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Spotlight on painter Paul O’Brien

By in Interviews


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Being an artist

Please give us a few words of introduction about yourself


I live in Kent but grew up in London. I love music and am a self taught guitarist.

How and when did you start out as an artist?


I drew a lot at school, in all subjects and have been a creative person ever since. After making art for other people for so long in the form of graphics and visual effects I needed to find something deeper in my work. Design focuses on directing the viewer, my art is about conversing with the viewer. I believe that great art is felt rather than seen.

Beauty and the Thief by Paul O'Brien

What training did you have?


I studied art after leaving school but switched to graphic design soon after. I have worked in film and television since the late 80’s.

What has been your best creative achievement so far?


I was fortunate to be included in the Akabeko Project in Japan which is a traveling exhibition designed to help re-build a village destroyed by the tsunami.

General Questions

What’s your favourite quote?


‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar’ Sigmund Freud.

Who is your favourite artist?


I am a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat as he was able to balance emotion and direction perfectly whilst maintaining his own inimitable style.

What are you aiming for?


I believe there is a deep form of communication in abstract art which can move people in a similar way to music. I hope to affect peoples emotions through that communication.

How will you get there?


Each painting feels like a progression to me and there are key paintings where I have turned a corner or discovered something new.

Is anything holding you back?


I would like to work on a much bigger scale so that you can submerge yourself in a painting. I don’t have the time or space to do this.

You and art

What sort of reactions do you get to your work? are you ever surprised?


I wouldn’t expect everyone to like my work. It is rewarding to sell paintings to people who love them.

From start to finish, how long does it take for you to create your work?


I approach painting in a very physical way, working very quickly. It can be stressful and frantic followed by long periods of contemplation. The time varies enormously and some are left unfinished for a long time until something clicks.

What music do you like to listen to when you work?


I often work in silence. I’ve tried all sorts of music but it gets ignored.

What is next in the pipeline for you? Any new directions or shows coming up?


I’m working towards my first solo show in May 2012. I have recently returned to a painting I started 6 months ago before I was distracted by the August riots, which inspired a whole body of work.

Being inspired by art

Who (living or dead) inspires you? and why?


I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now without the work of the abstract expressionists even though I don’t consider myself to be one.

What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?


Most of my work has a social political message behind it. I am inspired by communication, decay, society and inequality.

What is your favourite work that you’ve produced so far and why?


When I finished ‘Falling from buildings’ I stood back and felt changed by having produced it. It was the first time I felt a step up in my work.

an artist’s advice

Have you got any advice for those starting out as an artist?


Don’t paint to please anyone but yourself.

Whatever You Can Carry by Paul O'Brien

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