Local artist draws inspiration from nature

By Page H. Gifford

Like many artists who begin their artistic journey with a pencil at a young age, Joanne Braniff was no different. And as soon as she was able to hold a pencil she began drawing.

“My first validation came from a sixth-grade teacher who asked me to draw the Statue of Liberty for a bulletin board – yes, I am older than CAD and PowerPoint,” Braniff said. “She gave me the confidence to think one day I could learn to paint.”

When Braniff was in her late 50s, she took beginner watercolor classes from Lassie Corbet, a northern Virginia artist, and a semester of oil painting lessons at the Baltimore Academy of Art.

Braniff says her favorite mediums are watercolors and feels they are made for achieving a delicate and dream-like character in a painting. She likes the ability to create simple backgrounds with floral art.

Oils are the other medium she paints with but says they are more challenging. This is a surprise since most artists view it the opposite way and find watercolor more challenging to control. But strangely enough, Braniff admits it is the scent of the oil she loves and the richness of the paint. Most of her fellow oil painters would agree on the richness of the medium.

“I enjoy painting Plein air with oils, especially when I can revisit a location several times.  However, a three-year stay in California allowed me the opportunity to see a more intense kind of light, and some of my favorite landscapes were painted there in watercolor.”

Since her introduction to watercolor and oil painting, she has learned from trial and error.

“My errors are usually my best paintings,” she said. “Another very valuable learning experience for me has been observing and sharing with members of the two art groups.” Braniff is a current member of the Fluvanna Art Association and also paints with a group at Lake Monticello.

She said she is unlike artists who view the act of painting as a method of “expressing their creativity”.

“I have always seen the creation of art as a challenge, an opportunity to learn a new skill or solve a puzzle.  And on those occasions when the puzzle pieces fall together, you get to create something beautiful.”

Her favorite subject, she says, because it flows better, is flowers.

“I am often overwhelmed by the beauty of the natural world and I get more excited by flowers than just about anything!  I love trying to capture their delicacy and translucence in what I call their “portraits.”

Braniff’s watercolors are soft and airy and soothing to the onlooker. Her oils are soft yet vibrant and both exhibit a tranquility and a solitude that immerses the viewer in peacefulness.

“Most of us have our  method of banishing negativity and depression.  I go outside for a walk. Before long something lovely captures my attention and immediately I plan how I would paint it.  I believe the solitude you see in my painting is more of an expression of my awe for the color and quiet beauty of our surroundings. We have been given more than we have been denied.”

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