Barbara Louise Bradley ILLU ’51
Barbara Louise Bradley ILLU 51, (December 12, 1927—May 2, 2008). Recognized as one of the greatest and most inspiring teachers of drawing in the country, Barbara Bradley died May 2, 2008 in California following an automobile accident. She was an award-winning illustrator, instructor, painter, and author, as well as a loving wife, daughter, mother and grandmother. She was Director of the School of Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for twenty-five years, and was the only Academy teacher to have a hall named after her (Bradley Hall, 540 Powell Street, San Francisco). She was one of a handful of successful females in a male-dominated profession, although she didn’t consider herself a pioneer; she merely did what she loved to do.
Barbara was the only child of Gerard and Josie Preston. She was born in Los Angeles, but spent most of her childhood in San Francisco. Barbara graduated from Lowell High School in San Francisco, then attended the University of California, Berkeley, where she met her first husband Herbert Briggs (a fellow artist) while drawing for the rally committee. Herb and Barbara studied at Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles before setting off for New York to begin their careers. Barbara was soon hired to work at the prestigious Charles E. Cooper Studio in New York City, where she achieved great success. After returning to California, Barbara continued her career as a freelance illustrator. Specializing In figure drawing, she became best known for her depictions of children (while raising three of her own, all of whom did their stints as models for her). Her work for such clients as Bank of America, Borden, Dole, PG&E, and C&H Sugar brought her many awards.
In 1958, Barbara was invited to speak at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She was thereupon invited to teach, and was ultimately encouraged by Academy then-president Dick Stephens to build, class-by-class, what would become the School of Illustration as it is today at the Academy of Art University. Over the next five decades, Barbara inspired generations of students to become professional â€śappreciatorsâ€ť of story, figure, gesture, character, and costume; to love color, value, and composition; and to become lifetime learners. Always attired in one of her paisley smocks, Barbara continued to teach drawing until last December, when she formally retired at the age of 80.
Encouraged by her second husband Neil in 2003, Bradley published the long-anticipated Drawing People: How to Portray the Clothed Figure (NorthLight Books). Known as a "must have book for any artist", one reviewer noted that "the information is better than any class I have taken or book I have read. It is not a book just on technique, but it teaches how to see the object. Barbara Bradley shares a road map...every artist should have this book."
Last year, Bradley received the coveted Distinguished Educator Award from the Society of Illustrators in NY. She was selected by a jury of 75 esteemed illustrators and artists from all over the world, joining a prestigious list of previous winners. This was the capstone to her career; she had also received numerous vocational and teaching awards, and in 1992 was awarded Honorary Life Membership In the San Francisco Society Of Illustrators.
Barbara always said that she had two families. Her "first family" included her husband, Neil, who passed away on May 4, 2008 due to injuries suffered in the same automobile accident, and her survivors: children Lauchlin Briggs Divine, Glennis Briggs, Andy Bradley and his wife Bella; and grandchildren Diana Divine and Lydia Bradley. Her son-in-law Craig Divine died in 2006. Her "second family" included the hundreds of students who she taught and from whom she learned. Today, those students can been found as close as San Francisco and as far away as Shanghai. Though Barbara would say that all of her students were notable, some who have earned national or international recognition include Kazuhiko Sano, Francis Livingston, Zahid Sardar, Robert Hunt, Tim Bower, Chuck Pyle, Bob Walker, Lisa Berrett and Melissa Marshall. Many former Bradley students were inspired to become teachers.
A long-time resident of Berkeley, California, Barbara wrote that she was happy about the choices she'd made during her life, including "choosing to raise a family rather than being a full-time illustrator, choosing to make my kids' clothes and fancy birthday cakes rather than spending time 'on the board', and eventually choosing to become more involved in teaching illustration than in the doing of it." When she celebrated 50 years of teaching at the Academy last December, also commemorating her 80th birthday and her six-decade career, she said it was "a wonderful event that made my choices not only inevitable but the right ones."
The fire that Barbara's passion and enthusiasm has kindled in the hearts of artists the world over continues to burn, and will certainly be passed on for many generations to come.