Talking polarity with Brooke Weeber is talking homeownership (hers is recent) and relentless pursuit of outdoor adventure; introversion and the need for people; and the difference between painting nature and experiencing nature.
Brooke wasn't planning to buy a house. Before taking on the PCT she was planning to buy a motorhome and be untethered for awhile. She changed her mind somewhere in the woods. Backpacking alone made her realize how much she needs people. Her new home, which she shares with a roommate and her cat, is one of the many things she's done to surprise herself. Homeownership, rock climbing, the PCT, and starting her own business (as a freelance illustrator) are all things that she believed she could not do, until she did them. "I'm always a little bit surprised by how brave I can be," she said.
shots from Brooke's nature Instagram (@brooke_weeber)
Brooke grew up in Oregon, baking with her mom and making things - with clay, with paints, with whatever was around. She got her degree in oil painting at U of O because it was the only path that made sense to her. But she also knew when she graduated that she didn't have an obvious career path in front of her, so she headed to the French Culinary Institute in New York City.
Brooke also grew up hiking and camping with her family, but it didn't hook her then the way that art did. It took living in New York for Brooke to get it about Oregon. And she came blazing home. She started buying gear, got involved with the Mazamas, and got outdoors. If you follow her on Instagram (@brooke_weeber) you know that Brooke is outside a lot. You also know that she likes a challenge. A lot of her trips involve her climbing. Either rocks or just up. She does long runs and frosty cave tours and let's not forget, she did the Oregon section of the PCT alone. Alone means alone. It means when the sun has set and the tree branches all look like monsters and you swear you see eyes in a bush, you're alone. It's not something most people could do. Brooke said after all that walking and sleeping alone two things were true: she was sick of her own thoughts, and she wanted ice cream.
If you follow Brooke's other Instagram (little_canoe) you know that her work is diligent, folksy, and a bit bizarre. Her paintings are highly natural, with plenty of animals, trees, mountains, and water. But there are parts to each painting that aren't easily explained. Hair often plays a big role. Animals can be fully dressed. And the humans in the scene are acutely involved. It's rare that she paints a person who is interacting with the viewer. Instead her people are engaged with the animals, or are having a surreal personal experience. For example: in one piece (in the gallery below) titled "I'll probably survive this" a woman lays back in black water decorated with flowers while her fingers reach up toward a chair that rests below a tornado. "I don’t include a lot of other people in my artwork. It’s more about me, and my relationship with myself, and my relationship to nature," Brooke said. The work is about Brooke, but she's thrilled if you relate to it.
I think a lot of us look at someone who has found a living making art with envy. Brooke is in complete control. But it also means that she has to handle the business side; that she doesn't have as much time for personal work. It's a dual life. She's the employee who wants to cut out early to go hiking, and she's the boss who has to say "No."