“Whether you find yourself marveling at the rich colors or the evocative brushstrokes, it’s really about the narrative with Melanie Brannan‘s paintings. There’s always a story behind those brushstrokes. Each painting invites you to stop, be present, and listen.”
-Christopher Miller, The Spiritual Artist Podcast
At an early age she loved art. In elementary school her crayon drawings drew the attention of classmates and sometimes the objection
from her teachers for not following exact instructions. Brannan and her two siblings were raised in Louisiana by a single mother who was a school teacher. “I don’t know how she actually had the funds to send all of us to college, but somehow she did,” Brannan said. “I really admire my mother, she never gave up and always said ‘hard work pays off.'” At the age of 10, her mother gave her a small set of oil paints. The set didn’t come with a paint brush so she created her first painting on a discarded wooden panel with toothpicks. From that painting, she knew found her place. In high school, Brannan won her first two Best of Show awards in art competitions.
Brannan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Louisiana Tech University in Advertising and Graphic Design. She desperately wanted to change her major from design to fine art but her painting professor persuaded her to stay with design, telling her she would return to painting one day. Years later, that is exactly what happened.
Brannan Design Years Brannan opened her own graphic design firm in Dallas, Texas which she had for 25 years. Her client list included national and international accounts including Neiman Marcus, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Southwest Airlines, and Mobil Oil Corporation. “It was a great run, having my own business. I had
the best clients in Dallas, working with nationally renowned writers, printers, photographers and illustrators; producing work that garnered solid results for my clients, all while making a great living. I loved the pressure of creating great work, deadlines and budgets. And, I loved
working with my clients, especially Neiman Marcus. I was told I had to meet twoof three objectives: 1. Top quality, 2. On budget, 3. Never miss the deadline…but the reality was I had to make all three objectives. I had that account for 25 years, even working directly with Stanley Marcus.” In 2008, the economy started a downward spiral resulting in many businesses having to retool, including Brannan’s.
From Designer to Fine Artist
In 2009, Brannan closed the design firm and returned to painting. She starting working with a client who was building a home in Highland Park and wanted a few commission pieces. For years, they would meet weekly discussing art, reviewing comps and delivering the final pieces. She painted 27 pieces for that home, calling it her own private gallery. Those paintings were the departure point for her new career, learning techniques and what acrylic paints were capable of.
Learning While Teaching
While starting this new career as a fine artist, Brannan taught painting classes to adults and children. She discovered how much she loved to teach, the techniques, the history of art and the Masters. Brannan stated, “Teaching has brought so much to my own paintings. When you are teaching a Matisse, van Gogh or Kandinsky, you have to know their story, brush strokes, techniques and palettes. You have a deeper understanding of connections between art movements, artists and their communities. Even the history of culture and politics. It has brought a deeper level of understanding to my painting. I will forever be a student of art.” And she has touched many lives of those she teaches. “So many people expect perfection when they paint. But art, just like life, is not perfect. We need to be forgiving of ourselves. If you don’t like what’s happening on the canvas, change what’s on your brush,” Brannan states. Isn’t that a lesson we all need
to learn? Since the ‘pandamnit’ as she calls it, Brannan also teaches online, having clients nationwide through the Pacific Arts League in Palo Alto. She has taught workshops in France and Italy and also teaches yearly workshops in Santa Fe. When asked about her most memorable students she stated, “Lucca and Angela. I worked with seven-year-old Lucca while in the hospital recovering from a life-threatening illness. And Angela, painting with me one more time was the last wish on her bucket list. I went to her hospice room, and we painted an owl for her grandson’s room. She passed two days later. I’ll never forget them.”
Golden Artist Colors Educator
In 2017, Golden Artist Colors, the inventor of acrylic paints, invited her to become a Certified Educator (there are 200 worldwide) for their paints. Brannan stated, “It was without a doubt the greatest week of my life, in New Orleans with artists from all over the world. We experimented with all of Golden’s paints, gels, pastes, mediums. I was blown away with each project, learning what was possible with these paints. With the new knowledge of their products and new applications, it caused my style to explode. I’ve used their paint exclusively since 2009, and am still learning what these paints are capable of.”
