Young artist designs calendar with peaceful purpose

"I want my pictures to restore joy and create unity."

Two Haute Mamas
January 22, 2019 - 8:48 pm

This column is by WCCO Radio Producer Sheletta Brundidge, who also hosts the Two Haute Mamas podcast.  

When walking in the doors of Bouquets by Carolyn Flower Shop on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, I was awestruck by hundreds of ravishing red roses and heathy hydrangea.

The floral arrangements decorating the shelves are eye candy and their smell is effervescent. 

Hanging on the wall behind the spray is something even more dazzling however: a handful of beautiful original pictures designed by a young artist.

Carolyn Smaller, the shop’s owner, told me where they came from. 

“Those were done by my granddaughter Olivia. She’s quite talented. She’s been drawing since she was a young girl,” she said.

Now 23 years old, Olivia Bruce is a recent graduate of Marist College and a full time artist in Washington, D.C.

She makes a living selling her signature pieces online and at craft shows. 

Bruce uses water colors, markers, color pencils, acrylic and oil paints to come up with one-of-a-kind creations that have captured the attention of Michelle Obama, who selected her to design an official White House holiday tour guide several years ago.

It’s no wonder the former First Lady sought out Bruce.  Her pictures are vivid, colorful, lively and fun. Her craftsmanship and skill are that of a seasoned artist twice her age.

One of her pieces, entitled Unity, depicts two women of different ethnic backgrounds holding hands, fingers locked, in a show of support for one another.

In another water color drawing called Love Is, a colorful couple is embracing. The dynamics of the photo are unique because man in the picture is painted blue while the woman is colored orange. But as their bodies come together, the colors blend together in a unique pattern.

The pictures were so striking, I had to talk to the artist behind them to find out what inspires her to create these timeless classics.

Bruce recently sat down with Lindy and I for an episode of our Two Haute Mamas podcast. She told us that the Love Is piece is one of her favorites.

 “I love it the most because of its synergy. I enjoy watching how the colors collide.  The picture shows how love is intertwined and connected.  Everyone has their own interpretation of what love is.  This drawing is my interpretation,” she said. 

The young artist says she comes up with ideas from the strangest places.

 “Every piece has its own inspiration. It may be based on an iconic person like Martin Luther King, Jr. Or it can be something as simple as watching the seasons change in northern Minnesota," she said. "Once while visiting my grandmother's cabin, seeing the wide range of colors from the fall foliage spurred me to draw something new.  Inspiration comes from all parts of my life and my environment.”

RELATED: Young artist is inspired to spread joy and unity through pictures

Bruce says the first picture she recalls creating was a self-portrait when she was just nine years old.

 “My art teacher allowed us to think outside the box so I just remember picturing myself as a tree and designing my face with all different shades of brown. I entitled it Mocha Mix. It was my first sale," she said. "My grandmother bought it from me for $10. I thought that was big money back then.”

Now she has hundreds of pieces to her credit that sell for quite a bit more than the ten bucks.

Her latest creation, a monthly wall calendar, boasts a dozen of her favorite pieces.

“My main motivation for doing this was to bring some beauty to 2019. You know, I just felt like 2018 was such an ugly year with the divisive political climate and all the school shootings.  I decided to put my best artwork in one place to create this calendar. Each month I’ve selected a different design of peaceful beauty that anyone can enjoy. 

She added:

“My hope is that when people put my calendar on the wall in their office or stick it on the side of the fridge at their home, it brings a sense of love and light to their lives. I want to do my part to spread joy. That’s what my artwork is all about, lifting people up out of what may be a dark place.”

Whether it’s her picture in November of two small boys walking to school in their snowsuits or the September photo entitled Guardian Angel that shows a winged man taking care of a sick child, it’s sure to put a smile on your face.

To get Bruce’s calendar and see some of her original artwork, log on to her website Original Olivia.

To hear our entire chat, listen to the full episode of the Two Haute Mamas podcast below:

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