One of my absolutely favorite artists is Josh Brown. He’s a newlywed living in Chicago (check out his also insanely-talented wife’s web site here), but he’s a alum of Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) AND Myers Park High School. My husband gave me one of Josh’s giraffe paintings for our anniversary last year, and every time I see that sweet giraffe peeking around the corner in my house, it makes me smile. His work is whimsical, joyful, beautiful, and approachable, all of which shows his insane talent. I was giddy when Josh accepted my request to interview him about his work and life as he prepares for a big show, “We Wonder,” this Saturday, November 21, at Shain Gallery in Myers Park. Details on the show are below – it’s going to be a fun date night – hope to see you there! And here’s a bit of Smarty Scoop: stay tuned for our big Smarty Holiday Favorite Things Giveaway which will go live after Thanksgiving – you just might be seeing Josh Brown in our amazing line up! Stay tuned!! 🙂
Have you always loved to paint and draw? When did you choose art as a career?
I’ve always had a passion for art and drawing. As far back as I can remember I’ve always had a sketchbook. I remember my mom scrambling to find a pen and paper whenever she needed me to be quite while we went to any event, and I haven’t stopped doodling and sketching.
It wasn’t up until my freshman year at SCAD (the Savannah College of Art and Design) that I realized that art could be much more, that I could make a living as an artist. At the time I was very much into athletics playing goalkeeper for the SCAD soccer team on full-scholarship.
I started selling my first artworks to friends and family. They would pay for materials and I would make anything they would like. It made me really happy to create art for people, so I started to seek out art commissions. This lead into making art for a Charlotte psychology firm that my brother worked at until I approached Gaby Shain at the Shain Gallery. She was a bit skeptical of my style, but willing to try out a new young artist. I sold my first gallery work on my second day in the Shain Gallery about three summers ago. I will always be grateful for Gaby’s kindness. From that moment on I’ve been producing art professionally.
Where do you paint? Do you have a studio? A dedicated space at home?
I currently paint in my home based studio in Chicago, Il. It’s not the largest so I’m in the process of finding a nice warehouse space. With my current situation I have been filling my wife’s and my small apartment with paintings, frames and giant shipping crates to the brim for my upcoming show at the Shain Gallery on the 21st. On top of the apartment madness I’ve converted the back drive of our apartment into a temporary wood shop whenever I need to build canvas, frames, or shipping crates. Its been interesting carting all of my tools down the three flights of stairs and sending an extension cord out of our kitchen down to my miter saw in the alley every day I need to work wood. On the plus side I have had the opportunity to meet all of my neighbors, and they have been nothing but supportive and pleasant offering their garages for when it snows here. My wife has been absolutely amazing in dealing with my insanity, and I make sure to thank her every day for dealing with me 🙂 Now that the show prep is finished and the paintings have been delivered to the gallery its much cleaner inside (although I’m preparing works for Charleston now). Ultimately, I’ll need to find a space with room for a wood shop, packing/shipping area, work/encaustic table, light room/photo booth, plenty of painting space and hopefully a gallery space too. I would love to own a gallery one day!
Why do you love creating animals so much and do you have a favorite animal to paint?
There are really two sides to this coin. When I started painting, I painted works for family and friends whenever I had an opportunity to. The majority of my requests were for paintings of animals they loved, or their pets. After doing this for a few months, I approached Gaby and Joy (who no longer working at the gallery) at the Shain Gallery with images of my work. They asked that I later bring some physical paintings in, so I brought everything I had. It was a mixture of still lives, portraits, and mostly animal paintings. They loved the animals and decided to give them a try. I sold my first painting the next day. It was a donkey on orange that I had actually given to my mom for Mother’s Day. My mom let me borrow it to show the gallery and in my excitement I forgot to take it back. By the time I remembered to return to the gallery, two days later, it was gone! Since then I have more than made up with my mom and will always be thankful for her love and support (and donation) to start my dream as an artist.
The other side of the coin is that I’ve always loved animals, and have had many interesting pets from your typical dogs, to poison dart frogs and panther chameleons. I wanted to be a zoologist for the longest time before athletics kicked in. My love of animals has always been with me and it will never go away. More recently I took a trip to Switzerland with my lovely new wife for our honeymoon. I think the most excited I had been throughout our entire six week trip was finding all of the Swiss cows! There were so many wonderful and comical cows, I couldn’t contain my excitement. During the same trip we missed our train down the mountain and had to walk 15 miles down train tracks (after we had already hiked 15 miles). It would have been a miserable trek, but we had new cow encounters (our “cow-counters”) the whole way down making the trek much more pleasant. So I guess to put it lightly I love animals and feel like they can brighten days and make anyone at least a little bit happier.
Is there any animal that you wouldn’t even attempt to paint?
