PK 064: Brendan Carroll on What it Really Means to Find Your Voice as an Abstract Artist

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Brendan Carroll takes influences from art history and contemporary culture and combines them in his abstract paintings

“You can’t escape being influenced by other artists, but somewhere along the way you need to find the confidence to describe things in your own voice.”

~ Brendan Carroll

Brendan Carroll is an abstract artist based in Atlanta, Georgia. His paintings combine his love of art history with more contemporary influences.

In this podcast, we explore what it means to really find your voice as an artist, and how becoming part of a creative community can help you find the confidence to progress your art career.

Brendan Carroll: His Journey as an Artist

Brendan has been painting for 15 years, and says he was initially influenced by the work of abstract expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning while taking fine art classes as an undergraduate.

He says: “I saw their work, and I thought ‘I want to live that kind of artist lifestyle’. So, I moved to New York after school, and I fully immersed myself in the creative scene there.”

However, art alone doesn’t pay the bills. So, Brendan (who studied psychology as well as art) took a job in a research lab so he could devote his evenings and weekends to improving his art skills.

He says: “I wanted to see if I had what it takes to become an artist. It soon became clear I wasn’t good enough at first, so it took me about five years to build up a set of paintings that I thought were good enough to exhibit.”

How Brendan Carroll Found His Own Voice as an Artist

After working hard at his art for five years, Brendan Carroll eventually had the breakthrough he’d been looking for.

It’s that moment when you instinctively know your art is good enough to confidently show to people. That moment when you know you’re truly speaking with your own unique voice.

He explains: “Going to New York was about seeing as much art as possible and finding out whether I could make something like that.

“It was like a complete immersion of art. In New York, there are just so many opportunities to see art, and so many artists working there. For me, nothing more important than seeing the work of other artists and being influenced by them.

“I started a set of paintings which became my portfolio when I applied for a masters degree at graduate school. They were much more original than earlier work and had a certain level of uniqueness and skill.

“It looked like my work, and it looked like it was well done. As an artist, you can’t escape all the influences on your work, but somewhere along the way you need to find the confidence to describe things in your own voice.

“And, once you feel like you’re using your own words to describe something, you’re probably getting there.”

Brendan Carroll on Moving to Atlanta

After he’d finished his master’s degree, Brendan Carroll made the move to Atlanta, Georgia, when his wife got a position there.

He found a job at one of the local art galleries, and now works there four days a week while devoting the rest of his time to art.

Being part of a smaller creative community has worked out well for him, and he says it’s much easier to get exposure for your work than in New York.

He says: ““I started meeting other artists and gallery owners and becoming part of Atlanta’s contemporary art community. It’s a big city (more than six million people), but the art world is very small – with just a few hundred people. Therefore, it’s very easy to meet everybody and become a significant contributor to this community.”

“The major thing I’ve learned from the last five years is that it’s all about trade-offs. We welcome new artists with open arms, and you can call gallery owners and they’ll actually come and see your studio.

“There are fewer galleries and fewer gallery shows, so your barrier to entry is much lower. For example, there are only three art shows this week in Atlanta, so your chances of being written about if you’re exhibiting are much higher than in New York.

“There are cities like Atlanta all over the world, where the art scene is not huge, but it’s very close-knit. It brings people together more as creatives,and there’s a real camaraderie between us. We all have a  shared bond of working in the arts.”

Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why finding your own voice will come naturally to you
  • Why it’s so important to be part of a creative community
  • How to be influenced by other artists but still make unique work

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Thanks for listening to our show! We’ll be back next Wednesday morning 8AM EST.

Cheers,

Mitch

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