The Influencers of Her Art
Brannan considers her major influences to be Matisse (his color palette), van Gogh (his life and struggles), Kandinsky (his synesthesia), Marc (his camouflage in WWI), Thiebaud (the graphic nature of his subjects), Disney (how to grow a simple idea), Renoir (only painting happy scenes), Monet (overcoming poverty through hard work and talent), and O’Keeffe (her simplified subject matter). Impressionism and Expressionism are her favorite art movements. “Those artists changed the world. They captured light, feelings and life on canvas. I hope I am doing them justice,” Brannan said.
Six Solo Exhibitions in Four Years
Brannan’s work has been accepted into many national juried competitions. She had six solo exhibitions in Dallas in the past four years at the Eisemann Center for Performing Arts, Dallas Cowboys Lincoln Star Center, Addison Convention Center and ADC Fine Art in Cincinnati. Being the prolific painter that she is, in 2021, Brannan created ‘A Celebration of Friendship,’ a solo exhibition at the Eisemann Center dedicated to her friend and gallery director, Maryann Wegloski, who was diagnosed with cancer. Twenty-four paintings were created in seven weeks about their friendship. Proceeds went to AIM at Melanoma Foundation, total funds raised: $14,000. Brannan said, “Maryann’s show will always be my greatest exhibition. I texted her the paintings as they were finished, and it brought her such great joy during the darkest of days. I was honored to be able to paint for her and express my gratitude of our friendship. She never got to see her show in person as she passed away just as it was installed. It touched the hearts of so many, seeing the paintings and reading the stories. It helped us all through the very difficult time of losing Maryann.” After seeing the exhibition, artist Kimberly Kort stated, "The paintings are so descriptive of what your relationship was with Maryann. I believe even after our friends and family have left us, they always remain in our heart, mind and soul. This exhibition has made an everlasting impact on me. I am always inspired by your art.” In continuing her philanthropic work, Brannan also participated with 12 artists for the Santa Fe Humane Society’s “Driving Change Through Art” by painting a 4 x 4 foot paintings of Bea the Rottweiler.
A Painter of Contemporary Abstract Landscapes
Artists are frequently asked how do you choose your subject matter. “I paint what I feel. I paint where am at peace. The images are inspired by my love of nature, it’s where I go to unwind. Those calming feelings are inside me and just come out on the canvas. In college, my favorite artists and paintings to learn about were the landscapes of Cezanne, van Gogh and Monet. Years later, my landscapes starting pouring out on my canvases.” Brannan states. “I have so many paintings inside of me. I’m going to be painting for very long time. Sometimes I don’t even remember how I painted some of my pieces. They just happen in such a state of peace. I wish everyone could experience that state.”
“Your work is beautiful. It inspires peace and the thought 'I wish I was wherever this is’.”
“I'm looking out the window of my spaceship and admiring the beauty of the universe. That's where you took me Melanie!”
“It makes me feel like I’m in a dream.”
“When I saw this painting, it reminded me of the spirit of my father, it made me think of him as the sun, shining light into my heart and the world forever. ”
“After a particularly difficult year, my anxiety evaporated when I saw your painting, and I was able to breathe.”
Brannan is inspired by compassion, truth, and respect. That’s how she lives her life. She is also inspired by music. She can see the tone in Keith Urban’s voice, the value in Finneas’ and Eric Church’s lyrics are “A whole different color,” according to Brannan. That is because she has a very nice case synesthesia. She also is hyper sensitive as many artist are. “I think that’s one reason you can see so much emotion in my paintings. I truly feel the colors and strokes as they go down.” As for her greater purpose in life, “I want to be able to use my talent for the good by doing more solo shows with a purpose.” In her next project, ‘Women with Power and Compassion,’ she will be collaborating with writer and artist Christopher Miller. This exhibition will be in her PopRocks style. She is seeking a gallery to host this exhibition.
Melanie resides in Dallas, Texas. She designed and built her at-home studio in 2014. Brannan stated,“It’s simply the greatest place to paint. Somehow a writer in Australia saw pictures of my studio and included it in an article on Houzz’s ‘Top 20 Most Creative Spaces’!”
Her spare time is spent around a campfire with friends cooking and laughing. She is quite the campfire chef. When she is not in her studio, she is in Santa Fe painting and hiking in Galisteo Basin on a trail named after her mother, “Nana’s Surprise.”