There is absolutely nothing I won’t at least attempt to paint! I encourage new requests because not only does it give me an opportunity to try something new, it helps me to build my portfolio, grow as an artist having to reinterpret new brush or palette knife effects that I haven’t attempted before, and keeps me on my toes. I think you’ll see many new works of animals and other subject matter in the near future.
You paint more than animals. Tell us about some of your other favorite subjects.
I love capturing the human form through brush and sculpture. I have a series of dynamic paintings and sculpture of athletic figures that I am working on too. I love the graceful strength of ballerinas and gymnasts. As a former collegiate athlete and young gymnast I will always have a heart for feats of great (especially graceful) movements. This may be embodied most by my “Ribbon Girl” bronze sculpture. I am also just about to start a series of more intimate portraits, and sculptures of animals. I have so much that I want to do at the moment and I’m so excited to show everyone what I’ve been up to when its ready!
You’re also a sculptor! What do you love about sculpting that you don’t get with painting?
I like to think that I am always sculpting. Whether it’s with a brush on a flat plane or a more dimensional form. Its more obvious in some paintings than others, but the foundation of a majority of my paintings is a dark silhouette with brush-made contours to replicate three dimensional form (like I’m painting the stripes of a Zebra in all one dark color). In that initial seemingly simple silhouette lies the entire potential of the paintings success.
Having said all of that I really do love sculpting forms in the round. I love having direct contact with the work of art. I love that I’m able to close my eyes at times and refine components of the sculpture with nothing but the feel of a work. I studied industrial design at the Savannah College of Art & Design, and having a love of sculpture certainly helped me to produce comfortable, beautiful products. My favorite project was an instrument designed to honor my Norwegian heritage. It was hand carved out of a single block of spalted maple, with 3D modeled and bronze cast details. I love making beautiful works in two and three dimensional space, but I am always looking through a sculptors eye.(Check out Josh’s full industrial design portfolio here.)
What’s the best commission you’ve ever received?
My favorite commission to date has been a gift for a bride on her wedding shower. The shower was held at the Shain Gallery and I was fortunate enough to be in town that day, so I delivered the painting in person. It was a large painting of a running horse in palette knife and the bride was so happy to receive the work that she started to cry. I love having the opportunity to present works to people in person, and I especially love when my work physically moves them whether its a smile or a tear of joy. I am happiest when I see people enjoy my work.
What is your dream commission?
My dream commission would have to be a large public work. I would love to do a monumental sculpture or mural to bring awareness to communities about the power of art to change the minds of people, and to bring people great joy. One of my favorite donated paintings is in the Levine Childrens hospital. It is of a large group of Giraffe. It make me very happy every time I hear someone mention that painting. Originally I was going to do a large mural to fill one of the halls of the hospital, but I was unable to dedicate the time because I was less than a month away from my wedding and a 6 week honeymoon/backpacking trip through Europe with my beautiful new wife. I do however, hope to return some day to finish the mural.
What’s the best part of being a professional artist?
I have three answers to this question.
1.) I absolutely love that I am able to make works for people that make them happy.
2.) Every time I wake up I am absolutely thrilled to start work, even if I’m up till 3-4 a.m. finishing my work. I forget that I’m working 12+ hour days because I’m having the time of my life creating art.
3.) I’ve been able to raise so much for charity organizations, battered women shelters, local food venues and animal rights organizations. It’s been an absolute pleasure to help the community out in ways that I could only do through art.
What’s the most challenging?
The most challenging part of being an artist for myself, and probably most artist is the financial fluctuation. I might have one or two big shows in a year that make the majority of my income. In between those fantastic moments I have to budget my work wisely in order to maintain a consistent lifestyle. I have to force myself to improve my business sense constantly. At times its daunting, but I’m starting to like it.
What would you recommend to parents of budding artists?
Your child really can work to be what they dream to be. There are a few key skills that I think have really helped me to get to where I am, and I think they can apply to anyone of any age. I’ve learned that no matter what you do you have to recognize what you love in order to have the drive to work hard enough, you have to be a fully invested team player and you need to be genuinely kind.
I’ve had many jobs over the years that I’ve had to find a love of in order to succeed. Every time I finish one job I’ve had a better idea of what I wanted in the next. At every moment, if I didn’t love what I was doing, it showed. Whenever I found myself in a less than happy place I would step back and look at myself to see if I loved what I was doing and do my best to find what I love again. Every time I find myself loving what I’m doing the work is so much more fun and my performance was always so much better. I’m not a parent yet, but I would recommend that parents let their children experience as many new events, places, activities, etc. as possible in order for their kids to refine a taste for what they really love to do. Then when it comes time for their children to pursue their passion they are more aware of what they want to do, and more willing to step out of their comfort zone to pursue even greater things.
