Image Bruce Garrabrandt in his studio

Artist and Author Bruce S. Garrabrandt in his studio

It’s true, laughter is the best medicine. Bruce Garrabrandt’s artworks have a very special way of immediately uplifting the soul. When we view Bruce’s fabulous whimsical and comical artworks we can’t help but smile. In an instant we’re whisked away, transported into another world. A world where things aren’t quite how they’re meant to be, and in a good way too. Bruce has a way of making us laugh with the simplest of statements and imagery. His work is absolutely brilliant!

To be able to uplift the spirit, to make us laugh and forget about reality with all the struggles in life, even for a moment, is such a beautiful gift that Bruce has to offer the world. I hope that you too experience the same happiness I feel when I view his artworks, and that you enjoy reading all about his unique journey into the wonderful world of illustrating and writing as a career. Bruce clearly is a master at using the coloured pencil medium to illustrate his comical, playful sense of humour to us all.

Interview with Bruce S. Garrabrandt by Cindy Wider

 

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: How We Get Sour Cream Medium: Coloured Pencil Size: 12″ x 13 3/4″

 

Q: Please tell us your preferred art name year of birth and Country of origin

A: Bruce S. Garrabrandt, born in 1955—the year Einstein died.  I guess God figured, “When one great mind leaves the world, another one…”   Well, perhaps not.  I was raised in New Jersey.  I was lowered there, too.  I had an up and down childhood.  Today I live in a small, Lancaster County town with my innkeeper wife Jan, at the Artist’s Inn and Gallery.  We’ve been married nearly thirty years.  When people ask me the secret to our enduring relationship, I tell them “heavy sedation on her part.”

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Amusement Pork Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 10 3/4″ x 13 3/8″

 

Bruce once said “I don’t care how long it takes—I’m going to learn how to do that.”

 

Q: Bruce could you tell us when you first realised that you enjoyed creating art as a child and you were supported in your decision, if so by who?

A: My passion for art began when I was in second grade.  The teacher that year, Mrs. Walldyer, had a talent for doing colored chalk drawings on the blackboard to celebrate the change of seasons.  Everyone in class was fascinated to watch her, but I remember sitting there thinking, “I don’t care how long it takes—I’m going to learn how to do that.”  I believe it was also in second grade that I met a fellow classmate who could take a blank sheet of paper and fill it with cartoon images.   Having no artistic ability, I looked at his creations as something almost magical.

Mom kept me well-stocked in paper and pencils when I was a kid.  I spent countless hours teaching myself how to draw.  I’d try to copy from photographs.  Early efforts showed little promise, but persistence combined with a passion eventually paid off.  G.K. Chesterton once said, “A thing worth doing is worth doing badly.”  We have to do things badly until we learn to do them well.  Passion is what sees us through the inevitable frustrations we experience in developing any talent or ability.  Another favorite quote of mine, this one from Thomas Edison,  “Most of the failures in life are people who didn’t realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

My parents didn’t see any real talent in me until I was in my mid-teens.  By then I was doing pencil portraits of favorite comedians like Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields, and the Marx Brothers.

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Rambrandt Medium: Coloured Pencil Size: 13 1/3″ x 10 3/4″

 

From selling itch medications to an art career selling humourous art

 

Q: What journey have you been on as an artist. For example when did you first begin to create art as an adult? Did you study at all and if so where? 

A: In college, I chose to major in English rather than art partly because my parents said a degree in English Education was more practical than one in Fine Art, but also because I love our language and good writing.  Throughout my college years I submitted short stories to The New Yorker, and amassed enough rejection slips to paper my dorm room walls.

After college, I launched a business marketing itch medications.  I started that business from scratch.  (I can almost hear you groaning.)  Seriously, I got a job as an account rep in newspaper advertising, selling ad space and helping customers create ad copy.  My heart wasn’t in it, so I decided the rest of me shouldn’t be there, either. Seven years into that job, at age thirty, I began a part-time business marketing my artwork at juried arts festivals, at galleries, and at gunpoint.  Festivals were on the weekends, so I kept my day job until the art business could grow and replace my ad man’s salary.  That took another six years.

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Van Goat Medium: Coloured pencil Size: Size: 13 3/4″ x 12″

When I began my business as an artist, the work I offered for sale consisted of traditional wildlife and landscape drawings.  About seven years later, I started introducing whimsical wildlife drawings with punch-line titles.  I’d always loved humor, but it took years before I realized  I could combine that love of humor with my art.  I was a slow learner, but eventually figured things out.  I continued producing traditional work until 2001.  Four days after 9/11, I sat at an outdoor show in Upper Montclair, NJ.  Many of the residents in that town died in the World Trade Towers.  I thought the show would be cancelled.  The crowds were thin, but all weekend people came into my booth, laughed at the whimsical drawings on display, then turned to say some variation of this:  “Thanks—that’s the first time I’ve laughed in four days.”  It was humbling.  I sat there thinking, “God gave us humor because He knew we were going to need it.”  That weekend I decided to leave traditional art and dedicate myself to creating “random acts of artistic nonsense” exclusively.  I’ve never looked back.  Humor is essential, especially during difficult times.  Interesting that “The Golden Age of Comedy” was during the decade of the 1930’s,   The supply of humor rose to meet a greater demand during the Great Depression.  Americans needed to laugh then, and I think we need to laugh now.  Humor sees us through our troubled days.

You don’t see a lot of humor in art, so the niche I’ve created for myself has been a lot of fun.  Humor connects us to one another.  Good comedy makes for camaraderie!

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Are your brakes squealing–or is that you? Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 13 3/8″ x 10 3/4″

 

Q: What is the primary motivation for why you create art? For example; Is it income or a burning passion to draw/paint?

