NAMES TO FACES: Meet Charles Norris-Brown

Hi. Charles here.

Signature member since I am not sure when and past VWS Board member.

Much of what I have shown at VWS or elsewhere has been either figure studies or themes related to my children's books.

Attached is an example of the figure focus ("Seated Figure Study"). But in the past year or so, I have enjoyed working with a local group of plein air painters, as can be seen in the attached image "Below the Falls," and I have really enjoyed this more "landscapy" focus right from the source.

But thanks to my children's book focus, much of what I have done has had a "story-telling" bent to it, and I have been frustrated with my work being called "just" illustration, or "just" influenced by illustration. For similar reasons, my work has not fit into the genre that permeates the watercolor "societies of awards." But although I know that this pressure does help improve technique, it diverts me personally from my own central question whether book related or watercolor in general: what is my subject matter? How do I stay true to that and not a standard set by others? We all wrestle the same demons, and in the end, once you display your art, it is no longer in your hands but becomes subject to the whims of the viewers and the seemingly random criteria of "art critics" and a market. So, is it really "just" this or "just" that? For any of us, "just" some genre someone else defines for us?

Charles Norris-Brown

Charles Norris-Brown

 
 
 
Charles Norris-Brown, “Seated Figure Study”

Charles Norris-Brown, “Seated Figure Study”

 
Charles Norris-Brown, “Below the “Falls

Charles Norris-Brown, “Below the “Falls

 

I do not have a lot of institutionalized art study in my past. My background is anthropology. But even there, my focus has been on inter-disciplinary thinking and I have consciously sought out the margins, looked beyond borders, followed new paradigms. And so, in trying to be true to myself, I drove buses and honed what I hope could be a path for my golden years. 

Maybe wisdom has finally populated those years. I see my art as an expression of the merger of several strands in my life. Its outlet is writing and illustrating children's books. The challenge is the technique. Frustration is nothing unusual with watercolors. We are all up against the obstinacy of the medium. Some handle this better than others. I tend to get frustrated with the drying shift, and have yet to master the texturization that adds interest to what are otherwise bland washes. But watercolor is still my love and, along with her unforgiving brother ink, my challenge. "Success" for me in art is that joy you feel when brush or pen touched paper and it reproduced something that you held deep in your heart.