Virginia Brubaker 

Like little dots of light, beads provide a luminous medium to create pictures that allow me to combine the eye of the painter with a palette of light. I strive to create pictures that reflect the complexity of their subject through the abstraction created by the complex changes of size, shape, color, and finish of the beads themselves. I am fascinated by the often-unnoticed gradations of color in nature, the range of blues in the wake of a ship, the depths and variations of green in a forest, the overtones of green or blue in the shadowed side of a child’s face.

The task of creating pictures from seed beads is incredibly slow, so I favor subjects that have a certain timelessness about them, such as the ruins of ancient temples. I strive for only enough realism to make my subjects recognizable, and then allow the natural luminous qualities of the beads, with their varieties of opacity, size, shape, and finish to express themselves as they appear to flow in waves of color and light. I use glass beads for their incredible variety, mixed with a few stone beads that are used for their particular qualities of color, pattern, and texture.

I have been using seed beads as a pictorial medium since 2002. Many of my bead pictures start from photographs, often manipulated by computer to more closely match a picture in my head. Others begin as drawings. I may hold the beads together only with thread, in which case, I work from a full-size image on paper and use it to plan and compare as the work progresses. This is particularly critical with the architectural or anatomical areas of a picture, where the coherency of the image may be lost if I stray too far from my original image. On other parts of the picture, like the skies, I have more freedom to improvise within the general structure and direction I have set for myself.

Much of my most recent work has used bead embroidery to sew beads directly to the image I have developed.
On the teapot with portraits of Nelson Mandela and Mohandas Gandhi, I placed
beaded portraits against skies that had been painted in acrylic on canvas. I was drawn to Gandhi and Mandela as amazing examples of the compelling power of peace and stubborn nonviolence to make changes in the world.

My grandmother, Mary Brubaker, was a painter and I was exposed to art my whole life. My brother, Jack Brubaker, is an artist-blacksmith and my sister, M’lou Brubaker, is a jeweler and sculptor. While they are both full-time artists, I maintain a day job as a counselor in private practice.

If you are interested in working with seed beads yourself, you might find my other website useful. At, you can find lots of information about seed beads, about beading techniques, about making bead art, and about challenging yourself with your beadwork.


Contact the Artist

If you have questions or comments about the website, or if you would like more information on a particular piece of my work, please use this form to contact me You may also wish to contact me about commissioning a portait or other piece. I look forward to hearing from you.

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