artist. Though the type of artist she wanted to be evolved through her formidable years, when she learned at age 21 that Jase was coming along, she put all of that on hold, instead earning a teaching degree so she could spend time with her son.

It wasn’t on hold for long. When she accepted a position teaching art at Yates Elementary School in Lexington, she landed an opportunity to illustrate two books for an author who worked part-time at the school. That led to requests for portraits from school employees and parents.

“I think teaching art kind of helped me, it just inspired me to start back,” she said.

She continued to expand her horizons after moving back to Somerset in 2011. As an art teacher at Oak Hill Elementary, she responded to someone’s suggestion that she should paint horses.

“I thought, you know what? I’ll try it. And the first one turned out so beautiful. It was watercolor. And I thought, I’ve got to start doing this,” she said.

Today, Amanda’s horse racing watercolors are some of her most well-known work. Watercolor is her favorite medium — “I like the bright colors, and I like how they mix. There’s a limitless amount of things you can do with watercolor,” she says — but she is also often commissioned to do acrylic paintings or charcoal portraits.

Donating her talent is important to Amanda, a lesson learned from her first auction piece, a watercolor painting of a horse race. Once that painting sold to benefit an organization, good things began to happen.

MMF 2017 artist Brooks web

Retired National Football League Quarterback Terry Bradshaw holds a painting that Amanda Brooks donated for an auction to benefit Somerset Christian School.

“You give something away and you get it back ten-fold,” she said. “I think everything just started escalating from there. I try to give away as much as possible. I have tried to match whatever I make in donations.”

She also applies that philosophy to teaching. Amanda and her children welcome 25 school-age students into their home for weekly summer art lessons, a private opportunity she began offering last year because so many parents were looking for ways to enhance their children’s art education.

Early on in her teaching career, an artist friend encouraged Amanda to use her dream of going to Savannah College of Art and Design as motivation to give to others.

“I had always wanted to go to Savannah College of Art and Design, and honestly, our family didn’t have the money or the resources,” Amanda said. “She told me that, instead of having regret, to use that as motivation to one day be able to provide scholarships for other kids to be able to go there. So that’s eventually my goal here, to help other kids who have that dream.”

Amanda’s dedication to giving to the arts and education embodies the mission of MMF, President Tiffany Bourne said.

“We are so proud to have her as our featured artist this year, to honor her and her commitment to the arts in Pulaski County and to share a piece of her talent with our audience,” Bourne said.

MMF 2017 artist BrooksFamily web

Amanda Brooks and her children, from left, Jase, Haley and Clay.

The acrylic painting Amanda created for MMF, a mixture of modern and timeless elements of a music festival she grew up attending and that once provided inspiration for her favorite work, will be auctioned on stage July 7 and 8 at the 24th annual event. Proceeds are dedicated to continuing the Master Musicians Festival, a 501(c)3, all-volunteer organization.

Amanda will also have a booth in art alley at the festival, where she will sell her work, provide face painting and raffle a watercolor painting of the 2017 Kentucky Derby winner.

People who visit the booth will likely see four loves of her life — her children, and her passion.

“I just feel like, I don’t know, it’s like everything I am,” she said. “When I’m painting and drawing, I’m free.”

The featured painting for the 2017 Master Musicians Festival, presented by Don Marshall Ram, will be on display at the merchandise tent during the festival July 7-8, 2017, at Somerset Community College Festival Field. The live auction begins at 8 p.m. Friday, July 7, on stage, and continues at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, July 8, on stage with the high bid from Friday. Click here to purchase tickets.

 

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