With opera filling his ears, Branch Branciforte bends over his latest watercolor, carefully applying brush strokes to the page.
“He can spend the entire day in his room, painting,” said his daughter Lori Gregg. “It’s his focus for the day.”
Branciforte, who is 95, devoted his adult life as an engineer at major aviation companies. While sketching and wood carving were always a hobby, it wasn’t until he was 81 that he began painting watercolors. All it took was one art class and he was off and running. Since that time, he has given away more than 200 pieces and creates two vibrant watercolors a week.
“Money is not important to me,” Branciforte said.
He has lived with his daughter and her husband since 1998. They’ve resided in various parts of the country and even after they’ve moved on, Branciforte’s artwork remains in the hands of people whose lives he has touched.
Last year, a group of students from the Orcas Christian School visited his studio. He gave away 20 paintings that day. Most recently, he contributed 24 pieces to the Valentine’s Day lunch at the senior center.
One of his dearest pieces is called “Hugging Hearts.” The image came to him in a dream from his wife, who passed away in 2003 after 69 years of marriage.
Branciforte is open to any kind of subject matter – from animals to waterfalls and landscapes. His grandchildren send him images to replicate and he scours magazines for interesting images.
“Something will jump out at me and say ‘paint me!’ and so I say ‘I’ll try,” he laughs.
In addition to giving away his art, Branciforte is known for sharing his Italian recipes.
“I love to cook and I helped my mom in the kitchen all the time,” he said.
Branciforte, who is one of 10 siblings, credits his youthful energy to eating in moderation, never smoking and “always thinking happy thoughts.”
He and his daughter frequently attend the Met’s streaming opera productions at Orcas Center.
“I sing songs to myself, I am happy from the inside out,” he said. “I always listen to music ... operas and music from the 40s and 50s.”