Behind the brushstrokes

By on July 17, 2019


Living on a college budget is no easy task, but Brooke Balmer, a West Chester University sophomore and 2017 Ephrata High School graduate, uses her artistic skills and creativity to help her through it.

Many college students spend their time studying, writing papers, taking tests, or even drinking their 10th cup of coffee of the day after a long all-nighter.

Balmer also takes part in many of those usual college norms, but aside from attending classes and dealing with piles of homework and essays on a daily basis, she has recently created her own art business, “Brushstrokes by Brooke,” to help her deal with the price tag of being a full-time student.

“I didn’t officially set up and start my art as a business until last summer when I did the Lititz Craft Show for the first time,” said Balmer. “It was only shortly after that, while I was starting my sophomore year of college, that I decided to get my website up and started because I had been putting it off for a long time–not knowing how people would react to my business.”

Growing up, Balmer enjoyed doing arts and crafts, often spending a lot of her time in the art rooms in middle school. But after an Intro to Painting class in high school, she began to take an interest in painting and decided to continue expanding her art skills.

“I sold my first painting in the high school after it was hanging in the hallway,” said Balmer. “After that, I wanted to continue selling and got my first cafe showing at Sugar Whipped Bakery in Lititz.”

During her senior year, Balmer attended a portfolio day at the high school, where she received feedback on her artwork, and after gaining such positive reactions, she decided to open up an art page.

Brooke Balmer, owner of Brushstrokes by Brooke, stands in front of her first mural commission at Salon Cheriss, Akron, where she painted a pair of angel wings on the wall.

“I received a lot of great feedback on my work and decided to open an art page to see what people thought,” said Balmer. “I ended up getting a lot more feedback than I thought and a lot of people asking for commissions and prints of some of the ones that were already sold. After a lot of commissions and purchases, I decided that I wanted to make my art into a business as a way to help me through college.”

Brushstrokes by Brooke offers original oil paintings, canvas and paper prints of Balmer’s art, window paintings, commissioned paintings and tattoo designs, chalk pastels, and mural and logo paintings.

“My first commission was a pair of angel wings on salon’s wall (Salon Cheriss) in Akron, and shortly after that I did my first canvas commission, which was for an Ephrata football player of him in his uniform playing in the middle of a game,” said Balmer.

Circle of Life Massage and Wellness Center in Ephrata also commissioned Balmer to paint their new logo on the wall behind the front desk of the business.

Brushstrokes by Brooke also creates original paintings that can be purchased, including this piece, titled, Lost in the Sea.

Although, according to Balmer, the most interesting commission she completed was a painting for a young girl’s room.

“The painting was stretched across three separate canvases that had a rainbow, sun with a smiley face, and the words ‘you are my sunshine’ on them. This was the first time I did a painting like this, so I really enjoyed working on it,” Balmer said. “The commission also involved a window painting that I painted a flower with butterflies on and around it, which also went in the little girl’s room.”

Original paintings are priced based on the size of the painting, products used, and the time required to complete it. Commission paintings are priced on the same factors, but cost also varies depending on if there is a due date for the painting to be finished.

Her business also offers a watercolor membership, which allows customers to sign up to receive a 4-by-6-inch watercolor painting each month by mail, signed and matted by Balmer.

“The watercolor membership was actually something that I decided to create one day after wanting to make my website have more options for anyone’s wants. I also wanted it to be something that would make my art and business different from everyone else’s.” said Balmer.

The cost of the membership is $5 per month and customers will receive a unique 10 percent off code for future purchases of original or commissioned art. The theme of each watercolor painting will be based on the month and/or season in which they are being created. The membership can be cancelled at any time.

“I am always looking for new and improved things to add to the website to make it more appealing and convenient for customers,” Balmer said.

For more information on Brushstrokes by Brooke, original painting and commission prices, or any questions, visit

Emily Jacoby is a staff writer for The Ephrata Review. 


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