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Art on the Trails: An Interview with Brooke McFerren

We spoke with Brooke McFerren, an artist from Mission Viejo, California, about her artistic process. McFerren's gouache painting, "Luge Flagpole" was juried into our 10th Annual National Juried Show, presented by First Federal Bank & Trust.

Brooke rides down a rocky trail on her yellow mountain bike.
Gouache artist, Brooke McFerren, on the Luge Trail in California. Brooke uses the natural landscapes of bike trails as inspiration for her work.

What is your "art story?" How long have you been creating art?

As a child, I was CONSTANTLY creating art, mostly doodling on vast quantities of copier paper my dad brought home from work. I graduated with a B.A. in Studio Art and pursued graphic design for a short while after college. However, the constant deadlines began to wear on me and as I changed careers slowly but surely, I stopped creating art.

Years have passed and aside from occasional bursts of painting, I have really neglected that side of myself. It took an epiphany of sorts less than a year ago that I picked up my brushes, purchased some paints, and set to painting what had been on the back of my mind for years.

I am an avid mountain biker and for so long my inspiration and true nourishment of my soul have been the local trails that I encounter almost every day when out riding my bike. I realized other people probably feel the same way-- that irresistible lure of the trail meandering up ahead-- and I just HAD to paint and share those scenes with others so they could feel the same magic.

Since then, I have just kept an open mind and let my revitalized creative spirit guide me in whatever way seems right.  

the artist's workspace, including a cup of brushes, a palette of paint, and an iPad with reference photo.
Brooke's workspace, including the beginnings of "Luge Flagpole"

What is your favorite medium to work in, and why? 

My favorite medium is gouache on watercolor paper, because it is so versatile and relatively inexpensive. I love how you can play with opacity and layering and how it changes as it dries-- it’s very dynamic and fun.

Has COVID-19 affected your creative process or artwork? 

I have a full-time job as a physical therapist assistant at a skilled nursing facility, and as a result of COVID-19 my hours have been reduced to part-time. In a way it has been a blessing because I have had more time to be out on the trails and have had more time to paint! So my creative output has actually been more than it probably would have been these last few months.

Both riding and painting are activities where it is easy to be socially distant so I feel safe that I’m not putting my patients at risk. On the negative side, the outbreak has limited the public’s access to my artwork as galleries, art fairs, and retail locations have been totally closed or very restricted. So for now, my main outlet to share my art has been social media. 

What do you enjoy (or not enjoy) about entering juried shows?

This is my first juried show that I have entered since college (about 25 years ago)! Time flies!! I really had no expectations, having just resumed painting, and was so honored and humbled to have been chosen for this show. It is all just a beautiful fun ride, and, just like the trails I paint, I’m enjoying seeing where it goes!

The 10th Annual National Juried Show at SAGE is on display now through July 25th. Find out more information, including how to purchase any of the artwork, by visiting


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