Elemental Art Brenda Salamone, Artist
Brenda Salamone was born in Tucson, AZ, but grew up in south Florida. Now in Los Angeles, her studio occupies a corner of the apartment she shares with her husband, Dean, and their six cats.
Salamone has traveled all over the world, finding locations and subjects to paint. Her favorites are the Greek Islands, especially Santorini, and her dream to travel to the Scottish Highlands to capture the wild landscapes, lochs, and standing stones of that ancient land came true as her honeymoon. When she moved to southern California in 2001, her art became inspired by the untamed beauty of the southwest desert, and the crashing waves and giant cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. In her current, Salamone has been working more in abstracts, but still finds the soothing beauty of nature to be a favorite subject. Her paintings have won awards both internationally and in the United States, and she is represented by Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.
“I don’t know if I ever came to a realization that I wanted to become an artist, I just was an artist. I started drawing portraits and horses when I was around 10.”
For Salamone, her first artistic exposure came from her father, Placido. He is an architect and painted quite a bit while in college in the 60’s. He was her earliest teacher and influence, and she grew up admiring his mid-century modern paintings. It is still her favorite style, both in art and in architecture/decor.
After graduating from the University of Florida, she searched for quite a while for her artistic calling. She painted murals at restaurants, or would draw the occasional portrait on commission, but an exciting new art technology would soon catch her eye. When the movie Jurassic Park came out in 1993, she knew what she wanted to do – 3D animation. Salamone found a small specialty school, took a six month certification course in 3D art and animation, and began a rewarding 16-year career in computer games. Eventually, hands-on art drew her attention and she decided to pursue another love – film and television makeup. She went to makeup school in Los Angeles, learned all about special effects makeup, and worked on several projects and movies, including The Lone Ranger in 2013.
Expanding her skills, Salamone also began teaching the basics of fine art to teens and adults through a privately-owned academy. This school has its own method, and all the instructors are required to learn and teach only this method. It involves a lot of master duplications of paintings from artists like Van Gogh or John Singer Sargent. This exposed her to many artists who have since become her favorites, even if they aren’t exactly her influences.
“I think for most artists, our influences are swirling around us every waking minute, and even in our dreams. I once read a comparison where a creative’s thought process is like having 2,000 tabs open on your browser, all at once. I couldn’t agree more.”
While much of her earlier art is representational, mostly landscapes, her current work came about from a deepening appreciation of the artistic beauty in all nature’s forms. Her style is an abstract expression of the beauty of gemstone minerals in their natural state before they are cut and polished to perfection. These exciting elements of the Earth are often hiding within a gray exterior of rock, and it isn’t until they escape this matrix that their true brilliance can shine. She works in both oils and pastels, using iridescent pigments and metallic leaf to emphasize the sparkle of the Earth’s treasures.
Salamone’s technique came about from examining the crystals and stones in her collection, taking pictures of them and zooming in to where she could see all the cracks, veins, and color variations at high resolution. She begins by doing a very rough sketch on her canvas or board where she blocks in the largest color areas. She then lays in a tint of color that is the complement to the dominant colors in the stone. From there, the painting develops layer by layer. There are big, juicy swaths of color that dominate, but then the veining cuts through, forming interesting little pathways. If she is painting in oils, she will add metallic leaf or powdered silver and copper to the paint before it dries, then layer more color over it. In pastels, she works iridescent pigments into the colors as the painting develops. Usually, the painting takes on an other-worldly aspect, no longer a specific stone, but a fantastical venue of color and sparkle for the eyes to explore.
While Salamone has developed her own style, there are many artists whom she admires and often sees elements of their work in her own.
“Georgia O’Keefe had a way of abstracting nature that gave the viewer a chance to interpret her work in many different ways. I love the soft colors and smooth brushstrokes of her paintings. JMW Turner is another artist who took what he saw in nature, the crashing of the ocean waves and the dazzling play of sunlight on water and abstracted it to the point where it took the viewer to another place. Ralph Costantino was an abstract painter in the 60’s. I have the great fortune of owning one of his originals, and his style was a huge influence on my earlier abstracts. Susan Seddon Boulet was a San Francisco artist who very strongly influenced my childhood art. Her goddess and unicorn paintings were filled with all the color and fantasy that would delight any young girl, and I still buy art cards and calendars with her work whenever I find it.”
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way–things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keeffe
She is a fiend for traditional animated cartoons and has created work based on the genius of Chuck Jones, Eyvind Earle, and Maurice Noble. Having first participated in the Chuck Jones Center for Creativity Red Dot Auction to benefit its children’s art programs in 2015, she has done so again in 2016 and 2017, and will continue to volunteer her artwork for the Center in the future. She also created prop paintings for Looney Tunes, Back in Action and The Battle of Shaker Heights in 2003, and for I Know Where Lizzie Is, in 2015.
In the annual Pastels 100 international competition, Salamone has received Honorable Mention awards for her pastel paintings by the only magazine to exclusively cover pastel artistry, The Pastel Journal. The first was in 2004 for her abstract, Solar Flares, and the second was in 2015 for her still life of faceted gemstones, Brillanti, which also won three awards from the Exhibition of Fine Art, San Diego County Fair, in 2017.
Salamone has also received awards from local San Diego shows, including the San Diego County Fair’s annual fine art show and the Pastel Society of San Diego’s fall show in Mission Gorge.
Though her friends have called her a force of nature, Salamone feels that it is her art that has grown directly from nature. Excellence has always been her measure, and it is the most rewarding way to express herself. Having discovered her gift as a young girl, she has spent her life polishing and perfecting that gemstone into something that she can now gift to the world.
“I feel that the advent of social media has had a pretty negative impact on society. All day, we are bombarded with images of abuse, political memes, and people spewing a lot of hatred from the safety of a computer screen. I know I can’t change that aspect of life in these times, but my mission is to fill the world with as much beauty as I can, and my paintings celebrate our Mother Earth in all her glory. While I feel I’ll never tire of the Earth element, I am developing series that explore fire, water, and air, as well.”
With paintings hanging in homes as far away as the Mediterranean island of Malta, her collectors span the globe. Here is what two of them had to say about Salamone’s artwork:
“When a painting communicates the clarity of the air and the dryness of a desert punctuated by the colors of life, it feels like you are there. Brenda’s paintings are like that. There is a feeling about them, not just a visual sensation.” – Regina G., McMinnville, TN
“After seeing several of Brenda’s amazing pastels, watercolors, and oils, I commissioned her to create something special for my cousin’s 30th birthday. I wanted something that wasn’t a replica, something that was one-of-a-kind, and that could capture the whimsical nature of our relationship. Brenda delivered. She was able to create something truly magical for me in about a month – which was well before I needed the project to be done. Not only was she efficient, she was also a joy to deal with. I gave her some samples of what I had in mind and told her to take creative liberty with the piece. What she created was better than I could have imagined. I’ve already commissioned her for my next piece and I can’t wait to see it!” – Elizabeth K., Los Angeles, CA
When she isn’t at her easel, Salamone enjoys a very diverse group of hobbies, including belly dancing, wine tasting, attending Renaissance fairs and pirate festivals in full costume, writing a romance novel, and creating monsters with makeup for theme park Halloween haunts. Her artistic associations include the California Art Club, the Pastel Society of San Diego and Paint Night Group of San Diego, an informal gathering of artists who are friends and like to paint together.