Susan Brabeau’s face lit up as she explained her friendly, colorful paintings lining the right-hand wall of an intimate room in downtown Raleigh’s Artspace.
“I know each of the people in these paintings. I like to make fools out of my friends,” she said with a disarming laugh. She points to a dog in an early 20th-century era painting – her Labrador.
“I did take that lady out of a recipe book,” she said, referring to another painting with a jolly woman leaning out of a fountain in “Stomping the Grapes.”
With an acting career on Broadway and life in Los Angeles behind her, and 300 paintings to her name – many of them duplicated into her popular puzzles – Brabeau, 66, possesses talent that recently earned her recognition by a group called the Women Painters of the SouthEast.
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The association’s fourth annual exhibit awarded the first place Award of Excellence to her 18’ x 18’ detailed illustration of a white and blue hydrangea plant.
This year’s award – though the most significant she’s won – is one of several dozen from various competitions in North Carolina.
Her prize took the form of a half-page advertisement in July’s issue of the Southwest Art Magazine – a $2,300 value, she said.
Friendly faces on canvas
“I am the artist who carries on a love for the beauty in a humble face and desperately needs to put it on canvas,” Brabeau wrote in her online bio.
Nearly all of the characters or items in her artwork are something she has seen, owns or is familiar with in her life. However, that doesn’t make it harder to sell the paintings. She’d rather sell them. And with prices ranging from $1,200 to $8,700, it’s understandable.
Brabeau’s busiest night of the month is about to begin. During First Friday in downtown Raleigh, dozens swarm Artspace to view local artwork and shop for paintings.
Most recently, she has moved from daily life scenes to still life as her passion for gardening and the outdoors grew.
She pauses at her latest painting of a cabbage patch, which is, of course, from her backyard in Wendell.
“This one took me three months,” she said. “But I’m not done. I’m actually going to finish it tonight before people get here. There’s still something that makes me unhappy.”
Her perfectionism defines her almost as much as her friendliness and artistic sensibilities.
“People love the stories in my paintings,” she said.
And if you look hard enough, you’ll feel like you, too, know her friends, her family and her Wendell backyard.
To view Brabeau’s paintings, visit: