Sussex artist Brenda Barratt sends her painting into space

Sussex artist Brenda Barratt is looking forward to the safe return of her painting after it has been taken into space by Sussex-born astronaut Piers Sellers.

Sussex astronaut Piers Sellers is taking an original watercolour portrait painted by Buxted artist Brenda Barratt into outer space aboard the Space Shuttle in May this year. 

Crowborough-born NASA astronaut Piers was a pupil at Cranbrook School in Kent and Brenda was recently asked by Angela Daly, the school’s head teacher to paint a watercolour of the school.  The painting will then be returned to Cranbrook School with the official NASA verification that it has travelled into space.

“I never thought a painting I had created in my Buxted studio would ever be blasted into space.  I regard it as a great honour,” said Brenda.

“Most of my work involves architecture – I’ve painted well over 500 house portraits over the years. I’ve also painted dozens of schools and colleges too.”

Head teacher, Mrs Daly said: “I was delighted when Piers suggested he took the painting with him into space. This makes the painting quite unique.   On his last trip he took a copy of the School’s Elizabethan Charter.”

Brenda has been painting all her life and comes from an artistic family.  Her father, Chris Rooke was commissioned to paint watercolours of important buildings thought likely not to survive World War II.His painting, among many other well-known artists, are in the custody of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

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“My upbringing was totally unconventional thanks to my eccentric father who once painted black lines down the back of my mother’s bare legs after she abandoned the badly-laddered nylon stockings she had bought for an important occasion, said Brenda.

“As a child I used to sit next to my father watching him paint and then I would be allowed to carefully add snow flakes, or birds in flight.  Sometimes I would get carried away, but dad never seemed to mind! 

"So it was a natural progression that I would paint and after the great hurricane I was so upset to see the devastation caused at Buxted Park, that I sat down and painted a watercolour of the park before the storm.

“From then on my affection for watercolour painting has flourished.  I started by painting house portraits, something I still very much enjoy, and went on to paint larger buildings – public schools and colleges.”

Brenda’s work  developed to the point where heads began to commission her to capture the essence of their own schools and colleges and to make limited edition prints available to the parents and pupils and donate the original to the school.

She does house portraits after an initial personal visit – often made under great secrecy so as not to divulge anything to her client’s intended recipient!  Her paintings now hang in every continent of the world.

She has just started a website where you can see more of her pictures.

More about Piers Sellers

Born in Crowborough, in 1955, Piers was educated at Cranbrook School, Kent where he began his RAF pilot's training. He completed his education by gaining a BSc at Edinburgh and a PhD at Leeds in 1981.

A year later, Piers and his wife moved to the USA to commence his NASA career as a research meteorologist. But he maintained his aircraft piloting skills and was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996. His first space flight came in October 2002 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

In total, Piers has logged over 559 hours in space on two missions, including six space-walks of 41 hours duration.

In 2005, Piers opened Cranbrook School's observatory, which is named after him. He also took a copy of the school charter into space with him on his 2006 NASA mission (STS-121).

Piers is assigned to the crew of STS-132 which is targeted for launch in May 2010. This 11 day flight, the Space Shuttle’s 132nd, will deliver a Russian-built Mini Research Module to the International Space Station.

There will then be only two more Space Shuttle launches before NASA retires the Shuttle fleets forever.

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