When Wayne Brendel walked out of Walmart with a new set oil paints, a cheap assortment of brushes, a circular palette and a $2 canvas, he did not know what he was getting himself into.
Earlier that day, Brendel’s son finished a pastel drawing, and the quality of his boy’s art struck him with inspiration. Though he had never had any prior urge to paint, Brendel would soon discover an artistic inclination. On his return home, he eagerly flicked on a Bob Ross painting instruction episode, and drew his brush across the canvas.
“I will most likely remember that date forever,” Brendel said.
It was Dec. 9, 2016.
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In the 10 months that have followed, Brendel has painted approximately 140 canvases and 50 of his specialty, wooden letters.
“I can’t stop,” Brendel said. “I just cannot stop.”
His painting has turned from hobby to the chase of perfection. His favorite pictures to paint are seascapes and mountain ranges that pop with vivid colors. He has a competitive spirit, and while he paints the same scene many times, he is never bored. He enjoys fine tuning his skills and seeing how each painting comes out a little different — and a little better — each time.
“I can pick apart every painting I have ever done,” he said. “There is always something in it that I can’t stand, and I want to improve on it. So I am anxious to start the next one to improve on the previous one.”
Brendel said he will wake up at 6 a.m. on the weekends just to get an early start on his next creation. He will sit in his painting corner that is nudged into the back of his house and work until it is time for breakfast. After he is done eating, he usually goes back to painting.
“I paint. That’s what I do,” Brendel said. “I paint. I paint. I paint.”
Through practice, his skills have improved — so much so, Brendel has become a commissioned artist. He started by selling paintings to friends and family. Then he also sold at a booth during the St. Jacob Strawberry Festival. When the week of the Madison County Fair rolled around, he decided to enter two of his paintings in the oils and acrylics category. He not only claimed first place, but second as well.
He sold his paintings during the Makers Market, a new facet in the 15th annual Highland Street Art Festival, which was held on the Square on Sept. 16. Brendel’s art was handpicked among other entries by the Highland Chamber of Commerce for the market.
“Brendel’s paintings are beautiful, and you can tell he is very talented” said Nancie Zobrist, executive director of the Highland Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the Street Art Festival. “Beyond that, we are completely in love with his story of how he found his inner artist later in life.”
The positive experience and some uplifting encounters with members of his community at the Makers Market helped him decide to participate in the Art in the Park festival this weekend in Highland.
Anyone who wishes to view or commission a piece from Brendel can view his public Facebook group Brendel’s Art, or contact him directly at (618)-560-1463. He said all of the proceeds from his art sales go to furthering his craft. Right now, he is dreaming of building his own art studio in his backyard, with a work space and a skylight for natural light. But for now, if there is a day in the future where Brendel might stop painting, it is not currently in his sights. He said he would have to die before he stops making art.
“I can’t really put my finger on it. I enjoy it so much,” Brendel said.