It should come as no surprise that the house of Brad and Debra Teare doubles as an art gallery, given that the Providence residents have been painting, sketching, etching or otherwise creating artwork for nearly 30 years.
From the living room through the kitchen and upstairs into their shared workshop, it seems no wall is without at least one of Debra's trompe l'oeil still lifes or one of Brad's woodcuts. Pieces of their work are also displayed from Cape Cod to Salt Lake City, but tonight they will be presenting for the first time a little closer to home at a reception at JF Prince Gallery in North Logan, despite Debra's misgivings about being in the spotlight.
"I would rather be in the background and have the focus be on the art," she says, "but most people don't know what we do, so it will be kind of fun to do a show here."
Both Debra and Brad are lifelong artists. Debra grew up in Cache Valley and says she "always loved art." At the prompting of her father, a schoolteacher who also dabbled in art, Debra went on to study illustration at Utah State University. Although she eventually dropped out of the program, she picked up painting seriously again about 10 years ago. Her chosen style is trompe l'oeil, French for "trick the eye," a classic technique involving realistic imagery that creates an almost 3-D appearance.
"The fun of this is making things super-real," Debra says. "I'm kind of a perfectionist by nature."
While Brad likes "the looseness and creativity of playing with paint," she says, "I like to get it just so."
Growing up in Manhattan, Kan., Brad knew he wanted to study illustration, and came west to USU on the recommendation of a friend. After studying at USU and the University of Idaho, he got into cartoon animation, landed a job with the New York Times and went on to illustrate science-fiction book covers. That led to a commission to do book covers for some of James Michener's sweeping historical novels, which he did as wood-cuts, and, Brad says, "that's when wood-cut took over my career a little bit."
The wood-cutting process is painstakingly slow, detailed work. Brad first draws the image in pencil on a wood block. He then carves the image into the wood, puts ink on the block and runs it through an old printing press to transfer the image to paper. For a full-color image he will do eight identical plates, one of each color, constantly adjusting the color combinations to get just the right mix.
Brad also does oil painting, and says he would prefer to do only two or three of the time-consuming, carpal-tunnel-inducing wood cuts each year. When he's not working on his own pieces, he helps Debra by crafting the wooden frames she uses as props. A single piece for Debra might consist of a frame containing a photograph, an ancient tin can and a flower in a blue bottle. The effect is distinctively retro, a throwback to great-grandmother's farmhouse kitchen.
Their workshop is filled with bottles, vases, marbles, postcards, old books and other treasures mined from antique shops. As Debra looks at the pieces, montages will come to her. She composes the pieces and shoots a photograph to refer to as she paints, although her plans often require refinement.
"Sometimes you have an idea and you set it up and shoot the photo and it doesn't work, so you play with different combinations," Debra says. "I like a lot of color in my paintings, and I like to have something organic. I love flowers."
Both artists have won awards for their work. Debra's piece featuring a red rock canyon in the background won a contest at Zion National Park, and Brad's "Color of the Land" garnered top honors at the 2006 Deseret Morning News/Days of '47 Landscape Art Show.
"What I find particularly interesting about Brad and Debra as artists is the simple fact that they are a husband and wife art-pair, and in speaking with them it is obvious that they're thoroughly familiar with each other's work and seem to rely on each other for inspiration and constructive criticism," says Andrew Williams, director of the JF Prince Gallery. "Speaking as an artist, it is of incredible value to have that kind of artistic support close at hand. Their individual painting styles complement each other well, different as they might be."
Sometimes both will paint the same object, like the gnarled tree Debra rendered in her typical near-photographic style while Brad created a softer, larger version in subtle hues. But their discussions about art are more collaborative than competitive, and each speaks highly of the other's skills.
Apparently those skills were inherited by their daughter, Ashley, now 25, who in fifth grade won the family a trip to Lake Powell with one of her pieces. Ashley now dabbles in a variety of artistic endeavors, something Debra says is standard practice for artists.
"When you're trying to make a living as an artist you have to try a lot of stuff," she says.
So Brad runs a studio in Salt Lake City, as well as a blog, bradteare.blogspot.com, and they both participate in shows around the country. Both hope to continue their painting as long as possible, although Debra fears her eyesight may not hold up for the type of detail work she specializes in. Brad, on the other hand, anticipates painting for decades to come: "I can paint until I'm 90 if I can stand up."