Brian Drake may have traveled the world and spent most of his adult life in big cities, but he loves his life as owner of a small town art gallery off the square in Stephenville.
Drake started out with a co-op gallery in Fort Worth in 1996, but the local painter is now in his ninth year in his Stephenville gallery, as the owner of Brian Drake Studio and Gallery. The studio showcases not only his work but other artists as well.
“I have about 17 to 20 artists at any given time here in the gallery, with anywhere from eight to 10 of them being jewelry artists. I do really well with jewelry here,” he said.
Despite his love of painting, Drake has no formal training. He worked in the jewelry business for many years and only began painting as a hobby after he retired from working as an officer on Carnival Cruise Lines.
“When I got off the ships after five years I had about 30 pounds of photographs of some of the most beautiful places in the world. I knew I was going to start painting and I did,” Drake explains. “I picked up a paintbrush for the first time in probably 10 years and started working on doing some seascapes pieces.”
He soon realized though that painting Texas type sceneries would be best if he was going to live in Texas, so he started working on iconic Texas pieces and discovered he really enjoyed it.
“If you are living in Texas, people don’t care about the ocean they want to buy Texas,” Drake said.
Most of Drake’s work includes a variety of landscapes and iconic Texas sceneries. Drake said he does a lot of Texas themed pieces and a lot of abstract work, but he likes to do a bit of everything.
“I like color schemes and compositions of people like Monet. I like Picasso’s color, I like all of his stuff, but I tend to gravitate towards artists who are dreamy,” Drake said.
The gallery is full of paintings with life and vibrant color; with everything from portraits to landscapes and watercolors. Landscapes and sceneries are the most prevalent with pictures like windmills silhouetted against purple sunsets, aspen trees in the fall and entangled vines full of bright flowers. Similar to the paintings adorning the walls, Drake himself is a gentleman with a welcoming personality and voice.
One of the ways Drake gets his stunning scenes is by traveling. From quaint country roads to vast wildflower fields, some of Drake’s best selling landscapes have been inspired by photographs.
“Rather than just a photograph of a vista, I like to pull in one little piece of it and paint that one piece,” said Drake. “That’s kind of my style; that’s what I like to do and that’s kind of what I’m known for at this point.”
Drake considers himself a Texas artist.
“I enjoy painting things that are Texas iconic and things that represent being a Texas artist. Bluebonnets, old barns, the old cow skull and old barbwire fences, things like the really spectacular sunsets we get here,” he said.
Drake believes art should be soothing and comfortable.
"By doing Texas landscapes and stuff like that, those are places, feelings and colors that are familiar, comfortable and soothing to me; that’s why I paint what I paint,” he Drake.
The idea of something relaxing yet colorful is why Drake takes pleasure in painting abstract works of art.
“Something different in abstract work always appeals to someone; everybody likes something different. That’s why I like abstract work, because it’s relaxing to me and it’s just as challenging as when you’re trying to do something like photo realism. Usually abstract work is as well thought out as any realism piece is, it’s something that you plan,” said Drake.
Due to his love of abstract work, Drake has come up with unusual and creative ways to display it, creating his own line of frames for certain canvases.
“I like to paint on the canvas where it wraps all the way around the edge and they don’t make frames for that type of canvas (museum wrap canvas),” said Drake. “So I’ve basically made and designed a whole series of those frames for those canvases. They’re kind of a background frame and they’ve been very popular since I’ve been here.”
Drake moved to Stephenville about nine years ago after some encouragement from friends.
“I grew up in a little tiny town in the Texas panhandle called Channing, but I had always in my adult life lived in or around cities. I just felt that I wanted to get back into a smaller town and I had several friends here that encouraged me to try out Stephenville,” said Drake. “The community was absolutely as accepting as any, I mean they were great, the Chamber of Commerce was great, and the people in the town were friendly and receptive.”
Drake loves his studio in downtown Stephenville, despite the lack of traffic.
“I don’t want to move out to the Westside. I want to be here and the most important thing to me is to get out that this is not some kind of a stuffy art gallery where people feel snooty. It’s just a nice comfortable place to come and that’s the type of place that I want to have,” said Drake.
A large part of Drake’s business involves traveling on the weekends. He started out small with shows in Comanche and Dublin, but now travels all across Texas.
“The best advertising for my type of business was for me to put my hand out, shake somebody’s hand, look them in the eye and tell them who I was and where I was, and you know, it turned out to be fantastic in getting people in the door,” said Drake. “I like to get out in the middle of the public and I like to be around people and its enjoyable for me, it’s what I like to do.”
Drake says he always has an eye open for new shows he has not been to before, but he always appreciates and enjoys his local clientele.
“I still get nice receptions from people who live in Stephenville. I have a lot of regular customers. I have people who follow my work or the work of their favorite artists and I have tons of jewelry customers here in town,” he said.
For more nformation on Brian Drake and his studio, visit www.briandrake.net.