South Whidbey artist embraces the bounty of the summer season

Pat Brookes shows one of her creations.

If you asked her when she was a child if she would become an artist, she would have laughed.

But Langley resident Pat Brookes found out 25 years ago that once she started using the creative side of her brain, the artistic juices began to flow. And the stream hasn’t stopped since.

The avid watercolorist is now an accomplished painter with a sweet little shop she calls the “Summer Studio.” The quaint, 10-by-12-foot building replicates a classic red barn, complete with roll-out white-framed windows and an antique bicycle leaning lazily against one lavender-strewn outer wall.

Brookes is forthcoming about her attitude toward art and encourages people who don’t see themselves as talented to try anyway.

“I never thought I had the ability to be an artist,” Brookes said.

“It’s a pleasure and a gift and once you’ve discovered it you just keep going.”

Her Web site reveals a nice body of watercolor paintings in sections for works depicting animals, still lifes, abstracts and landscapes.

Brookes’ work is colorful and smacks of having been done by someone who loves being outside in the summer, noticing the light or the way a bluff shapes itself under a “cyan,” “indigo” or “aquamarine” sky.

Brookes is, in fact, an avid hiker and has been part of a women’s hiking group of which she was the leader until recently.

“Now I can take more time and be more cognizant of my surroundings when I hike, rather than leading the group and being in charge of things,” she said.

Hiking on Whidbey Island gives the artist plenty of views which she captures on her camera and then paints from the photographs.

One hike that the group took between Swantown Road and Hastie Lake gave her four views from which to work, Brookes said, as if she had hit the jackpot.

Another favorite spot is Double Bluff Beach, of which Brookes has made several paintings.

A winter afternoon on the bluff may provide the perfect time to do a value sketch, take a few photos and then it’s back to the warm house to paint, as the little red barn is only open in the warmer months.

“I like the way the paint moves on the paper and it’s fun to know color and what combinations get you there,” she said.

But watercolors may not be the only form in store for this artist who is open-minded when it comes to influences.

“I feel that life is an ever-evolving thing and I try never to stay static,” Brookes said.

Though she recently bought some acrylic paint and will try her hand at that, watercolor is her medium of choice.

“I like the lushness of watercolor and feel I can sort of control it,” she said.

Then she laughed at the thought of an artist being able to control the paint. One can get close to conquering a skill, she said, and may have a plan for each painting, but happy accidents are inevitable with art.

Brookes’ work is currently showing at the Whidbey Art Gallery in Langley.

The Summer Studio doubles as a gift shop when Brookes is not using it as an art studio.

It’s open, weather permitting, from June through September and visitors can stop by between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to browse, watch the artist at work or buy any variety of art pieces.

For sale are Brookes’ line of greeting cards featuring her watercolors, collages and photographs. Her watercolor paintings are also on display for sale along with unique decoupage boxes made by guest artist Bobbie Sitter which hint at Sitter’s native Hawaiian roots.

You can visit the Summer Studio by chance or by appointment. Call 221-8351 or visit www.patbrookes.com.A