Welcome, Mana! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi hi! My name is Mandy O'Brien and currently, I work as a freelance artist. I'm a little girl who talks too much, with a sense of humor that's been very, very warped by the internet--and somehow, people seem to like that. I fancy myself an optimistic extrovert, and I try to know better than to take life too seriously (not like I'm getting out alive, anyways)! Live and love :]
What started your interest in art?
In the third grade, I was absolutely convinced I wanted to be an entomologist. Until then, I was pretty sure I wasn't an artist, because while all my friends could color perfectly inside the lines of coloring books, I was the sloppiest coloring book artist in existence. One day, my teacher saw me doodling or something, and she must have saw something no one else did—because when class ended, she pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to stay a while longer and draw with her. I did, and we drew owls. She became my private art instructor after class, as every day, it became routine that I'd stay with her after school and draw. What I didn't know was that my teacher was a passionate artist who had graduated with a BFA at some point in her life, and while she was then teaching third grade students, she succeeded in making a lifelong artist out of me :] She taught me it was perfectly okay to color outside of the lines.
I love telling this story, I owe her a lot. Since then, my entire life and lifestyle has revolved around art and artmaking. I've never looked back.
How would you describe the style of your work?
Still developing hahaha! Other than that, I'm not really sure. I don't really think much about it...
Did you take any art courses or are you self taught? Tell us what has been essential in developing your skills.
Currently, I am entering my fourth year at the Alberta College of Art and Design, attaining my BFA as a painting major. However, as helpful as college has been, the institution itself has not been the biggest attributing factor to my development. Surrounding myself with and learning from skilled and talented peers, taking in advice and utilizing their influence has certainly been what's propelled my development most, not only as an artist, but as a human being--and will continue to do so until I die. The best thing you can do as an artist is to get out of your isolated studio, and chill out with other artists, share ideas and advice, and grow together :]
Is your current job in the creative industries? If not, is this one of your long term goals?
Indeed! I wouldn't have it any other way. There was a short period of time last summer when I worked as an artist for a small company called GamesCafe. There, I worked on two titles, Sally's Quick Clips, and Sally's Studio. Little time management games... Not entirely my cup o' tea, but the production crew I worked with was amazing, and the working environment was so very positive. However, I decided not to return this summer, as being an employee working a day job isn't quite...for me. I'm enjoying the life of freelance much more :] when I'm not doing client work, I can work tirelessly on my own projects.
My end goal is to create art only as a hobby and as a tool for art direction, hiring far more talented artists to do work for me. In the mean time though, realizing other people's visions in the form of art for a living is just fine with me :]
What is the inspiration behind your art?
Good question! I'm actually not 100% sure. I love to tell stories, and perhaps that's the biggest propelling force behind why I do what I do. Aside from that, I love looking at nostalgic photography and paintings and once in a while, try to recreate emotions I associate with the past into my work. I'm not sure how successful I am with that, however haha! As inspired as I am by nostalgia, I wouldn't say my work is particularly nostalgic.
Which is your favourite piece of work and why?
At the moment, I'd have to say the latest painting I've done, 'Enigmatic Servitude'. I don't do fully rendered paintings very often. For every 50 sketches and colored drawings, I might do one doozy of a painting just to compile and showcase what I've learned over the past 50 drawings I had done. It's always kind of a “level up” thing! So for that reason my latest rendered paintings are atypically my personal favs.
Do you sometimes have creative blocks? If so, what do you do to try and get past them?
I want to know who doesn't! I tend to get them worst during the last month of school, where I just feel like I want to die and never pick up a pencil again. However, I never really have the luxuries to say “well, I'm slumped, gotta take a break!” I can't really afford breaks, so I just grit my teeth and draw through any slumps I have, accepting the fact that I'll probably hate everything I produce while working on it haha!
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
To quote a rather profane but immensely talented peer of mine Lee Neilson: “Just f****** draw!”
You can spend an entire month trying to draw one perfect picture, or you can spend that month doing countless sketches and quick drawings. You'll see more improvement when you stop worrying about attaining perfection in a single piece, and just worry about getting lots of drawings done. It's the best advice I've ever been given!
Can you recommend any particular studies for aspiring artists?
Take a business course.
Thanks for joining us, Mana - was wonderful to interview you