Thursday, June 2, 2016
Artist Spotlight - Barbara O'Brien
Tell us a bit about yourself: Did you go to school for art? Are you self taught?
I guess I would say that I am self taught but that is really a misnomer as I have been blessed with wonderful mentors who taught me how to use my camera and other kind folks, like my agent, Joanne Olds of the Buffalo Works and her in house designer, Nicole Fadden, who took a chance on me and have guided me in turning my photos into art to make them more appealing to manufactures. I used to do watercolor, sketches and pastels but took 20+ years off to raise a family of four sons and a daughter while running an animal actors agency. I did not start shooting until around 2008 when my advertising clients took a big hit like everyone else and I needed to expand my income base. With the help of some excellent photographers who were gracious enough to show me the ropes I was able to start shooting professionally right off the bat. I still work with ad agencies and editorial clients but am now focused on creating more imagery that I can turn into licensable art.
Do you work in just one medium? Several?
I principally work in digital photography. I like to use my own images to create my art as I never have to worry about copyright or attribution issues. I do license photographs but am now mostly working in digital art.
What inspires you / where do you get inspiration from?
As you can see from my work, I tend to be pretty animal focused. To be inspired I need to look no farther than out my window as I live on a small farm in rural Wisconsin and am surrounded by beauty everywhere.
How did you start licensing your art?
My oldest son was watching me edit a photo shoot of a really sweet puppy and he said “Why isn’t this on the cover of every fourth grade girl’s notebook?” That was a lightbulb moment for me. Yeah why isn’t it? Those pictures get there somehow and so began my journey learning about this world. I was also lucky enough to have a good friend who managed to get my work in front of an editor at Penguin Random House and am proud to say that my little photo book DOGFACE has done quite well.
What are you working on now?
I have created 10+ new collections in the past few months ranging from farm animals to humorous themes and strive to create new art every week. I shoot almost continuously adding to my library of assets. For example, I shot a series of farmer’s markets last year to give me the vegetables images I needed to create my farm to table series.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
I am blessed to be working in the digital age, where photography and digital art is even possible. Thank goodness for all the kind people on YouTube and the like who take the time to create tutorials. I learn something new about pattern making and Photoshop everyday.
Any great advice for our readers?
Create what you love. It’s true as a writer, a photographer, a composer, - for anyone in the arts. I am much happier shooting a field of lambs then I am shooting a pile of towels for advertising. Try to develop your own look. Nothing pleases me more than when someone recognizes my work before they see my name with it.
Are you an early riser? or night owl?
Both, ask my poor husband, I love to work and will work on projects for hours on end if I can. I still run my animals actor agency and my commercial photography business so creating art from my images is my happy place where I get to decide how things look and how they go together.
What is your favorite food?
I eat fresh pineapple almost every morning and I make the best triple chocolate, real Wisconsin butter, and eggs from my very own hens, brownies. Usually when a photographer tries to get a portfolio showing with a new client, they will send a photo of their work. I send a photo of my brownies with the promise to bring them if they agree to meet with me. No one has turned me down yet.
You can find Barbara
Represented by The Buffalo Works