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Saturday, August 23, 2014, 12:26 p.m.
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Richard Brim

Arkadelphia native returns home to paint everyday life

By Wayne Bryan

This article was published June 22, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

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Richard Brim, an Arkadelphia native, stands beside some of his paintings that are currently on display at the Arkadelphia Art Center. Farrell Ford, director of the arts center, noted that Brim’s works have drawn attention because of “bold colors” and “scenes of everyday life.” Such attributes should not prove a surprise because Brim lists Norman Rockwell, a noted artist who captured American culture, as his biggest art influence.

Richard Brim, a Clark County native, has several works of art in the Summer Splash exhibition now on display at the Arkadelphia Arts Center.

Farrell Ford, director of the arts center, said Brim’s paintings have “attracted attention with their bold colors and scenes of everyday life,” but Brim said most of the people in the county aren’t aware that he is an artist.

“Few folks around here know I’m creative,” Brim said. “Few friends here have seen my work yet.”

Although the Gum Springs native was raised in the community, graduated from Arkadelphia High School and studied art for a while at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Brim has been away from home for most of his life and only recently returned. He said he left and returned for the usual reasons.

“I left when I joined the military,” he said. “I joined because I didn’t want to get stuck here with a low-paying job. I returned in April of last year after I retired because my mother is 80 and needed help, and I was the only child.”

All his life, Brim said, he has been interested in drawing and art. He said the biggest influence in his art has been Norman Rockwell. A famous painter and illustrator, Rockwell may be the most popular artist in American history.

Rockwell’s depictions of ordinary Americans going about their lives were often touching and dramatic, not only capturing scenes but reflecting American culture.

“I want to do honest paintings, like Rockwell did,” Brim said. “I’m impressed with the things we do in everyday life. I paint things like working, going to the store, traveling back home and cooking. And I also want to paint what we do when we take the time to relax in simple ways — like going out on a boat and just cruising around.”

While Brim never stopped creating with his talents, he had to hold off on his art to serve as a cook in the U.S. Army from 1975 to 1979.

“I enjoyed being a cook,” he said, smiling. “For me, the big thing was I was never outside in the cold. We were in Fort Riley, Kansas, and then in Europe, and I was always inside a warm tent cooking.”

He said that while being an army cook didn’t help him find a career, being in Kansas did.

“Coming home or going to Kansas City, I used to go though Topeka, and I liked it there,” Brim said. “Two weeks after leaving the Army, I was working for Hallmark Cards Co. in their plant in Topeka.”

He was employed at the plant for almost 30 years, working his way up to being a printer at the card company, which was based in Kansas City, Missouri. He said he had hoped to become one of the artists who designed the cards.

Then one day, there was a surprise for everyone at the plant.

“I had been there 29 years and eight months, and then they called a meeting and said the plant was going to close,” Brim said. “A lot of people were crying and upset. While I was surprised, I was only four months away from retirement, and my mother was needing help. I knew I would be coming back here.”

While living in Kansas, Brim continue to develop his art and had several pieces on display in galleries in Topeka. Also, during those years in Kansas, Brim said he got to know Murv Jacob, a painter with his own gallery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

“He had an exhibition in Kansas, and I saw his work and bought a piece, and we have become friends,” Brim said. “He is also a painter who has taught himself to be an artist, and we talk often, and what he says encourages me. He is always telling me, ‘Just work on it, and hone your craft.’”

Brim said he likes working with strong colors in his paintings.

“I like bright, bold colors,” he said. “I might start with red and then blend it with another color or fade it off until it almost looks white, or it gets very dark. The blending can go in any direction, and that changes a painting.”

With more time to work on his art, Brim said, he is buying a building that will become his studio.

“I’m getting a 16- by 22-foot building for my studio,” he said. “It’s small, but it will be big enough. I can’t work in my mother’s house. I’m a mess when I paint. I will spill some paint or drop a brush.”

Brim said he hopes to add another piece or two to the Summer Splash exhibition that will continue through Aug. 2. He said he is also thinking of participating in the Caddo River Art Guild tour, scheduled for October.

Brim is working on a landscape with cabins and a lake. He said the scene is not a place he has seen, but comes from his head.

“Sometimes I use places I know, but I can be inspired by something I see in a magazine,” he said. “When it all comes together, it is uniquely mine.”

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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