Paintings come alive under artist's brush

It's all in the details

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002

Kasilof artist Cindy Brabec-King likes a challenge in her work.

The medium she paints in, her style of painting and her favorite subjects to paint all have a degree of difficulty that require skill, planning and care to paint.

But that's what she likes about them.

"I am a watercolorist only," she said. "Its' a challenge. It is very difficult. Once it's there you can't change it, you pretty much have to work with what you've done."

In oil painting, it can be easier to correct mistakes than when using watercolors, especially since Brabec-King incorporates negative space into her paintings. Any white in her art is the unpainted canvas, not paint. So anytime she wants to incorporate white into a painting, she has to leave that part of the canvas blank. Even the slightest misstroke of the brush on an area that is supposed to be white is impossible to remove.

Brabec-King paints still-lifes, portraits and some wildlife. Her favorite elements to include in her paintings are glass, metal and wood, because of how difficult they are to paint, she said. Glass and metal especially can be tough, because it is difficult to make them appear to shine in a painting. In the natural world, light hitting glass or polished metal creates highlights and makes them sparkle. To create that effect in her paintings, Brabec-King has to leave portions of the object unpainted so the canvas can show through and look like a highlight.

"They're really hard to do," she said. "You have to paint around that, otherwise it doesn't work. You have to plan where the white is going to be."

Along with the degree of difficulty watercolor painting presents, there are other characteristics of her chosen medium that Brabec-King enjoys.

"I like the fact that its not thick like oils, but you can still get the same effect," she said. "And it obviously doesn't smell (like oils)."

Brabec-King paints realistically, striving to recreate rather than embellish the world around her. She works by taking photographs of her subjects and compiling them into a picture to recreate. In this manner she captures scenes from her kitchen table, coffee shops, her cat's favorite hiding spot and any other place that strikes her fancy.

Originally from Colorado, Brabec-King moved to Kasilof seven years ago with her husband, Matthew. She is a full-time artist and art teacher and works out of a studio in her home.

She started painting in high school and has been at it ever since, for about 24 years, she said. She studied painting in college, but took a lot of workshops as well so could develop her own style, she said.

After getting her college degree and a certification in art, Brabec-King began teaching painting at a college in Colorado.

"I like the constant learning," she said about teaching. "I like how they learn, and I like how I learn, and I love just seeing the world through their eyes."

Since 1980, she gave up teaching in colleges to teach privately, which she has done ever since. She teaches 12-week adult watercolor classes for all painting levels in her Kasilof studio


Brabec-King works on her latest painting, "Striving For The Great Reward."

Photo by Jenny Neyman

"The ones I like to teach the best are the ones who have never painted before," she said. "They don't have any bad habits formed."

In her own painting, Brabec-King is prolific and has received national and international acclaim for her work. She typically has her work accepted into 12 to 15 national and international art shows a year, and her work tends to end up rated in the top 10 percent of each show. Around 1,000 artists generally compete to get their work accepted into each show of these shows, she said.

Recently her work has been displayed in a Montana Watercolor Society show, a Bold Expressions show in Northern California and in an American Watercolor Society show in New York City.

Brabec-King has had her work published in Western Style magazine, and was selected as one of the nation's top 100 watercolorists to be published in the book "Splash 7," published in April. She is one of the founders of the Western Colorado Watercolor Society and a member of American Women's Artists.

In Alaska, she has two paintings on display in the Alaska Watercolor Society show, an annual statewide juried exhibition, at Antique Ltd. at 314 G St. in Anchorage through Oct. 3.

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