Cecilia Brendel talks about her journey to becoming an unexpected artist, teacher

By Jeff Louderback

Cecilia Brendel discovered her gift for creating masterpieces, and teaching others to paint, in an unexpected way.

“I was a stay-at-home mother at the time, and aside from freelancing as a technical illustrator, I wanted to find a job to spend time out of the house,” Cecilia recalled. “I found that job at a dinner theater, and one day they asked me to pain set scenery for a show. I had never picked up a brush until then, and since then, I haven’t put the brush down.”

The career journey led Cecilia to open Olde Masters Galleria, a Centerville studio where oil painting is taken to a new height of old masters techniques. Cecilia teaches workshops here and creates commissioned art for individuals and corporate clients.

Cecilia also features heirloom jewelry with miniature oil paintings in her online boutique at www.ceciliabrendel.com. All of the pendants and miniatures are hand-crafted with the finest Belgian oil primed linen and high-quality oil pigments designed to last for generations.

A native of St. Louis whose family eventually moved to South Bend, Indiana, and the home of Notre Dame University, Cecilia studied technical illustration and graphic arts in college. She served as an illustrator for clients like Notre Dame and the Florida Institute of Technology, and Harley-Davidson. Her career evolved into designing book covers, illustrating children’s books, and illustrating technical publications for companies like MacGraw-Hill Publishing, GMA Publishing, and American Book Publishers.

When she moved to the Dayton area with her husband, Michael, that is when she worked for a dinner theater and was asked to paint set scenery. She had never painted before, but the scenes received rave reviews from audiences of shows like Phantom of the Opera and the Wizard of Oz. Over the last 20-plus years, her career shifted to studying painting techniques established by the old masters. She’s studied with master artists Alexei Antonov, Cesar Santos, Douglas Flynt, and Virgil Elliott.

The term “Old Masters” generally refers to the most recognized European artists – mostly painters—working between the Renaissance and 1800. Old Masters refers to a range of the most seminal figures in Western art history, from Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Albrecht Durer to Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and Jacques-Louis David.

Learning from master artists cultivated Cecilia’s techniques and creativity. She produced pieces for several private and industrial clients worldwide, including the Grande Hotel Sablon in Brugge, Belgium; St Joseph Hospital in South Bend, Church of the Incarnation in Centerville, and Wright State University.

Word spread, and friends began approaching her for lessons. Cecilia especially likes painting portraits, and teaching that skill.

“A portrait presents the opportunity to learn about that person, and capture who they are on a canvas,” Cecilia said. “When you buy a piece of art on commission, it’s a gift that will endure forever.”

Cecilia has received multiple accolades from art publications. She was featured in the Western Art Collector’s Magazine as “One to Collect,” and she was one of 49 artists the media outlet showcased as part of its 49th anniversary.  She was also featured in American Art Collector’s Magazine.

Cecilia explores different regions around the country and the world for a new series, like California with its redwood forests and rocky coastline; an Italian Window Box series, and a Castles and Religious series.

Cecilia and Michael have a passion for trains and the Southwest. They combined the two on a 64-mile day trip on the Cumbres & Toltec, which is the highest and longest steam railroad in North America. The route crosses the Colorado-New Mexico state line 11 times.

The trip motivated Cecilia to create oil paintings for an exhibit titled “Southwest Series,” which was showcased at the Centerville Police Department’s art gallery.

“I tell my students to paint what inspires them because that is how I approach my art,” Cecilia said. “It’s rewarding to transform a blank canvas into a lasting piece of art, and it’s equally satisfying to teach others so they can feel that same exhilaration.”

For more information about Cecilia, visit www.ceciliabrendel.com.