Creative artist Michael Braa (Mick, never a Mike) grew up among farm, lumberjack, mining and ranch kids in the mountains of north-central and western Colorado.  His ancestors were Finnish (thick-skinned) and Scotch-Irish (thick-headed). After abandoning the sciences and college athletics, he trained primarily to be a traditional representational painter, historical muralist, graphic designer and illustrator.  Mick has exhibited selected works in Kansas and out-of-state since 1972 and has lived in Douglas County, Kansas since 1974.  For over 40 years he has been a part-time creative artist while involved in not-for-profit arts programming, coordinating exhibitions, designing and writing for publications and administrating adult arts programming.
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        Braa currently specializes in fantastically strange and complex dye-painted fabric wall hangings (soft paintings) and also produces artwork in many other media including all types of painting, printmaking, photography, wood, small ceramics, stained glass and fine metals. He creates commissioned pieces in a wide variety of traditional and modern styles, subjects, themes, and color schemes customized to the patron’s desires and space(s). Mick also wanders aimlessly in the 2.5 acre tall-grass and wildflower labyrinth he created behind his studio--in a wet year the tall-grass may reach 6 ft. tall.  Mick is often followed by his short-haired yellow-tabby prairie panther who goes on "patrol" with him around the property. (see Labyrinth satellite photo below)

        Mick attributes his fascination with fantastic imagery and invention in part to mental pictures derived from the Mars fantasy series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Peralandra by C.S Lewis and from the floating figures and album cover designs of Peter Max. He learned to draw properly beginning with James Mirick at Kansas City Kansas Community College, discovered both artistic freedom and formal discipline at Kansas State Teachers’ College (now Emporia State University) with Rex Hall and master printmaker Norman Eppink.  At Baker University, he learned the relationships of composition and color with Thomas Lyon Russell, and about the vast variability of the creative process with Walter Bailey—while also accumulating minors in biology, music  and philosophy. Mick spent all of the 80’s in eclectic graduate courses at the University of Kansas in Studio Art, Art Education, Art History, Museum Education, Anthropology and Built Form & Culture Studies while also serving as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and multimedia artist for an educational media production unit attached to the School of Education.
        Mick has also been a ranch and fruit-farm hand, carpenter, cook's and baker's assistant, museum assistant, staff writer, archival photographer, publications designer, art show juror and arts events producer.  Mick has produced educational and association video programs, coordinated a multi-generational theatre project, ate cheeseburgers and fries with composer Aaron Copland in a university snack bar, was one of scores that helped Christo try to stretch the orange curtain across Rifle Gap in Colorado in the early 70's, and was once one of several naive art students who assisted visiting artist-designer Peter Max on a fabric design project-demonstration at a mid-western college (several of us didn't know who and how famous he was). In the 80's Mick interviewed hyper and crazy country star Tanya Tucker for a trade magazine and while videotaping for a national association in  D. C. was bumped out of the way by one of former President Gerald Ford's Secret Service agents.   He has been a feature films walk-on and extra (cowkid, street punk, dead body, derelict, and rodeo judge) and held horses and had a short line for Karl Malden and Julie Harris in an ABC TV movie filmed partially in Lawrence, Kansas (his big scene was cut--perhaps because his canary yellow, pearl- buttoned rodeo shirt and bright red beard distracted viewers from the stars?). 

        For a dozen summers Mick and his wife Barbara escaped Kansas heat and humidity to stay on the shores of Lake Champlain in upstate New York--where Mick hiked the nearby mountains, made art and assisted the Arts Council for the Northern Adirondacks serving the high peaks-Lake Placid region of the Adirondacks.  Mick also stumbled onto a stage in 1997 in multiple roles (factory boss, capitalist, revivalist preacher) with the Essex Theater Company in upstate New York in a working preview of an experimental play—A Time in America--based on the times and writings of Emily Dickinson.

        In 1995 and 1996 he was invited to exhibit selected traditional landscape paintings in Cedarcrest, the Kansas Governor’s Mansion (dusty skies, tornados, weedy fields, prairies and muddy rivers).  

        His art heroes--live and dead--include Peter Max, Gustav Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Edward Gorey, Tom Russell, Tom Benton, Jackson Pollock, Nicolai Fechin, Ernst Fuchs, Giorgio Vasari, Robert Henri, Susan Grace, Stan Herd, Lora Jost, Karen Wiley, Debra Clemente, Zak Barnes, Rene’ Magritte, John Ruskin, William Morris, Manet, Dali, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and the rest of the Pre-Raphaelites)---and friend Cathy Robins who gave up a long career as an expert on deep sea eels to become a bronze sculptor.

       Mick's favorite dead composers are Boccherini, Stravinsky and Gershwin, and among his extensive list of favorite dead or not nearly dead authors are Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Richard Brautigan, Terry Goodkind, Kurt Vonnegut, Herman Hesse, Iris Johansen, John Ruskin, Clive Cussler and James Fenimore Cooper.  His current favorite string band is Apocalyptica (Finnish of course) and will listen to anything by Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, Mark O'Connor, Bela Fleck, Joshua Bell, Clannad, Meridith Monk, Ravi Shankar, Sara Brightman, Nora Jones, Diana Krall, George Winston and any combination or collaboration of any of them.

        Mick enjoys dark beers, dark roast coffees, dark chocolates, dark mystery or fantasy novels and movies, dark moon-lit nights--and most ethnic foods which he heroically strives to prepare with frequent successes for himself and his very brave spouse.  Black beans, blackberries, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olive oils, cloves, anise, sweet potatoes, pancake squash, cumin, cinnamon, cilantro, basilego, home-made pestos, portabellos, dark mole' and burnt end pork ribs (or roasts) hold special places in periodic feasts.   English-style bangers, German chocolate cake, cinnamon-pecan rolls, black licorice-toffees and any brown-red-yellow or green Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Thai curry rounds out his favorites.  Yumm!

        In the 21st century, Mick helped to install a computer-assisted soy-foods production facility, served three seasons as the general and personnel manager of the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, was a contributing arts writer for Sunflower Publishing’s Lawrence and Topeka Magazines and is currently president on the Board of the Eudora Public Library in the midst of planning a new building.  

        With a bad back, one nasty knee replaced and the other knee pending, Mick Braa is always stumbling into something odd or curious, if not simply interesting…and is always ready to rattle on incessantly about his work, your work, their work, or the work done by someone, sometime, or somewhere.  (Now if he can just get back to making art and quit carrying on three-way  conversations with himself and the cat...)





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Prairie Labyrinth, tall-grass & wildflowers, early spring 2017