Coutts Memorial Museum of Art

El Dorado, KS



Palette Impressions: The Art of Helen Brewer


Helen Brewer was born in California in 1912, moving to Parsons, Kansas in 1921. She graduated from Kansas University in 1936 with a double major in English and Psychology. Shortly thereafter she married and started a family. During this period in her life Helen kept busy with volunteer work, PTA, Campfire, Cub Scouts, Community theater and Friends of the Library. She was always interested in art and was a member of both art museums in Wichita.

In the late 1940's, Brewer's creativity found expression on the local stage, both in acting and making costumes for small productions with Mary Jane Teall, who later founded the Wichita Community Theater. Brewer sewed costumes from a designer's sketches using what materials she and Teall could scrounge. Elaborate Shakespearean costumes were gleaned from the old Arcadia Theater; white sheets were dyed, tucked and draped for "Song of Solomon." Brewer recalls that she did act a few times when they were scraping the bottom of the barrel to get someone.

In the late 60's Helen took a few painting workshops from such artists as Jim Hamil and Tom Talbot, but didn't seriously begin painting until the age of 70. She has studied with the Kansas artist Kandy Tate for the last eighteen years. Her talent and age have friends calling her Wichita's own Grandma Moses.

Brewer's painting style resembles impressionism because she doesn't labor over the detail and minutia of a scene - yet her subjects are recognizable. She is more concerned with how overall colors, shading and light affect her subjects. After starting out painting with watercolors, Brewer switched to oils, because "oils are more forgiving of mistakes," she said. She is a member of the Kansas Watercolor Society, Kansas Art Guild, Wichita Oil Painting Society, Kansas Academy of Oil Painters and Women in the Arts. Sire has participated in art contests, earning ribbons enough to fill a big box. (left: For the Love of Two Limes)

Helen says she doesn't try to make a living with her art. Although many of her paintings have sold, the money goes directly to her church, so she doesn't consider herself a professional artist. Helen explains, "I feel that each painting I attempt to do is an adventure - a challenge. It makes life interesting." She gives her husband, Joe, the credit for making it possible for her to continue studying art. "We work as a team," says Brewer. She'll ask Joe to take a picture of something that catches her eye and then she uses the photograph as a reference when she paints. This is especially helpful since she enjoys painting landscapes but it is too difficult for her to paint outside. Her paintings are a visual diary of what interests her.

"Palette Impressions: The Art of Helen Brewer" will be on display through October 27, 2000, at the Coutts Museum of Art, in El Dorado, KS. A special reception for the artist and a public viewing of her work will be held at the museum from 2 - 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 14. Friends of the artist who are members of the musical group The Sun Treaders will provide entertainment during the reception.

Read more about the Coutts Memorial Museum of Art in Resource Library Magazine

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/6/11

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