Rebecca: When we had talked previously, you were working toward what you called your “north star” through all these projects that you were doing — the art that you were doing in your life.
And it eventually led you to open up your art studio, finally, in your early 50s was when that had happened. What fell into place for you that allowed that to happen?
Brenda: Well, I was teaching at the college level at that time, and I was weaning myself away from my illustration clients and all the while planning for my full-time painting career, and so I knew I had to wean off of my illustration clients, and a good way to do that would be to teach.
That gave me an income. And, also, I really actually enjoy teaching. It was a great experience for me. I taught a decade and made a lot of contacts.
And, so, they’re all pebbles. They’re all stones that build your path, and so you meet a lot of people when you’re teaching. You have colleagues that you work with, your other instructors, you have department heads, you have the deans, you have the presidents of the colleges, they all get to know you and believe in you, and they become your networking community.
And so while I was teaching, I met a lot of people and made a lot of friends and that led me into meeting my next stepping stone, was opening up a gallery on Philadelphia Street, which would be my full-time gallery, my full-time painting studio upstairs, with a gallery down below, and that happened through teaching at Bradley Academy, or the Art Institute.
So, the president of the Art Institute, Loren Kroh, encouraged me to call this gentleman’s number. He put it in my hand, he goes, “Please call this gentleman. He would like to have some private art classes when he retires from his profession.”
And I said, “Okay.”
And so I kept that little number, and I kept it for a couple months and really didn’t call, and then one day I decided to call, and it happened to be Bob Pullo, who I did not know, which surprised him. And I said, when I called, I said to the receptionist or his secretary, “I’d like to speak to Mr. Pullo.”
She connected me to him, and we chatted, and he was surprised I didn’t know who he was, and I said, “Well, I don’t bank with your bank. So, I don’t know who you are.”
He goes, “Can you teach an executive how to draw?”
And I said, “I’m sure I can teach an executive how to draw.”
And, so, he became one of my private students. So, see that’s how that happens, that networking.
All those little pebbles that are laid down before you. And you take those opportunities, and you see them as growing yourself, growing your career forward, and getting to know new people, and making new relationships and friendships.
And in this case, with Bob, he liked my teaching style so much, and that he would come in, and I would loosen up his tie, and roll up his sleeves, and I said, he’d come right off his office desk, and office work and I’d say, “Come on Bob, you gotta lighten up, we’re working with charcoal today.”
And I’d loosen his tie up, and he’d, you know, and set up his easel, and he just liked the way I taught and he liked the results of how he could draw. He was just so impressed.
So, one day, he just said to me, “Brenda, if you can teach me to draw, that’s pretty incredible. I think we should go into business.”
And, so, he wanted to set up a business with me. He said he would be the finance partner, financial partner. I would be the creative partner, and that’s how that got started. And that was called City Art. I named it City Art.
We had a nice little place on Philadelphia Street. A lot of people that’ll be listening to this might remember that place. We had it for about almost five years, and so that was how that moved into that.
So, then I moved out of my teaching career because I needed to be there full time as a painter and as a gallery owner curator and also I had workshops upstairs. Like a little school, so to speak, of workshops.
And, so, having that for five years kind of set me up to move on to my next move, which was another studio, and then I went on my own.
So, Bob and I, we closed up our partnership, and we both agreed on that. We had it long enough and it was great, it was fun, but it was time for me to move on. It was time for him to move on.
And, so, I opened up my own studio, and that’s where Just Brenda came because it was just me now. I wasn’t representing, I had 40 artists on my roster for my gallery at City Art, so I was representing a lot of artists and I was helping them with their careers and helping them move forward and so when I moved to my next studio, I was just like well, I’m not representing anybody, I’m just representing me now.
This is me. This is my north star. That’s when I got to my north star.
My north star was when I became truly independent, had my own studio, and had no partnerships, no financial commitment to anybody, and I was just able to be my own person and be my own painter. That was my north star.
And have it sustainable. Because it is sustainable. And so that’s when I told you I was living my north star. But all those things added up to that.
My printer, my going back to illustration days, my printing, all the printers that knew my name, and then interviewing for an illustration job at Bradley Academy because they needed an illustration instructor and I was heavily into illustration, so that was another move forward, and then moving into the Art Institute, and then moving into York College, and then meeting Bob, and all those things just fall into place.
And it’s just being ready, being prepared when those opportunities come along, to recognize them, even though I didn’t do that with Kansas. I wasn’t ready then. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t secure enough with myself then.
But as you grow as an artist, you become more independent, you become more secure, become more mature, and you become more brave, and yeah.