Brian McClear is currently living and working in West Hartford, Connecticut. He has called New England his home for more than 25 years. Originally from Ohio, he received his BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design. Upon graduation, Brian moved to New England where he enjoyed a successful career as a freelance illustrator. Working closely with the area’s leading marketing firms, he eventually accepted a position with Adams & Knight, Inc. located in Avon, CT. During his 25-year tenure, the firm has grown to become a leader in the industry sparking results for a wide variety of national and international clients.
Even with his love of design and problem solving satisfied on a daily basis, Brian missed getting his hands dirty and has returned to painting with fervor. No longer separated from his work by mouse or screen, he relishes the direct connection to his canvas exploring shape, surface and connections through bold intuitive brush strokes — where the hand of the artist is clearly visible, are hallmarks of his work. Brian has exhibited nationally and his work can be found in galleries, museums and private collections.
Let’s get started with a quick rapid fire.
Q1. Your favorite superpower you fantasized about.
Q2. When do you usually draw? Morning or Night?
I draw more a night — if I’m lucky, so I can paint in the morning.
Q3. Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Even though enjoy meeting people, teaching and working with kids, I’m basically an introvert and am perfectly content spending time alone.
Q4. Who is your favourite Anime character?
I don’t have a clue.
Q5. Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?
I’d much rather travel to the past — There are definitely a few people I’d love to meet.
Q6. What is your last Google search?
“Anime characters” — see above.
Q7. Which art style appeals the most to you?
Representational art — depending on the day.
Q8. What is the kindest thing someone ever did for you?
They took the time to share with me.
Q9. Fellow Creators or Artists you admire.
There are far too many — Older: Murch, Sargent, Chase, Kline… Contemporaries: Anyone making a life making their art.
Q10. Describe your style in one word.
Q11. What is one missed opportunity that you wish you could have a second chance at?
I should have ordered the fish.
Q12. An art or piece of work you wished you had created.
It’s time for a more detailed conversation, Brian.
You’ve answered our rapid fire so well, Brian. Now, it’s time for our readers to know more about the person behind the art.
Q. Tell us something about yourself that’s going to make us wonder more about you.
I began studying martial arts at 42. I almost didn’t. I was too old to start. It would take years to earn a black belt. Really, what was the point? Well, the years where going to pass anyway…
I always wanted to be an artist. After art school, I moved to New England where I worked as a freelance illustrator for 7 years or so eventually accepting a position with a leading marketing firm in the area. During my 25+ year tenure, the firm grew as did my responsibilities. As the years passed, my painting and creative pursuits outside of the office fell by the wayside. I thought that I needed large blocks of free time set aside to accomplish anything. Eventually, I came to the realization that it was ridiculous to wait for a “free day”. I began painting whenever I could, an hour here, two hours there hour there. As a result, I accomplished more than I ever had before, simply by taking advantage of small windows of opportunity. Now I paint “full-time” — and continue to strive to take advantage of every window of opportunity.
Q. Well, that will keep you in our thoughts. So, what kind of art inspires you?
I love all kinds of art; realism, abstract, impressionism, modern — whatever. I gravitate toward representational art because that’s where I spend my time, but that being said, a Kline will always stop me in my tracks.
Q. Interesting. What, to you, are the most important elements of a good art?
What makes good music? Musicianship to be certain, but if that was all there was to it, we’d have the same play lists. Beyond the facility of the artist, to me, “good art” is art that makes me feel something; contentment, outrage, awe, reflection. There’s an honesty to the work, an underlying sincerity of intent.
Q. Do you hide any secrets in your art that only a few people will find?
I include elements in my work for personal reasons. Not hidden per se, but hidden meanings. When people recognize why disparate things have been put together, there’s a connection. And when they see something completely different, something that’s personal to them, there’s a different kind of connection that’s really quite wonderful.
Q. What’s the toughest work you’ve created so far? What made it so challenging?
The first work back. Deciding what to do first after such a long break from painting, was a bit overwhelming. I was too concerned about the finished work and lost sight of simply enjoying the process of painting. There have been plenty of paintings since then that were challenging in their own way; the complexity, the subject matter, logistics — but those are challenges I enjoy working through.
Today, I worry much less about “what” I’m going to paint or “why” I want to paint it. I just paint.
Q. What’s unique about your style that’s been appreciated by your fans over the years?
My work is sometimes serious and sometimes a bit quirky. It often contains messages, puns and social commentary tucked between seemingly unrelated objects. My portraits seek to capture a gesture and mood that provide additional insight into the subject’s personality beyond their art.
Hopefully, my work strikes a chord with the viewer and challenges them to look beyond the surface whether considering everyday objects or the people they meet.
Q. How do you progress from an idea to the final piece? Describe your process.
I love the spark of an idea. I’m exhilarated when I’m blocking in a new painting. I work from small loose thumbnail sketches and enjoy working things out on the canvas itself. I used to spend my days on a computer and my projects were very detail oriented. So, having the luxury to explore, and play with relationships while developing a painting is my favorite part of the process. I keep several canvases going at the same time, usually a portrait and a still life. When something isn’t quite working and I’m not sure where to take it, I’ll step to the other easel for a while. This keeps things fresh for me, and my time in the studio a gift.
Q. What does success look like to you?
Success at this point in my life, is the freedom to explore my ideas in ways that are meaningful to me. And if I’m fortunate, my work will be shared and become meaningful to others along the way.
Q. What inspires you, and where do you seek inspiration for something you’ve never created before?
Whether I’m painting a portrait or a still life, I’m fascinated by shape, texture and how things fit together.
I’m that person that buys a rusted hinge because of its frozen shape or carries home a stone because of its feel in my hand. My studio is brimming with objects (junk) picked up along the way. And there they sit until something reminds me of an object found days or years before. Something draws a connection between two completely different objects. And when paired, it’s precisely those differences that emphasize a commonality or imply a new meaning.
Q. How do you deal with pressure and deadlines?
I really like having deadlines. Deadlines and goals keep me focused and pushing. If there’s a show date that I’m working toward, I’ll spend more time in the studio, more time sketching and more time considering my work. When faced with a deadline, there is a different energy, an urgency that keeps things moving and carries you along. I love the process.
Q. They say time and tide waits for no one, and one needs to keep evolving to survive. How do you adopt and develop new skills?
I don’t know where my work will take me or how my technique and approach will evolve over time. The best I can do is to continue to work and paint for myself, focusing on what I enjoy. Hopefully, people will respond. And if they don’t, I’ll still be spending my time doing what I love.
Q. It’s been fun. Now, before we wrap this up, do you have any suggestions for newcomers in this field? If so, what are they?
Don’t wait. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Don’t wait for the great idea. Don’t worry if it will sell. Just start creating something — anything that you enjoy.
And keep at it every chance you get.