top of page

Artist Spotlight: Madeline Brice

We sat down with Madeline Brice (, a Kansas City based visual artist, to discuss her time as a Quarantine artist in residence in Menorca, her process from conceptualisation of a piece to the final product and more…

Where did your journey as an artist start? 

Well, I've been an artist for like over a decade. I just turned 31, I guess it's been longer than that. I started painting in my undergrad and so I guess that would have been 2011 roughly. So I've had a practice for a little over a decade. I actually started college as a music major, which a lot of people don't know, but I started as a vocal performance major and then quickly realised that I wanted to be in visual arts. So I made that switch and I was introduced to oil painting in college and I haven't been able to stop. I knew, I just knew that was my medium. So yeah, I've had a practice for the majority of the last decade and I really feel like I'm really excited about where my practice is heading. 

Is there anything you wish people saw behind the scenes of your life and your work as an artist? 

Well, for me at least, each painting takes quite a while from brainstorming to conceptualisation to actually putting it on a canvas to finishing the painting. So I feel like you hear a lot of times - and you probably deal with this at BRUSHWRK, but people are always like, ‘why is your work at that price point?’. And people don't realise the work it takes, whether it's a painting or sculpture or whatever medium you're working in, how much time really it takes to develop that idea and bring it to fruition. 

So, sure, maybe I'm working on a painting like once I put it on the canvas to completion for, I don't know, maybe a month, but sometimes it can take months to even a year to conceptualise that one idea. And I think a lot of people don't realise that. So I think I guess I would probably just show the conceptualization process, the brainstorming, the dreaming, the sketches, the studies, everything that it takes just to bring one final painting, in my case, to completion.

Can you break down that process for us, from the conceptualisation of an idea to the final product? 

Yeah, absolutely. So up until this last like two years, my work has been very, very personal. And it's not to say it's not personal now, it's incredibly personal still, but my work prior was a lot of self-portraiture, a lot of portraits of loved ones, you know, partners, things like that. I made work that was very, very close to home. And over the last two years, I've sort of started developing a different conceptualization process. And I really feel like I've honed in on it in the last year at least. 

So I do a ton of reading - I love to read fiction and I also love to read nonfiction, but specifically historical fiction is what I think my primary genre of book is. And what I do is I highlight and I write down anything that really stands out to me and anything that I'm reading. So I have this journal of phrases, words that I just really love, and then I sort of go off of those. I start to journal and free write and do a lot of word association to see any trends, or any ideas that I keep highlighting or that really stand out to me. I kind of go from those highlighted ideas to journals to free writing to word association. That's how I get to like, Oh, like, what if I painted this giant inflatable gorilla in a car dealership parking lot, because, you know, you see those in car dealership parking lots. And then, What would it look like if it was, I don't know, holding a $1 sign and if it was purple, you know - I start to think about these weird ideas altogether. It's really added an element of play into my work that I didn't have before. 

I feel like that's sort of how I start to conceptualise these ideas. I do the word association, I kind of pull out these ideas, and then I just start sketching and seeing what that could look like in my own visual language. I work on sketches, and then I do work a lot and procreate. I like to do a lot of digital studies before I bring it to any canvas. And so that's kind of how I come about my ideas.

One piece that really stood out for me when I was doing a deep dive on your Instagram was ‘Little Swimmers’. Would you mind explaining the backstory to that piece?

Yeah, absolutely. That's actually a portrait of my sister - I think I made it in like 2019, roughly. My sister and I look fairly identical, people think we're twins often so I've painted her a couple of times, just because I like that confusion on the viewer’s part. But I came across this idea, because my sister and I were travelling in Europe, we were in Amsterdam, and for the first time I saw a condominium, which we don't really have in the US. I saw these strings of condoms that looked used but of course, they were probably not. But I saw this string of condoms, like in this window and I just thought that that looks so bonkers. And so I took a picture of it and I was like, I want to paint that. 

