Thursday, February 3, 2022

DPW Spotlight Interview: Thomas O'Brien

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Thomas's painting "Oranges in Sunlight" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Thomas's DPW Gallery Page: 

Thomas O’Brien is a professional artist that paints seascapes and landscapes characterized by strong use of saturated color and deliberate mark making techniques. His artistic direction is heavily influenced by the impressionist and modernist painters/writers of the 19th and 20th century, particularly C├ęzanne, Picasso, Faulkner and O’Connor. 

Thomas O’Brien went to the University of New Mexico where he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing and minor in Art Studio. Having been an artist his entire life, his early pieces were entirely illustrative, using graphite, charcoal, pen and ink. His attempts at oil painting began in the autumn of 2008, where simultaneously his love of depicting landscapes began. 

Thomas O’Brien is also an Active Duty Marine Corps Officer, and has done several art projects for his military community, including: an Alaska Barrier mural in Kuwait City, a conference room historical project, and has designed multiple unit shirts, coins and other relatable content. He is currently painting and teaching at Grapes and Gallery/Columbia Library of Columbia SC, and is professionally represented by CityArt, Columbia’s premier Fine Art Gallery. He also is the host and creator of Columbia Art Group Meet-Up, which has close to 800 members now. 

Oranges in Sunlight
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Thomas's interview

What did you want to be growing up?  

I wanted to be like my father or grandfather. Huge influences on my life while growing up.
When did your artistic journey begin?

I started drawing at a very early age. As I got older, I kept going with drawing. It was a way to escape to another world, the world I was creating on a page. Continuous drawing eventually led to basic instruction in high school, which in turn led to college courses in the studio art realm. My touchpoint with painting began in college, which was back in 2006/07 ish. A lot of that instruction was very structured. When I joined the Marine Corps back in 2010, there were huge portions of time where I wasn’t painting.
Rose Color Study 3
(click to view)

Did you have any long periods without creative expression? How did you get back on the

My largest period of silence on the art front was from 2010 to 2014. Painting was not practical due to Marine Corps training, and the stress, and the long hours. I think after I got into a rhythm I could count on, my mind eventually gravitated to making art again. The hours never shortened, I just got more effective at time management.

Which mediums and genres do you gravitate toward? Which ones don’t appeal?

I am primarily an oil painter, but I also do work in gouache. For genres, I stay with landscape, still-life, abstract, sometimes portraiture and figure. Landscape remains my most engaged in subject. I don’t care for traditional watercolor, and acrylic I’m not as familiar with.

Akuna Beach
(click to view)

What was the process like of pinpointing your personal style or finding your voice? 

The process has been a rocky one. There isn’t a good way to find that kind of path, other than putting in the brush mileage. You just start to use certain techniques, certain brushes, certain mediums, and subjects often enough, that your “style” just becomes you. It’s like learning a language, eventually how you talk will be unique to you, but you have to put in the time learning and practicing.

Name an artist (or artists), well-known or not, who you admire. Why?

First and foremost: John Singer Sargent. Without question my favorite artist, ever. I have seen his work many times in person, and every time I am blown away. The more I study him, the more I realize how little I know. For me, his economy of strokes, accuracy, looseness, and overall mastery of the basics (values, color, composition, etc.) just impresses the hell out of me. Other notables: I love a good Turner piece, most artists out of the Hudson River School scene, and some of the impressionists: Monet, Matisse, etc. As far as contemporary artists go, Richard Schmid jumps right out at me, your SF scene (Mann, Kustusch, Sexton, Dhein, etc.) Australia’s Colley Whisson & Ken Knight, and landscape virtuoso Scott Christensen.

Lion Color Study III  
(click to view)

If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger, creative self — what would that be?

Get your head into the books, and save your money!
Do you utilize any habits or tricks for winning the distraction and procrastination battle? 

The only trick that works for me is education. Sometimes, I have to be honest with myself and acknowledge when my education isn’t getting me further along. I have to constantly be edifying myself to evolve. Zorn, Sargent, Schmid, were total consumers of history. Knew where the game came from, and where to take it. I take best practices like that from the top tier guys and try to incorporate that into my own practice.
Buddha in Jade  
(click to view)

In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you push forward? 

I approach this systematically, I am disciplined and I find that discipline tends to keep adversity at bay. The more discipline you exhibit, the more freedom you have/earn. 

What are some of your long and short term goals for yourself or your art? 

Short term for me is defined as 1-5 years and within 5 years I want to be represented by galleries on either coast of the United States and do more shows. Long term goal would to be able to subsist off art as a profession, own a gallery, and get into instruction.

Taken by the Tide
(click to view)

What does success mean to you personally?  

Mastery of the process (process defined as the execution of painting, the market aspect, the administrative aspects, etc), and peer respect.
What is one of your proudest moments in your creative life?

Being accepted as a Marine Corps Combat Artist for the Marine Corps Museum in Washington DC.

Plum Color Study
(click to view)

Thanks, Thomas!

© 2022 Maddie Marine

1 comment:

  1. I love the beach scene and the orange slices. Your work is fantastic.


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