When walking in the doors of Bouquets by Carolyn Flower Shop on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, you’re awestruck by hundreds of ravishing red roses and heathy hydrangea.
The floral arrangements decorating the shelves are eye candy and they smell better than hot fish grease on Good Friday.
Hanging on the wall behind the spray is something even more dazzling however: a handful of beautiful original pictures designed by a young artist.
Carolyn Smaller, the shop’s owner, proudly declared, “Those were done by my granddaughter Olivia. She’s quite talented. She’s been drawing since she was a young girl.”
Now 23 years old, Olivia Bruce is a recent graduate of Marist College and a full time artist in Washington, D.C. She makes a living selling her signature pieces online and at craft shows.
Bruce uses water colors, markers and color pencils, acrylic and oil pints to come up with one-of-a-kind creations that have captured the attention of Michelle Obama, who selected her to design an official White House holiday tour guide several years ago.
It’s no wonder the former First Lady sought out Bruce. Her pictures are vivid, colorful, lively and fun. Her craftsmanship and skill are that of a seasoned artist twice her age.
One of her pieces, entitled Unity, depicts two women, of different ethnic backgrounds, holding hands, fingers locked, in a show of support for one another.
I want to do my part to spread joy. That’s what my artwork is all about.
In another water color drawing called Love Is, a colorful couple is embracing. The dynamics of the photo are unique because the man in the picture is painted blue while the woman is colored orange. But as their bodies come together, the colors blend together in one unique pattern.
The pictures were so striking, we had to talk to the artist behind them to find out what inspires her to create these timeless classics.
Bruce recently sat down with Sheletta & Lindy of the Two Haute Mamas podcast and says the Love Is piece is one of her favorites. “I love it the most because of its synergy. I enjoy watching how the colors collide. The picture shows how love is intertwined and connected. Everyone has their own interpretation of what love is. This drawing is my interpretation.”
The young artist says she comes up with ideas from the strangest places, “Every piece has its own inspiration. It may be based on an iconic person like Angela Davis. Or it can be something as simple as watching the seasons change that spur me to draw something new. Inspiration comes from all parts of my life and my environment.”
Bruce says the first picture she recalls creating was a self-portrait when she was just nine years old. “My art teacher allowed us to think outside the box so I just remember picturing myself as a tree and designing my face with all different shades of brown. I entitled it Mocha Mix. It was my first sale. My grandmother bought it from me for $10. I thought that was big money back then.”
Now she has hundreds of pieces to her credit that sell for quite a bit more than the 10 bucks.
Her latest creation, a monthly wall calendar, boasts a dozen of her favorite pieces. “My main motivation for doing this was to bring some beauty to 2019. You know, I just felt like 2018 was such an ugly year with the divisive political climate and all the school shootings. I decided to put my best artwork in one place to create this calendar. Each month, I’ve selected a different design of peaceful beauty that anyone can enjoy.
“My hope is that when people put my calendar on the wall in their office or stick it on the side of the fridge at their home, it brings a sense of love and light to their lives. I want to do my part to spread joy. That’s what my artwork is all about, lifting people up out of what may be a dark place.”
Whether it’s her picture in November of two small boys walking to school in their snowsuits or the September photo entitled Guardian Angel that shows a winged man taking care of a sick child, it’s sure to put a smile on your face.
To listen to her entire interview with Sheletta & Lindy on their Two Haute Mamas podcast log on to their website twohautemamas.com
This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.