But I need to figure out what I want to say with it. Like I said, my work used to be really, really personal and I was honestly kind of sad. And so I was like, Oh, my sister and I, we both have substance abuse issues in our family and we've struggled with it ourselves and through that we've both experienced sexual trauma. So I started to kind of create these ties between myself and my sister. I wanted to create a composition that sort of was humorous but also tackled those experiences. So I put the little cowboy hat on her because I wanted it to reflect kind of childlike whimsy, because it's like a little tiny child's cowboy hat. I kind of just wanted it to be this little weird, humorous take on my, I guess my sexual trauma, weirdly enough, but yeah, that's kind of how that painting came to be. I like there to be little elements of humour, because, yeah, they're heavy. They're heavy topics. But I also think that if you can find humour in it, then you can get through it, you know?

'Little Swimmers'

Could you also take us through your experience of quarantine in Menorca with the Leighton International Exchange Programme Award? 

Actually, it's so weird but that experience was really eye opening for my practice. I was actually reached out to by one of the directors or one of the creators of Quarantine late in 2022. They were like, Hey, we're doing this, we're starting this programme and we think you'd be a good fit for it and let us know if you can do it. I mean, everyone knows that travelling is not cheap. I was like, Well, this sounds incredible, like seeing all of these artists and being mentored by these artists that I've admired for a while and so I applied for this - it’s Kansas City specific - but I applied for the Leighton International Exchange programme, and they basically fund international travel for artists, whether it's residencies or, you know, education experiences. So I applied for it and I was really lucky to receive it, and you know, that kind of funded my attendance there. 

It was honestly a crazy experience. It was the first quarantine that they’ve done and now I think they’re on their third or fourth iteration coming up in October. So I would say that there were a lot of kinks that had to be worked out for that first experience, but it was, it literally was like a boot camp for artists. You are literally quarantined on the quarantine island of Lazaretto. It was a quarantine Island I believe in like the late 1800s for I think it was a Spanish British war. You had no cell phone, no service, you just were surrounded by a tonne of other artists who were there, ready and willing to learn and network and you know, just take on any experience that they could.

I often say that there was life before quarantine and then life after because it was a really unique experience. I met a lot of really, really cool people, people that I stay in touch with now and I think that's all you can really hope for right, is to learn and, and meet lifelong friends in types of experiences like that. So, yeah, I wouldn't take it back.

Do you think isolation in that way helps your work? 

Absolutely. I've always tried to turn my phone on Do Not Disturb anytime I head into the studio, just so that I'm not bombarded with notifications all the time. But I feel like specifically after quarantine, I've implemented that even more. I get to the studio I turn on Do Not Disturb, ten hours go by and then usually I turn it back on. I really do think that it helps and I really encourage other artists, or anyone who has a practice, just to turn off your phone, because it’s so easy to be bombarded and distracted. It’s really hard to get into that flow state if you are constantly attuned to something else. So yeah, I would say that quarantine just reinforced it and yeah, it’s really beneficial. 

Speaking of social media, what's your relationship like with social media now as an artist?

It's funny that you asked that because I work in marketing as my full time job, actually, as a social media manager. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I do think in this day and age, it's incredibly important in order to have any sort of visibility and I think that a lot of like, at least from an artist's perspective, I think a lot of galleries are looking for you to have that social media presence. For me, personally, like not as a social media manager, but as Madeline Bryce the artist, I focus on quality over quantity. 

I've gotten to a point where I want to show my work in the best light. So you know, I have everything professionally documented, everything professionally recorded, because I want my work to look as good as it can and as it does in real life. Especially as a visual artist, it's really hard to get your work to come across on a tiny little platform. So yeah, I really focused on quality and I try not to dwell on, you know, follower counts and things like that, and engagement. I just remind myself that like I'm not I'm not making art for anyone except for myself and so I just want to express that in the way that feels authentic to me.

What about the current art industry you'd like to see change in 2024?

I feel like there are a lot of small, incremental shifts happening underneath the mega galleries that are really shifting things. I can see, at least from my perspective, that there is a refocusing on emerging artists and female, non binary artists. I can see that there are galleries trying to refocus their efforts on underrepresented artists. 

I guess I would love to see a shift away from these mega galleries getting so much attention and just a larger focus on underrepresented artists. I think that’s what we can hope for moving forward. 

If you enjoyed this conversation with Madeline, make sure to check out our other Artist Spotlight interviews over on and whilst you’re there, why not have a look through all of the fantastic art we have for sale from emerging artists? Pop into the website to see what catches your eye…


bottom of page