The Monet behind the paintings in the Kelley Barracks coffee shop works just down the street.
Brian D. Perry Sr., the chief of resources, programs, and requirements at AFRICOM J7, directs a paintbrush in his spare time. His bright impressionistic-style paintings of still life and cityscapes hang above coffee tables in the cozy cafe, adjoining an entrance to the Kelley Theater.
He’s a self-taught artist who started dabbling in pastel sticks four years ago, while enrolled at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa.
“I was bored one day, and I just bought some paper and pastels,” he said. He sketched out the reflection of glasses on a café table. “I brought it into class on Monday, and the people said it was really good.”
An interest in art was sparked. He began painting regularly: the view of Boblingen from his bedroom window, colorful flowers in a vase, sailboats.
What to do with all the art? “I needed some place to show it,” he said.
His first gallery of sorts was the hallways of the Swabian Center on Patch Barracks. “I knew I was doing well when someone stole one of the paintings,” he said.
Then he won an MWR art contest, which put his art in the running for the all-Army contest – which he also won.
His artwork also made it to the MWR walls and, for a while, decorated the blank walls of the new U.S. Africa Command. To sell his art in the Kelley Barracks coffee shop through the MWR, he he has to give 20 percent of any coffee-shop sale to MWR.
After his art was displayed in the coffee shop, other artists began adding theirs to the make-shift gallery.
Perry sells his artwork for $150 to $300. He estimates he’s sold 60 paintings. He sold 18 to “Executives Suites Stuttgart,” which furnishes luxury apartments for traveling professionals.
Over time, Perry has discovered new techniques. With acrylic, the paint will wash off easily. “A lot of the time, I take it into the shower and get a whole different effect. It washes off maybe 80% of the paint. I just keep putting it into the shower until I get it right.”
This method came to him unexpectedly, when he couldn’t quite get the painting of an angel to his liking. After multiple washings, the canvas had become pure frustration, and he was ready to throw it in the trash. His wife, though, thought it could really be something. And, sure enough, he kept at the muted effect, which turned into a finished piece that was later bought. That art collector, Perry said, keeps the subdued angel painting in the centerpiece of his hallway of art, with a dedicated light shining on it.
“There is true inspiration here at AFRICOM,” he said. “I am fortunate to have been able to tap into that.”