A winning artist paints the town at night
“Set up your easel and paint the town!” the Howard County Arts Council told artists during the Paint It Ellicott City event this summer.
Local landscape painter Bruno Baran sometimes works from photographs. But on a sweltering Saturday in June he situated his easel on a sidewalk in historic Ellicott City and painted the old town directly from life. The painting he produced, named Night Signs, won second place in the event.
Creating art outside enhances his work, Baran said. “When I paint, I’m seeking a moment, a feeling. I’m trying to catch the feelings, the mood, the essence of where I am.
“I’m utilizing all my senses when I’m outside,” he added. “If it’s a cold day and I’m chilled to the bone, I can feel that, and that feeling goes into my painting. Art isn’t just what I see, but what I feel and what I hear.”
Sold on art since youth
Baran, born in Baltimore in 1954, first discovered his passion for art in middle school. He sold his first painting when he was in seventh grade and officially fell in love with art.
Inspired by his dynamic art teachers, he decided to become an art teacher, too. Baran graduated cum laude from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a bachelor’s degree in art education.
He worked as an art teacher at Baltimore County Public Schools and headed the Fine Arts program at the John Carroll School in Bel Air.
Even while teaching, Baran continued to paint as well as to attend various classes and workshops to refine his skills.
After 42 years of teaching, Baran recently retired and became a full-time painter. Having a brush with death gave him a newfound urgency to paint.
“After suffering another heart attack, you tend to look at the world in a different manner,” he said. “As I always say, I’m pedaling as fast as I can and trying to keep ahead of the curve. But as you get older, the curve sneaks up on you, so I’m trying to paint as much as possible.”
Baran can often be found creating art outdoors, or “en plein air.” An outdoor painting session usually lasts between two and four hours, Baran said. He completes most of the painting outdoors and gives it a finishing touch in the studio.
Local settings preferred
Baran’s paintings depict a wide range of subjects, from storefronts and buildings, to plants and bodies of water. The paintings feature natural scenes in earthy tones that convey a sense of peace and comfort.
Also, the scenes he paints are often local ones, which is perhaps a reason why his paintings feel so much like home to viewers in Maryland.
His winning painting, Night Signs, was inspired by a historic building. “I was fascinated by the way the light was hitting it and the way the sign post was putting a beautiful shadow on the wall,” he said.
“I thought it would be interesting if it was painted at night. It was a totally different feel, and yet it was interesting because of the warm light cast off by the lights on the street.”
In August, Baran set out for Ireland to participate in another outdoor painting event, “Art in the Open.”
“I’m excited about the dynamic landscapes in Ireland. There are so many different shades of green there, it’s unfathomable,” he said.
View Baran’s work on his website, brunobaranfinearts.com. His painting “Night Signs” and the other winning paintings can be viewed at hocoarts.org. Baran’s work is currently on display at Highlandtown Gallery, 248 S Conkling St., Baltimore, until Oct. 31.