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Savannah artist makes gallery debut on Sanibel

By Staff | Feb 25, 2009

When Jill Brougher began searching for a subject to develop a series of charcoal sketches, which she intended to submit for studies related to a masters of drawing class, she began to think about her visits to Sanibel.

As a college student, the artist first visited the island during a college break in 1998. Now working out of Savannah, Ga., she recalled just how beautiful and natural-looking Sanibel’s beaches were, especially when she walked along the shoreline and collected shells.

“Sanibel has this element of conservation and appreciation of the natural world,” said Brougher, who recently submitted her 11-piece collection of shell “portraits” currently on display at Watson MacRae Gallery in The Village Shops. “I think that I have a natural temperament for drafting and craftsmanship. By drawing, you do that – you can really get inside an object.

A native of the southwest region of Pennsylvania, Brougher was a painting and ceramics major at Edinboro University. She said that she always remembers being fascinated with art from a very young age.

“My mother was an artist, so there were always paint and brushes around,” she explained. “My training started early, not just with training but with observations.”

Although she enjoyed her studies in college, describing the ceramics studio as “very zen,” Brougher decided that she wanted to delve further into classical drawing training. After one of her friends had taken a class dedicated to the “masters” at the Florence Institute of Art in Italy, she decided that those types of lessons would be very important to her overall experience as an artist.

“We talked about (drawing) briefly in college, but it didn’t really provide anything but the basics,” she said. “In classic drawing, you really learn how light molds the form of an object.”

Brougher chose to build her drawing portfolio by focusing on a simple subject: shells. Over a two year period, she created a series of charcoal sketches that depict simple shells, such as the underside of a Sailor’s Ear, to a pair of Shark’s Eyes, whose spiral shapes go into great detail.

“Brougher’s placement of one shell within another creates a tableau that is both simple and powerful,” said gallery owner Maureen Watson. “Her sensitivity of touch, clear handling of charcoal and smooth surface creates beautiful works that draw us in, and then hold us entranced.”

As her Web site further explains, “I tend to think of the shells as tiny ruins, either residing on the ocean floor or suspended in space as post-apocalyptic fragments. Beauty withstanding the test of time. Unseen and unheard. Yet forever present. Iconic.”

Her current display, entitled “Fluid Forms” at Watson MacRae Gallery – where she shares space with fellow artists Hollis Jeffcoat and Elodie Holmes – is her first showing on Sanibel, where she and her husband, Daniel, often visit. Recently, the artist spent time perusing Bunche Beach in Fort Myers, which she described as “a lot muckier than Sanibel.”

“There are these mangrove runoffs and it’s very tidal,” added Brougher. “You have to get really up close to see anything. Otherwise, it looks pretty barren. This is the first time in my life that I ever desired a pocket microscope. I’ve always been interested in the turn-of-the-century naturalists because of the element of discovery, and I fell like the oceans are the last things we haven’t really explored yet.”

To view Brougher’s work, which will be on display through March 7, visit the Watson MacRae Gallery, located at 2340 Periwinkle Way Unit B-3. Gallery hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 472-3386.

You may also visit the artist’s Web site at www.jillbrougher.com.