Waynesville-based artist Barbara Brook typically paints flowers and landscapes, but when she found herself painting a 6-foot-tall, anthropomorphic rabbit for HART Theatre’s upcoming production of “Harvey” she was up for the task.

“HART was looking for someone [to paint],” Brook said. “And I volunteered.”

“Harvey” is a comedy about a man and his imaginary friend: 6-foot, 3-and-a-half-inch-tall rabbit Harvey. The play explores the treatment of mental illness before medication was widely available. As the season closer on HART’s mainstage, “Harvey” is a Pulitzer Prize winning play described as charming and heart-warming.

One of the play’s defining props is a large, family portrait-style painting of the main character Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey, his invisible friend. Brook went back to her roots and used oil paint for the portrait, taking inspiration from a photo of the lead actor, Jack Heinen, and reference photos from other productions of “Harvey.”

The opening night for “Harvey” will coincide with Brook’s solo exhibition in the HART Theatre main lobby. Several of Brook’s watercolor and oil paintings will be on display. Most of her subjects focus on the everyday — she is often inspired by photos she takes during her travels. Brook says she’s been a painter nearly her whole life — for at least 50 years.

She got her start in oil painting, but started doing watercolors around 30 years ago after studying a self portrait her grandmother painted. At first Brook thought the painting was pastel because it was so detailed, so she was surprised when she realized it was watercolor. Brooks says she was especially struck by the detail in the intricate lace patterns and individual ringlets in her grandma’s hair.

“People say watercolor is hard because they want to control it,” Brook said. “But the beauty is letting it do what it wants to do. There’s beauty in how it flows, mingles and glows.”

Brook teaches watercolor classes out of her home studio in Waynesville, and can be reached at 828-246-0856.

“Harvey” opens Friday, Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. and runs on until Sunday, Oct. 24. For tickets, visit www.harttheatre.org or call the box office at 828-456-6322.

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