Irma Brady (1921-2015)
Irma Brady was a multi-media visual artist who lived in southwest Alabama. Her connection to Columbus and the State of Mississippi was through her two sons: Sam, a professional musician in Jackson, and Paul, a chemist/engineer and musician in Columbus.
At age 22, Irma was inspired to learn to paint by a neighbor & friend Josie Orr, when she was working as a hardware company clerk, living in Birmingham, AL. The art first served as a substitute for her true love of the piano, which could not be accommodated in the small apartment dwelling she had. In time, Irma found that her love of being able to create with watercolors, pastels and charcoal rivaled her love of performing with a piano, and began to seek professional training for this passion.
Somehow, after marrying, returning to her original home area in Grove Hill, and having four sons, she found a way to connect with the larger art communities along the Gulf Coast. Her first formal watercolor teaching was from August Trovaioli, an instructor associated with the Eastern Shore Art League. This evolved to completion of training with Famous Artists School, followed by years of attending workshops with many renowned artists, painting on location from Hawaii to Mexico, Martha’s Vineyard to the Bahamas, and Paris and Belgium.
Irma studied with master watercolorists Don Andrews, Charles Reid, Joseph LC Santoro, Carl Schmalz, Robert E. Wood, Russell Hempstead, James G. Scott and Cheng Khee Chee. Her work with Barclay Sheaks developed her skills with acrylics. Irma’s mastery in oils were honed through work with Tony Sheath, and William G. Nolen-Schmidt. Throughout her life, she worked interchangeably in all three mediums creating nearly a thousand finished works.
Irma’s artistry has been on display in the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, the offices of U.S. and state Senators and Representatives, and in numerous galleries spanning from New Orleans to Atlanta.
For the latter forty years of her life, Irma shared what she learned with hundreds of students through group instruction across a broad swath of south Alabama. She also taught as an adjunct professor of art serving Patrick Henry State Junior College (now Alabama Southern) in Monroeville, AL, and is still held in high regard by the faculty and alumni of that school.
Irma Brady was in West Point when she passed away at 94, having been brought here by Paul to recuperate from health issues. Two weeks prior to her death, she was still actively painting and leading a small, dedicated group of artists in her home-town. As she grew older, her works became more prolific in number, but also much more extraordinary in composition and complexity. No longer having to rely on location-settings to paint, she painted from the imagery in her mind. Irma often stated that many of her paintings started simply with multiple splashes of color, and then she would discover what was hiding within.
In her own words of where the artist within evolves:
“Each of us is born a genius… embrace that genius. Don’t be afraid to expect the best from yourself. Be willing to gamble. What you think you need, you don’t. What you need, you have. Accept the hand dealt you.”
“Arbitrarily or logically, these are two ways not to paint. Approach it either as control with arbitrariness or arbitrarily with control.”