Perched on scaffolding for three months this summer in downtown Eagle, artist Brenda Kaye made a lot of new friends.
While painting a 42-foot-by-10-foot mural depicting a wild horse roundup across sagebrush-dotted hills as seen through three arched windows, Kaye talked to 30 to 40 passers-by a day. Some visitors became regulars, stopping almost daily to check on the photo-like mural’s progress and chat with the artist.
The mural, located on the new Smoky Mountain Pizza building in downtown Eagle, is the first one commissioned by the Eagle Arts Commission. Kaye received a $5,000 grant and about $1,000 for supplies.
“We selected Brenda because of her unique artistic quality,” said Eagle Arts Commission Chair Linda Butler. “You feel her images moving on the canvas. They are very realistic, and her blending of colors is exceptional,”
Kaye says she is fascinated by color. It is crucial to capturing a subject’s feeling, texture and action.
“I never use paint right out of the tube,” she said. She creates her own blends specific to each detail. In the Eagle mural, the sagebrush sports 18 different color blends.
Kaye did all the mural work by herself, including spending hours in triple-digit heat with a grinder, smoothing the building’s cinder-block surface in preparation for painting. “I ground that puppy down,” Kaye said.
Cheered by the positive public response to Kaye’s work, the arts commission hopes to do another public art project next year — possibly another mural, Butler said.
Kaye was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the community embraced the project.
“This is their mural. It is part of their community. They are proud of it,” she said.
And the feeling is mutual. Eagle holds a special place in Kaye’s heart. She moved to the community from Boise during the painful process of a divorce.
“It is a very healing community,” she said.
AN ARTIST’S MISSION
“I am going to paint my way through this life trying to add beauty to it,” Kaye said. “If I can create some beauty in the world, that is good enough.”
Kaye, who moved back to Boise, has been painting full-time since 2005. The majority of her work is word-of-mouth commissions for her oil paintings.
Specializing in horses, she has met some interesting equines.
She traveled to a 150,000-acre Black Angus ranch in Wyoming to paint the foreman and his best working, albeit cranky, horse, Knucklehead.
She spent two weeks in Sun Valley photographing and painting Belgian draft horses and their companion, a rescued mustang.
During Tamarack Resort’s brief heyday, she was in the spotlight as CEO Jean Pierre Boespflug’s favorite painter. She painted 21 pieces for Tamarack Lodge and homeowners. “Fortunately, I did get paid,” she said.
While spending time at Tamarack she crawled around on the forest floor examining the fauna. She became enamored with the Idaho trillium and created a 48-inch-by-48-inch hyperrealistic painting of a single delicate white flower.
As part of her mission to share beauty through her art, Kaye donates at least one painting a year to a charitable cause.
One of those donations, a Boise State Bronco 2007 Fiesta Bowl painting, generated a couple of stories of its own.
She donated the original painting to the Bronco Athletic Association for a fund-raising auction. Boespflug bought it, only to have it later liquidated when Tamarack Resort went bankrupt. A Meridian Bronco fan now owns that painting.
When Kaye decided she wanted to do something special for Idaho troops stationed in the Middle East — “to help bring some kind of beauty to that hostile environment” — she made a print of her Fiesta Bowl painting and asked Coach Pete, members of the football team, Gov. Butch Otter and other dignitaries sign it. She gave it to the Idaho Air National Guard, and it traveled with the A-10 Warthog jets to Iraq. When that deployment ended, the print came back with the guardsmen. It went out again when the Black Hawk helicopters were deployed to Afghanistan.
“It was on the road for almost two years before coming home. Now it hangs at the Air National Guard,” she said. “I received so many emails saying how appreciative they were; it was like having a piece of home with them.”
Kaye is sometimes asked to paint portraits of cherished horses or pets or to memorialize special events or people.
She finds these types of paintings especially rewarding because she is giving the owners something more than a representational image. She is giving them a reminder of something joyous in their lives.
“It gives them a feeling,” she said. “The best payment is tears of appreciation.”
One painting she did not get to do, though, has given Kaye her own life-changing moment.
Micron CEO Steve Appleton wanted Kaye to paint a portrait of him and his family with one of his favorite airplanes.
“Steve really wanted to get the whole family together, so we scheduled it for spring break. He was killed Feb. 3,” she said.
“What I have regretted the most in my career is missing out on making that painting happen. His death just made me so aware of every day. You never know when all of the sudden it will be gone.”
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell