Inspired by the aesthetic and iconic images of his childhood in the 60’s, Brian Nash’s art is full of color, quirk, and character. With its bright palette and pop culture references, Nash’s work is reminiscent of Warhol and the Pop Art movement of the late 50’s and 60’s, while simultaneously managing to retain a wholly original quality. Nash’s work also combines fun visuals and clever text to appeal to the child at heart: One painting for example, Peeps, features a color group of marshmallow Peeps, surrounded by a border of text that reads ‘I don’t want to hear a peep out of you!’, ‘These are my peeps’ and ‘Power to the peeps’. The distinctive, vibrant character of Brian’s paintings and its ability to almost always bring a smile (or laugh!) to the face is why we’ve chosen to feature Brian as this week’s Artist You Need to Know.
Vango: Why do you do what you do?
Brian: I’ve always loved creating things. When I worked for Polo Ralph Lauren, I was responsible for building the factory stores, and I loved seeing the project go from an architectural sketch to an actual store. When I wrote music, I loved hearing a song progress from a stray fragment to a recorded song. And I love seeing how an idea in my head becomes a painting. I paint what I paint — colorful, cheerful, humorous — because I like to make people happy.
V: How would you describe your work?
B: I call my paintings “art for the child at heart,” because, although they might appear juvenile, most of them really aren’t geared towards children; rather, they’re geared towards people who appreciate innocence with a touch of snark. I think a little bit of nostalgia runs through my paintings, because I often paint iconic images from my childhood.
V: How does your background in fashion influence your art?
B: I don’t think my background in fashion influences my art, other than it taught me to appreciate visuals, but I suspect I always did, which was why I was drawn to the fashion industry in the first place. I think my background in advertising has had a much greater effect, especially my experience working at the Leo Burnett Advertising Agency in Chicago. One of the tenets of Leo Burnett’s philosophy is that all advertising must have an “inherent narrative;” that is, you should be able to look at the image, and get a sense of what is happening. I often try to capture that moment in my art, by telling a story with visuals.
V: What are some of the techniques you use?
B: I use stretched canvas, and acrylic paint. Sometimes I use oil sticks to highlight and outline. I don’t sketch before I paint; I just start on the canvas. One thing I consistently do is paint a rough outline in white paint, and I leave the outline on the canvas, which, I think, gives the image some movement. I also love painting multiple versions of the same item. And…I tend to paint in series. I find an image that appeals to me, so I paint it a few different ways to fully explore it.
V: Who are some of the biggest inspirations on your art?
B: I’m inspired by any artist who has created an identifiable style.
My favorite artists are probably Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Wayne Thiebaud. Keith Haring is also a hero of mine, because I loved how he managed to walk the line between fine art and commercialism.
V: There are distinct motifs/themes in your work, like your ‘Le Chat Noir’ paintings and your ‘Museum’ series. What draws you to these?
B: I love the museum series, because it allows me to better-understand how the artists in the series painted, and to paint their images in my style. The Chat Noir series is inspired by one of my cats, a rescue named Skittles who has a very large personality which demands to be painted.
V: What artistic style(s) might you classify your work under?
B: I think it falls under both pop art and folk art. When I first started paying attention to art, I was mostly attracted to folk artists, because I loved their primitive style, and the immediacy of their art. When I lived in Chicago, there was a homeless artist named Lee Godie who would wander the streets, selling her art from a locker in the basement of the building in which I worked. I started collecting her art, as well as other folk artists like Jimmie Lee Sudduth and Howard Finster. Although folk art is an influence, my art, I think more appropriately falls under the rubric of pop art, because it uses commercial and everyday items for inspiration, and the execution is more polished than the majority of folk art.
V: Out of all your works, do you have a personal favourite?
B: My favorite painting is usually the one I just finished, but there is one that has consistently been hanging on my wall. It’s called “sup”, which is what an old friend and I would say to each other as a greeting.
Sup by Brian Nash
V: What is something you like to do when you’re not creating?
B: I pretty much am always creating. I paint every day, all day. When I’m waiting for paint to dry, however, I read, which is my biggest hobby.
More of Brian’s Art…