Carmel artist ‘grinds away’ at watercolors


While exploring the gristmill at Spring Mill State Park, Dr. Robert Bratton was intrigued by a piece of pre-Industrial Revolution machinery inside the 18th-century structure.

Dr. Robert Bratton’s watercolor painting, “Grinding Away,” won Best in Show at the recent “All Our Best” reception for the Hamilton County Artists’ Association. (Submitted photo)

“I went inside the old mill there and was struck by the wooden cogs that turned the millstone grinder,” he said. “I decided that it would make a good subject for a painting. I photographed it for a reference and planned on emphasizing the colors and textures so that I could create an abstract, realistic painting.”

Bratton did more than that. The Carmel resident created a watercolor painting that won Best of Show at the June 4 “All Our Best” reception for the Hamilton County Artists’ Association at the Birdie Gallery in Noblesville.

Bratton’s painting, “Grinding Away,” was the centerpiece of the HCAA’s “All Our Best” exhibit that was on display June 5 through July 24 at the Birdie Gallery. The exhibit featured the finest work of juried artist members in the categories of watercolor; oil/acrylic; drawing/mixed media; photography; and 3-D art.

A retired dentist, Bratton, 82, took first place in the watercolor category as well as Best in Show. He took up painting three decades ago after taking lessons from a former patient.

“I have always been interested in creativity and art, which is useful in the dental profession,” Bratton said. “I have been painting in watercolors almost exclusively for about 30 years. I love to paint metal objects, architecture, machinery, animals, or anything that has color and texture.

“I particularly like to paint old, rusty steam locomotives or things relating to the railroad.”

A frequent exhibitor at the Birdie Gallery, has been a juried member of the HCAA since 1994. He has won multiple awards and is a Cardinal Fellow of the Watercolor Society of Indiana.

“It’s what I love to do in retirement, and I enjoy entering competitions,” said Bratton, whose website is