Barbara Bradley

2007 Distinguished Educator in the Arts: Barbara Bradley

After UC Berkeley, Art Center, and a career in New York at Charles E. Cooper Studios, Barbara Bradley, then known as Barbara Briggs, returned to San Francisco. In 1958 she was invited to speak at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.

Richard Stephens, the President, thereupon invited her to teach, to build, what would become class by class, the Illustration Program at what has become the Academy of Art University. As Director of Illustration, with the President’s encouragement, she created the classes, teaching them all early on, steadily growing the program, adding faculty and classes as opportunity and need arose inspiring generations of students to become professional “appreciators” of the story, the figure, gesture, character, and costume, to love color, value, composition and to become lifetime learners from illustrators, painters, designers, or the passing beauty in a bank of clouds.

I remember her donning of her paisley smock and transforming herself into our teacher who, with a few deft strokes and words, transformed our drawings and our perceptions of what illustration could be, kindling that fire of excitement in our hearts to be the story, to draw with passion, understanding, and to make our voices as artists be authentic, and our own. No metaphor, example pulled from magazine, book or annual, arrangement of model, or costume, was enough as she worked to inspire. Her fiercely demanding reputation came with a passionate concern for our growth and well being as the next generation of illustrators, and as someone who loved learning, the illustration gods, especially Parker and Whitmore, and Fawcett, talk about English cars and yes, even love ice hockey.

We, her other children, are spread from New York to Shanghai. We still hear her words, late nights on deadline, reminding us to really see that ellipse, that rhythm, to love that warm/cool relationship, to care about that face and all its expressiveness. Many have her book, Drawing People, the book devoted to her passion for drawing the clothed figure.

The school she worked so hard to help grow, until her first retirement in 1992, has become a University of 10,000 students. On Thursdays, you can walk into Bradley Hall, and, in front of her lecture easel, leaning forward on tiptoes, is Barbara, still teaching Clothed Figure Drawing, electrified at the prospect of celebrating the rhythm of a leg, shape of a coat, or enhancing a character based on the model’s pose.

I look forward to seeing her passion and enthusiasm, passed on to another generation of thinking, drawing, passionately alive artists in whose hearts she has transferred a bit more of that fire that burns in her own.

Charles S. Pyle
Director, School of Illustration, Academy of Art University