Posted by: inshin | August 24, 2010

David O’Brien

My next interview is with the Artist,  David O’Brien (the painter Flynn).

Every picture has a story…

As a painter I have succeeded to a certain degree if I can cause the viewer armed with just a visual image and a title a moments pause or reflection or question. I succeed again to a certain degree if I am happy for you the viewer to see the image.

I am my own sternest critic and just how the image is presented has to be satisfactory to my ego. No one likes being judged. On a daily basis I improve in a technical sense; the rest my dear friend is marketing, that is, if ones obsession is to prosper in ones own lifetime.

I have a cunning plan. As it is most of my pictures sell on the easel. I frame my pictures once I am satisfied that I will complete the picture. This in turn confuses callers to my studio to believe they are for sale. That of course is not the cunning plan.

The Person

When or at what age did you first create images that felt like art?

The educational system records that I passed if not (the memory)got an Honor in Art in the Leaving  Cert.which involved drawing a HB milk bottle, I had only attended art classes once as the class was held in the library and involved passing a pub to get to it. My first picture didn’t arrive until I was 41 at which time I had become friendly with Phillip Hope, a Canadian painter and hoarder who got me going as it were, was my bro’s house from memory and my 2nd a bit more notable addressed the ‘Information Superhighway’, a distant mountain chain (remarkably like a woman reclining on her back in a certain light) in a dawn yellow sky with a centred highway in which I managed to fiddle a little bit with stretchy road signs to effect   $$  signs. A chap from Las Vegas bought it and put a facsimile on the front of a prospectus he was sending to the 100000 richest Americans. That was the key .

Was there any tradition of painting or other forms of art in your family?

Not really the family history was teaching, publicans and coopering on my dad’s side who was an Engineer, and medicine and milling on my mum’s side, she was a Pharmacist.

When you’re out and about, are there certain types of places or areas you feel drawn to?

Not really any more. Pubs up to my 1st stagger at 37.

How would you feel if someone told you that you need never paint again for the rest of your life and all your material needs would be covered?

That is pretty much the situation. In recent years I have been held back by ill health stemming from stress arising from a banking misadventure (High Court Nov 1st) so am improving daily.

The Craft

When or how do you get the inspiration to paint?

If I have a blank canvass in front of me I never seem to have trouble thinking about what to put down I rarely  maybe 2/3 times have put down the same image. Sometimes if I am really stuck I will put down a few grounds and see if they suggest anything to me .

When you paint, do you feel drawn to any particular types of images?

I suppose all artist ‘s would like to paint that one masterpiece which generally is a well captured moment in time that poses some mystery, I try to tell stories as much as possible and leave a little mystery?

How often do you feel you should paint, everyday or just when you feel that desire ?

When I am in the studio its full-time day and night I am easily obsessed and happiest when I have 25 /30 on the go.

How do you approach your own painting when it comes to reviewing it?

I think I would be fairly hard on myself and hard to satisfy but lucky in that I seem to know early on whether an image is worth pursuing.

The Audience

Who do you paint for?

Myself, the rest has been luck.

Do you try to connect with your audience and if so how?

I am always surprised at the people who buy my pictures or more so the pictures they buy.

Is it important to you how people react to your painting?

Haven’t really had any harsh criticism other than myself.

Have you received negative criticism and if so how have you managed that?

Worst I have had is from the head of Fine art at NCAD who says he can turn me into a great painter if I just attend one semester, he points out that I could use dark pigment to greater advantage and he is right .

The Business

Do you see this as a business?

I am sure it could be and is to the dealers and galleries but not to me in that sense. Some contemporary Artist’s are Empires.

History would suggest that the art of painting is a difficult life to create a reasonable full-time living from, do you think that  has stayed the same or have things changed that allow artists continue to focus purely on their work to survive?

Historically it was probably easier, in theory it should be easier today as there are a lot more walls, I think today people want more something that they can live with.

Do you feel that there are support mechanisms in place for a new painter?

If you have some talent and work at it you will make your own mechanisms.The Arts Council is a reasonably run organisation from what I can see of it.

How do you feel the Internet has impacted on the artistic world of painting?

It’s only fantastic if one puts the work in not only building a site but linking it up is the biz. The opportunity is extraordinary. The one problem with the net is that all you have is a photograph to judge and no matter how good it is it doesn’t have the same impact apart from colour coordination in some cases.

——–  End  ——–

More of his work

Thanks to David for agreeing to take the interview, remember to check out his site. You can also follow David on Twitter

Excluding introduction and images, ©Denis Vaughan.


  1. Really great interview thoroughly enjoyed reading it, thank you so much 🙂

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