Artist makes a come­back

Af­ter years out of the main­stream, a lead­ing Glas­gow artist is mak­ing a come­back – with the help of the in­ter­net.

The Herald - - NEWS - ASHLIE MCANALLY re­ports

HE is per­haps best known for hir­ing and paint­ing out of a po­lice cell in Cal­ton, Glas­gow, for years – cut­ting him­self off from the rest of the world to work on his art.

Later, Scot­tish artist Joe O’brien took his chance with gal­leries which paid off and al­lowed him to show­case his tal­ent. “I came down from the moun­tain, away from the jail and thought ‘I’m go­ing to risk re­jec­tion’ and go into gal­leries.

“Lo and be­hold gal­leries picked up on me and started sell­ing my paint­ings.”

Now, he is mak­ing a come­back af­ter five years away from the main­stream and is em­brac­ing tech­nol­ogy.

The 56-year-old self-taught painter has de­cided now is the per­fect time to take his work on­line.

With the en­cour­age­ment of a friend, he has re­cently launched his own web­site. Joe de­scribes his work as “sym­bol­ist or sur­real” and ad­mits that it does not hang com­fort­ably in ev­ery­one’s liv­ing room.

He took the de­ci­sion to re­move him­self from gal­leries when they tried to get him to change his art and “paint less noses and more cot­tages”.

Work­ing from a small stu­dio on Alexan­dra Pa­rade in Glas­gow’s east end, he has de­cided to sell to the wider pub­lic again to “sus­tain his cre­ativ­ity and keep up pro­cess­ing the jour­ney and sto­ry­telling”.

“An agent picked me up and some paint­ings sold to Scot­tish celebri­ties – Michelle Mone and Muriel Gray – I was de­lighted with that,” he says of his ini­tial big break.

“It kept me in house and home but then I had a kind of cri­sis of con­fi­dence where gal­leries were con­cerned be­cause they were start­ing to try and shape my way of paint­ing.

“The paint­ings were sell­ing but they were say­ing ‘we can sell more of them if you paint less noses and more cot­tages’.”

Laugh­ing, he in­sists he has no prob­lem with paint­ings of cot­tages, but it just isn’t his style.

“I don’t paint com­fort­able art, I don’t paint art that gen­er­ally speaking sits well above the sofa.

“Although, what is an ab­so­lute de­light is that chil­dren seem to love them. On the one hand gal­leries were im­ply­ing the paint­ings might frighten chil­dren and on the other hand I was find­ing chil­dren, young peo­ple and lots of adults were de­lighted with them. I built up a core fol­low­ing of peo­ple who for what­ever rea­son love my work and kept buy­ing them.

“But, I be­came dis­il­lu­sioned with gal­leries and with­drew.”

How­ever, it was im­por­tant to keep work­ing in the back­ground.

He says: “My paint­ings are in­ter­est­ing to me first and fore­most and that keeps me paint­ing and they are in­ter­est­ing to that core group of fol­low­ers – that al­lowed me to with­draw from gal­leries.

“What was keep­ing me go­ing was pri­vate com­mis­sion and pri­vate sales. That was a fan­tas­tic feel­ing that peo­ple want to buy my art.”

He feels now is the right time to ex­plore a new av­enue to sell his work and keep him mo­ti­vated.

“Re­cently, a friend who wanted to work with me for some time and is very sup­port­ive rec­om­mended in­ter­net, on­line sales, the whole she­bang and I said, ‘I think the time is per­fect’,” he says.

“The web­site has now been launched. I’m not a to­tal di­nosaur with the com­puter but note overly well versed in it.

“I think it’s go­ing to be a very use­ful way of me be­ing able to sus­tain my cre­ativ­ity, keep up pro­cess­ing sto­ry­telling and get­ting my art out to peo­ple who might ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“I don’t want to alien­ate gal­leries but I lost a lot of faith in some of them at least and this is a bet­ter way for me to ac­quire some kind of con­trol over what I’m do­ing and that leads in to why I’m do­ing it as well.”“i’ve got one life.”

Joe spends as much time as he can in his stu­dio over­look­ing Alexan­dra

Pa­rade in Glas­gow’s east end.

He says: “I come in here as of­ten as I can, if the mood takes me I can get off a bus from Mary­hill or even walk it.“there’s times I’ve walked when I’m feel­ing the urge to bat­ter away on a big paint­ing - or a wee one, or think that face needs an­other nose.“i’m self taught, I’ve got loads of pals that went to art school. I did con­sider do­ing that but I’ve had friends tell me that in their opin­ion

They wanted me to paint less noses and more cot­tages

Pic­tures: Jamie Simp­son

„ Artist Joe O’brien with his art­work in his Glas­gow stu­dio. He says: ‘I don’t paint com­fort­able art.’

His dis­tinc­tive art is now be­ing show­cased on­line.

„ One of Joe’s pieces with the typ­i­cally large nose style.

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