Reid Brawer graduated from Bowdoin College in May 2021 with a degree in Visual Arts and Digital Computational Studies and will be based out of NYC following graduation. He grew up in Berkeley, CA surrounded by the California coastline, majestic redwoods and expansive rolling hills that changed with the seasons.
He works in pastels and enjoys scumbling across silkscreened pastel paper and blending with his fingers to create texture and layers over his drawings of landscapes. His work is inspired by familiarity of place and varying amounts of detail in creating reality through simple marks in his individuals works. Reid especially loves finding light composition and unique cloudscapes within each piece.
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I use chalk pastels to investigate the personal familiarity to place through close observation of photographs I collect while on walks. Hiking, especially this past year has been a space in which I can clear my mind. My hope is that in seeing these landscapes people are inspired to get out and visit their favorite outdoor reprieves more often.
Although I have only recently discovered pastels as a medium, they have given me creative freedom in my drawings through tactile feedback from the materials as I often use my fingers directly on the paper. Before beginning any piece, I look at color, light, and composition to create a sense of unease in visually pleasing landscapes. I work from digital photographs on my iPad that I took while on hikes mostly around the Bay Area. This allows me to find a focus between the amount of detail I want to include in a specific section of a work. I often break pastels into smalls pieces and turn them sideways to pull the color across the paper with varying pressure for varying amounts of detail. The paper I use is called colourfix and is specially designed for chalk pastels as it is silkscreened with grit that helps pull the pastel across the surface. This also allows to me give my drawings a depth of color as some color can be pushed into the paper while others are left on the surface.
In Reid Brawer’s pastel drawings, crisp horizon lines contouring rolling hills and waterscapes are placed in contrast to vast skies of soft blue and grey tones. Clouds and greenery of varying textures clash to create images that are both dynamic and static, realistic and abstract. The vibrant and unnatural colors suggest an imaginary scene, a place that stands on the line between reality and a dream.
As written in his artist statement, Brawer uses “chalk pastels to investigate the personal familiarity to place through close observation of photographs [he has] collect[ed] while on walks.” Extending beyond ‘personal familiarity’, however, these landscapes contain enough ambiguity to make these places feel recognizable to viewers who have not visited them. Both the soft nature of pastels and the absence of defining structures in these places contributes to this sense of universal familiarity that Brawer has captured. Ambiguity fosters imagination, and in Brawer’s work, it allows the viewer to place themselves within the scene and further develop the world around them.