Details, color, shadows, and lines define the paintings of Crista Goble Bromley, a woman who comes from a family of artists and who also happens to be mayor of Burnet.
“The details are what bring it to life for me,” said the artist about her work. “I like to bring the body of the painting out with the details.”
Bromley shares her talent with a handful of her eight brothers and sisters, her mother, and, more famously, her grandparents Charles Berkeley and Fanny Harris Normann, who were married in 1928 in Burnet County.
Each considered a pre-eminent painter in their own right, the Normanns collaborated on significant pieces that depict Lone Star history. Together, they created “The Reading of the Texas Declaration of Independence,” which currently hangs in the Star of the Republic Museum at Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site. They both have works displayed in prestigious locations, including the Texas Capitol and the Texas State Library. Grandpa Normann even painted a self-portrait on the men’s bathroom door of Scholz Garten in Austin. Now that’s history.
“I kind of grew up around it,” Bromley said. “My mother was an artist, but she had eight children, so she didn’t have a lot of time to paint.”
Neither did Bromley until she retired from her position as Burnet’s director of Economic Development in 2016.
“I hadn’t painted in about twenty years,” she said. “I found out I still had a little of whatever it took, and so I’ve been painting ever since.”
Now in her second term as mayor, Bromley makes time daily to escape to her studio, where she works mostly in oils and usually has two or three paintings going at once. Oils need to dry between layers, so she makes sure something is always standing by to work on while others sit.
Bromley’s art has earned a number of awards and recognitions, including several finalist selections in Fusion Art Gallery competitions. She won Best of Show for her landscape “Who’s the Boss Now.” She has paintings hanging in the Burnet County Courthouse, the Herman Brown Free Library, and the Ritzy Texan.
Bromley also creates handmade jewelry (available at the Ritzy Texan) and is known for her mandolin playing. She performs with several of her siblings in the Goble Family String Band.
Samples of her work can be found at cgbfinearts.com.
A study of her painting “The Grey” reveals her obsession with the intricacy of detail. The painting is a closeup of the upper-right side of a horse’s face. Bromley used a tiny brush to paint thousands of minute white dots one by one on the horse’s gray face. It took her about three months to complete.
She’s also a stickler for colors, favoring sharp, crisp hues that require her to layer the pigment.
Although she works in several genres, she favors portraits — both people and animal. Recalling the first time someone asked her to paint a pet, she laughed because she wasn’t sure how to do it.
“The first time I painted an animal, it was a dog,” she said. “But I didn’t paint a dog; I painted a portrait. It turned out to be just like the dog.”
Bromley doesn’t see a person, pet, or landscape when she’s painting. She sees how the light and shadows interact. Bringing those elements together with color on a canvas is a fine dance of creation with brushes and oils.
Sometimes, however, Bromley gets well into a piece, takes a look it, and wants to toss it. That’s when she applies a technique that works well both in art and on the job. She takes a day or two off from the painting and returns for a fresh look.
“Sometimes, you have to step back and take a break,” she said. “When you come back, you see it new again and what it could be.”
Perhaps she can thank her ancestors for passing along this genetic tendency as well as their artistry.
“I guess it’s in my DNA,” she said.