Story By Tucker Massey
Photos Contributed By Leslie Brasher
With almost 35 years under her belt, Leslie Brasher of Beauregard, has led a fulfilling life as a local artist.
Originating from Huntsville, Brasher attended Auburn University in pursuit of a career outside of what she would eventually find herself doing.
“I came off to Auburn and started on a different path and changed my major a couple of times and ended up in art and got my degree at Auburn,” Brasher said.
While she did not start in art, art was far from a foreign subject to Brasher. She said that both her mother and her father’s father were professional watercolorists, which is the field of art that she enjoys most. This early exposure to art was key to Brasher’s later inspiration to follow in her family’s footsteps.
In her over three decades working as an artist, Brasher said nature is a driving force in inspiring her to sit down and paint. From flowers to landscapes, Brasher has discovered that the beauty of the natural world holds unlimited potential for what she can put upon a canvas.
“Although I do house portraits and pet portraits, which I really enjoy, as far as me just painting what I want to paint, nature and landscapes and just natural things [are what I enjoy most],” Brasher said.
Brasher is an avid user of traditional watercolor in her paintings. She said that even after branching out into other painting forms and styles, she always finds herself going back to her roots in watercolor.
Through the years, Brasher has also developed a process to paint effectively and that pushes her to continue to grow as an artist.
“There are two things [that I do to start my creative process],” she said. “One is that I go with a group and paint outdoors every once in a while, but I don’t do that very often. I do that primarily to improve my skills because I feel like I’m a much better studio painter.”
Her studio is where her primary creative process takes place. She felt most accomplished in her studio work, and here, Brasher begins with a reference photo that she has taken in the past.
For Brasher, the right photo is the one that inspires her in the moment and makes her feel like it’s something worthy of being put on paper. Following this, she takes a watercolor block, which is “paper that’s glued down on three sides so that it stays flat when you paint on it.”
This watercolor block is key to her style of painting because of the water-based medium she is putting on the paper. The block, according the Brasher, keeps her canvas from buckling.
She starts to lay out her vision on the paper by drawing a basic outline; however, she does use a more detailed outline depending on the complexity of her subject.
“Typically, I start with the background for a watercolor because I like to get large areas done first,” Brasher said.
Brasher then explained how important it is to go from light colors
to dark colors when doing watercolor.
“Since traditional watercolor is transparent, it’s hard to go back over something dark and make it lighter,” Brasher said. “It’s just difficult, so the typical process is to go from light to dark.”
Throughout her painting, Brasher will go through with her lighter paints and fill lighter areas in first. As she begins to add layers to the paint, she has to determine if she will wait for an area to dry or if she will add a new layer while it is still wet. She said that while it may not sound like it would create a difference, these two processes produce very different outcomes.
For the initial paint job, Brasher works from large to small and from light to dark, but she is tasked with more after it finally dries. Once the initial, basic outline has been painted, Brasher adds in the finer details that will eventually make her painting pop with life and subtlety.
Once she has added in details throughout and deepened the contrast of certain areas so it is more appealing in certain lighting, Brasher takes a break and hangs the painting up somewhere.
“Usually, I set it up on a shelf and walk away for a while in between stages so that I can walk back in and see ‘well that needs to be strengthened over there,’” Brasher said. “I’ll pick it back up and take it to my table and add more darks in certain areas so that it shows up better at a distance.”
Finally, Brasher will sign her piece and take a high-resolution photo of her work so that she can create prints of it and frame the final product.
Brasher’s work has been featured in art shows, but most in Auburn can also see her work in a more familiar place. Many of Brasher’s Auburn scenes can be seen and bought in J&M Bookstore on College Street. In fact, she said that her art in the store is among the art of other local artists that J&M puts up for sale.
While Brasher clearly loves art with a passion, she said her love of it stems from a deeper place, a place of peace and solitude.
“While I’m painting, I typically have a sense of peace and the things that are worrying me or might worry me or have been on my mind can kind of be pushed out of the way, and I can focus on what I’m doing,” she said. “It’s just a very peaceful and relaxing thing.”
Brasher has experienced peace through art, but she also said she loves art because of the people it has allowed her to meet, ranging from fellow artists at art shows to customers who have been visibly toucher by her work.
“One of the things that I have enjoyed the most has been meeting people when I go to art shows and having conversations with people who come and look at my art and we develop friendships,” Brasher said. “I really love that.”
Among moments that stand out in her career, Brasher noted the feeling she gets when customers who are buying pet portraits in memoriam see the final product. She said that knowing that her work can impact others and make them feel happiness drives her to carry on with her art.
Brasher expressed gratitude for those who have supported her throughout the years and who consume and enjoy the art that she works so hard to create.
“It’s humbling, and I feel honored to know that people want to own a piece of my artwork and hang it in their home or give it as a gift,” Brasher said. “I am very honored and humbled and grateful to have the opportunity to do something I love that also makes other people happy.”