The paintbrush still has the power to evoke a sense of place that feels timeless

When Linda Bradshaw begins a painting, it starts with place. That place could be the view just outside the window of her home studio in Pennington, in New Jersey; it could be in the greater Hopewell area, or Main Street in Pennington. Vermont, too, where she shares a second home with her son’s family, provides inspirational scenery; or it could be on any of her travels around the world. Wherever she goes – the beach, Central Park, New Hampshire barns — Bradshaw totes her kit bag, complete with everything she needs to create her watercolor paintings: brushes and water, palette and paint tubes, pencils and paper, spray bottle. She has a folding chair and table, and people stop to chat. 

“I know tons of people because I’ve either taught them or their children,” she said. The crossing guard will be in her painting of Main Street, Pennington. She’s also painted the Kunkel House on Delaware Avenue in Pennington, with its turret, gables and stone porch.

But finding the scene is just the beginning. From there she overlays her vision, translating the scene from her head to paper, adding detail and nuance. “I love the details,” she admitted.

Bradshaw is exhibiting her work at the Pennington School’s Silva Gallery. Images in Water and Light: Linda Bradshaw through January 15, 2016.

After teaching art for 26 years, Bradshaw kept busy as one of the group who established the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, co-chairing the committee for the Stampede, last year’s event of 69 artist-painted oxen placed on view throughout the region. Along the way it raised $150,000 for the fledgling organization.

Co-chairing the committee turned into a two-year full-time job, she recounted, after the initial invitation: “Come to an 8 a.m. meeting about a cool art project” with the mayors of Pennington, Hopewell and Titusville.

She and co-chair Carol Lipson purchased the 69 oxen from the Theme Factory for less than $2,000 each, thanks to seed money from benefactors, and put out a call to artists to submit their bio, concept and a drawing. In the end, every artist who submitted was accepted. Bradshaw recounts doing a great deal of research on other organizations who had done similar projects, such as the Mules of Bucks County and the North Carolina Cow Parade.

Bradshaw’s own ox, “Rooted,” covered with birch trees, now lives on a farm in Westchester, Pennsylvania, and grew out of her love for trees. “I got hooked painting birch trees in Vermont,” she said. “I like the white against white (in scenes of snow).” Her winter birch paintings show the depth of the forest with their patterns in bark, echoed in patterns in the sky. She also likes to paint leaves turning yellow against a striated sky.

Among her other paintings is one of a plump woman in a straw hat at the beach, seated and reading a newspaper as children and a dog frolic around her. “It reminds me of my mother,” said Bradshaw.

In a painting of a yellow cottage in Martha’s Vineyard, colorful towels hang from a clothesline. An old castle town in Italy with narrow streets is reminiscent of Utrillo’s street scenes. There are clapboard beach houses in Nantucket, boats in Ireland, mailboxes in Marblehead, in colors ranging from faded blue, red and purple to pink and green against fall foliage. “Stop the car!” you can hear her saying as her husband drives by at 70 mph.

Bradshaw has a painting buddy, Susan Ewart, with whom she spends Saturdays going to St. Michaels Preserve in Hopewell or the Delaware & Raritan Canal in Lambertville. “I love being in the country,” she said. “I still hear the cows.”

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The Artful Blogger is written by Ilene Dube and offers a look inside the art world of the greater Princeton area. Ilene Dube is an award-winning arts writer and editor, as well as an artist, curator and activist for the arts.

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