I’ve learned how to be a successful artist through so much more than art. I’ve learned to collaborate with teammates and coworkers, working retail at a soccer shop, guiding adventure seekers through zip-line courses at the US National Whitewater Center, to playing collegiate soccer for SCAD. More recently I’ve learned to collaborate with gallery owners, art supply shops, and freight companies. I’ve been able to use what I’ve learned as a teammate to work with coworkers professionally. I might be a “solo” artist, but I have a team and it’s constantly growing. I’m so fortunate to have wonderful gallery owner, Gaby Shain, and gallery manager, Sybal Wornall Godwin, and my wonderful family on my team in Charlotte. I would advise parents to at least give their children the opportunity to collaborate in team initiatives of some sort, or to even start group initiatives themselves (with your assistance). Having a team based influence throughout my entire life has certainly shaped any success I’ve had.
This last bit about kindness may seem small, but in many situations it will make the biggest difference. I’ve always done my very best to be genuinely respectful and kind to everyone I meet. You never know who they may be and what connection they may have to you. This was also the last note of my most memorable lecture at SCAD. The lead designer for Bang & Olufsen had a presentation about design and the entire last half of his talk was about how important it was to be kind to everyone. He’s making over $100k a month, and his main point about being a good designer was to be kind.
Of course I’m still very young and learning, but these are a few invaluable skills that my parents have helped me to develop. I can’t thank them enough for how they have raised me.
Now for some fun Smarty questions…
Favorite piece from your collection?
I think I have a new favorite right now. It’s a group of Donkey on panel with an off white and pink color block behind them. It has an encaustic resin coating over the front and I absolutely love it! It will be at the show in Shain Gallery on the 21st.
All-time favorite piece of art?
My favorite work of art is the Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer by Gustav Klimt. I am also growing a collection of favorite contemporary impressionist and realist painters, Geoffrey Johnson, Jeremy Lipking, Michael Carson and Casey Baugh.
Best place to take a date in Charlotte?
I would go to the US National Whitewater Center and have a day full of adventure!
Favorite homecooked meal?
I think my favorite home cooked meal would be a filet and shrimp seared, with a rosemary and thyme butter, Japanese sweet potato hash and an arugula salad with candied pecans, strawberries and onion.
Best place to find clothes for yourself?
I have a bit of a sweet tooth for expensive clothing, but I luckily shop very little. When I can, I love 7 for all Mankind jeans, J. Crew, and other small designers of a similar style.
Favorite place to vacation?
I’ve just returned from six weeks in Europe and absolutely loved every bit of it! My top three destinations in Europe to return to would be Zurich, London and Paris for their incredible art and shows! I’d also be more than happy to take a trip to the rain forests in South America! I’ve been planning my trip to the rain forest since I was 12 and I will do it some day, sooner than later.
You lived in Charlotte for six years before attending SCAD – what’s the best part of living in Charlotte?
Charlotte is a beautiful place! As an army brat I’ve moved all over the country, and Charlotte really is the nicest place I’ve lived. It has wonderful seasons, great culture and is full of friendly wonderful people. I would certainly move back!
First thing you’d do on an unexpected day off?
I would honestly paint a bit. Its one of my favorite things to do first thing in the morning. I would paint for an hour or so, then make a nice breakfast and have a ton of coffee before getting back to painting! If that doesn’t count as a day off, I would go to a museum or zoo if the weather is nice.
Finish this sentence: To me, art is…
a spectacle for the eye, fuel for the mind and coal for the soul to keep burning
Hours – 10-5, Monday-Saturday
About Josh Brown
Josh Brown is a fine artist working out of Chicago, Il. Josh has had a lifetime interest in animals and enjoys bringing the personalities of each animal to life in a very graphic way. His bold minimalist painting style and graceful figural sculptures capture the energy and attitude of his subjects creating joy, magnetic characters and curiously subtle movement. Josh does this deftly with sculptural brush strokes and refined palette knife. The work of Josh Brown is designed to inspire us to live in goodwill and humor, in art and life.
Over the years Josh has also had the opportunity to care for his community through art, raising funds for numerous charity groups, battered women shelters, animal rights organizations, children hospitals and local food venues.
Prior to pursuing a career in fine art Josh was a full scholarship Student-Artist-Athlete and captain of the Savannah College of Art & Design soccer team, earning NAIA Academic All-American his last three years playing, and graduated Summa Cum Laude in Industrial Design, Spring 2015. While studying and playing goalkeeper for SCAD Josh committed his free time to painting and sculpting. In addition to a love of art and design, Josh also has a heart for fashion working as a model for photography and runway with coaching by Mrs. J. Alexander for the SCAD annual runway show.
Josh has had the pleasure to be featured on numerous blogs, magazines and trend hunting sites for his work as a painter/sculptor, and is currently exhibiting in the Shain Gallery, Charlotte, NC; the Michael Mitchell Gallery, Charleston, SC; Noddy Charleston, Charleston, SC; and numerous boutiques in the Charlotte and Charleston areas.