A: Passion is my motivation for creating art.  I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to earn my living doing what I love.

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Sausage Links Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 10 3/4″ by 13 3/8″

 

The notion of failure doesn’t intimidate Bruce

Q: What goes through your mind while you draw/paint, is there a calm silence, do you listen to music or do you experience doubt, fear or any emotions at all? If you experience fear or doubt what do you do to overcome these feelings?

A: What goes through my mind when I’m drawing?  Well, let me answer this way:  A woman once walked into my booth at an arts festival, glanced around at my work, then turned to say, “I’d love to get inside your head.”  I told her, “Come on in—there’s plenty of room.”

Because my original drawings usually require 100 or more hours to complete, I like to listen to talk radio while I work at the easel.  After so many years as an artist, fear and doubt rarely accompany me.  I work in pencil and colored pencil, so the notion of failure doesn’t intimidate me—because I can always erase!

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Swine Tasting and Udder Delights Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 10 3/4″ by 13 3/8″

 

Arising before dawn for quality creative time

Q: How do you make time to include art in your life, do you have any suggestions to help others manage their creative lives?

A: In my youth, I was never a “morning person,” but that changed more than thirty years ago, when I began setting my alarm clock a little earlier each day and using that time to write or draw.  As the months passed, I found myself arising well before dawn, and came to cherish this as “quality creative time.”  No ringing phones, no doorbells, no interruptions.  I continue the practice to this day.  It’s a commitment I recommend to anyone who wishes to increase his/her creative output.  We make time for art in our lives by making time for art.  Discipline is a habit that, over time, pays big creative dividends.   Actually, we can choose any time of day or night to commit to our passion.   The key is to do it—daily and without exception.

Artist: Bruce S. Garabrandt Title: Belly Up To The Bar Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 13 3/8″ x 10 3/4″

 

Q: Is Drawing and creating artworks your only profession or main business. If not, what else do you do for work?

A: Creating artworks is not my only passion.  I love to write as well.  My first book, The Power of Having Desire (2004, Possibility Press) was written to help readers commit to their dreams and realize more of their creative potential.  A central theme of the book is that, if someone as flawed and absent-minded as I am can transform a passion into a talent, then anyone can.

Make Yourself Ageless and Life Lines, companion inspirational gift books, were also created to offer readers tangible ways to enjoy more creative, fulfilling lives.  I think a lot of people undervalue themselves.  They wrongly believe that innate talent is the key to success.  It is not.  Few of us are born with talent.  Everyone is born with innate passions.  These are our God-given gifts.  It’s up to us to transform these passions into talents and abilities—and then use them in ways that serve others.

My cats wrote two gift books, My Name Is On The Deed, But The Cats Own The House, and Yarnivore.  I was just their artist and stenographer.

Four coffee table books feature my artistic silliness and enable me to offer customers a collection of many hundreds of drawings at an affordable price.  I figure, not everyone has wall space, but who doesn’t have room for a playful coffee table book?

Artist: Bruce S. Garabrandt Title: Celebrating Diversity Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 10 3/4″ x 13 3/8″

 

Creative spirit dwells within each of us

Q: Do you have any special unique advice or skills to share with other artists who are learning to create artworks at this very high standard that you are working at?

A: Looking back over my 35 years as a professional artist and author, I’m both grateful and humbled by the path my life has taken.  To be able to do what I love in ways that touch others is a blessing, indeed.

I believe creative spirit dwells within each of us, and the most pleasurable way to awaken and nurture that creativity is through humor, because humor puts us in a playful state of mind.  Playfulness is the home of creativity—at any age.  A humorous, light-hearted attitude activates our imagination and creative capabilities.  Couple these qualities to some cherished desire and we have valuable tools to accomplish whatever dream we long to fulfill.

 

Artist: Bruce S. Garabrandt Title: Social Distancing Exclusions Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 10.75″ x 13.3″

 

Q: Bruce please tell us about any significant awards you have won or exhibitions that have made an impact on your life.

A: Through the decades, I’ve won a number of “Best of Show” awards at arts festivals, and I’ve been interviewed by various newspapers and magazines, but my greatest satisfaction comes from creating art and books that people enjoy enough to purchase for themselves and to give as gifts.  I love my customers.  Without them, I’d be saying things like, “You want fries with that?”

 

Artist: Bruce S. Garrabrandt Title: Bacon Lattice and Tomato Medium: Coloured pencil Size: 13 3/4″ x 12″

 

Do what you love in ways that serve others

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to tell me in this interview, to inspire others?

A: Here’s a little experiment for you.  Ask people to tell you what they want out of life.  Ask them to tell you—in ten words or less—their goals.  You’ll usually get one of two answers.  It’s either “I want to be rich” or “I want to be happy.”  But these aren’t goals.  They are by-products, and they come to us once we’ve identified what we’re passionate about, and committed ourselves to developing that into a talent or ability that can be used in service to other people.  Want to know the secret to happiness in just nine words?  It’s really no secret at all:  Do what you love in ways that serve others.  You’ll know a gratification, a personal satisfaction, a sense of fulfillment that life offers us in no other way.

Comedian Steve Allen always said that jokes and humorous ideas came more readily to him as he grew older.  I find the same to be true.  The longer I live, the more experience there is for me to draw upon (no pun intended), and the easier it is to create playful word and picture combinations.

Churchill once remarked, “Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely.  Light and color, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day.”  For me, retirement age will be death.  Why would I end what brings me the greatest joy to devote my days to something else?

To see more from Bruce S. Garrabrandt and to purchase his fabulous uplifting artworks and books see the links below:

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