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Stu Braks: Finding the space between beats

Shea Stanfield~ 11/19/2014

CAVE CREEK – “We dance to the rhythm of the cosmos before we’re born in our mother’s heartbeat. Those ceaseless oceanic rhythms sustain us throughout our earthly existence.  When we die, we simply enter into the silence between beats, the source and defining element of all music…the universal language of the drum.  When a drummer becomes one with the drum, this cosmic communication becomes intelligible to all.” Will Clipman, drummer and award winning recording artist

Local artist Stu Braks has spent his life listening to the silence between beats, which has carried him full circle in his art and career. As a child, Stu created his own cartoon characters, including them in elaborately hand-drawn comic strips. Armed with a pencil and paper, Stu was determined to follow in the footsteps of his art heroes, Norman Rockwell, Walt Disney, and Mort Drucker of Mad Magazine fame.  But Stu’s imagination would take an intriguing detour as his life and times became engulfed in the emerging age of technology.

By the time Stu entered college, he was firmly positioned for his left-brain talents in the fields of technology and engineering. He received his bachelor’s degree in Business from Franklin Pierce University and began a 30-year career that swept him and his family from New England to Silicon Valley and finally to Cave Creek/Carefree in 2004. Weary of the long, tiring commutes and time away from his family, Stu decided to make a career change requiring a leap of faith “back to his future,” stepping off the corporate fast track. In 2011, Stu became a full time artist and founded StuARTdrums. Here, Stu combines his love of drawing/painting with his love of music and drumming.

Stu realized he would be able to blend his music and art elements with his fascination of the Native American Indian culture. He went to work perfecting the technique of building Native style hoop drums while working part-time at the Heard Museum’s Scottsdale branch before it closed in 2013. He gained invaluable experience and insights in the nature of the “circle” and “4 directions” significance in Native American spirituality. He incorporates these concepts into his “round art” drums.

Stu’s specialty is painting poignant faces, currently focusing on two series: (1) American Indian portraits and (2) famous Cultural Icons. He uses acrylics to paint his subjects both on canvas and on his handmade hoop drums. Stu finds that to capture the dignity, character, emotion, and spirit of the individuals he paints, there must be a psychic connection to his subject. His meticulously detailed drawing and painting technique is often mistaken for photographs by observers. Stu will share with you he especially enjoys the look of weathered faces: “Every wrinkle tells a story.”  In contrast, he also enjoys painting children as well, carefully representing their quiet innocence and the look of wonder in their eyes, listening to the silence between the beats.

Today, Stu Braks is an award-winning artist and drum-maker. His awards include 1st place at the 2013 Phippen Museum of Western Art Show in Prescott, along with his 3rd place win in 2012. He has the honor of being the Sonoran Arts League’s 2012 Artist of the year and has accumulated several ribbons from the Glendale Arts Council and the AZ State Fair Fine Art completions. Stu is hosting, for the third year, studio #3, Spur Cross Studios, during the annual Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour the last two weekends in November.

To see a selection of Stu Braks’ work, see www.StuARTdrums.com or www.Facebook.com/StuARTdrums or www.YouTube.com/user/StuBraks.  To contact Stu with questions or orders, e-mail him at stu@stuartdrums.com or call (480) 285-4718.  Work can be purchased directly from his Web site.  Stu also takes consignments and special orders, as well as drum repairs.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.