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q&a with artist Brad Blackman


It is a great pleasure to welcome the incredibly talented artist Brad Blackman to the Salt and Sparkle q&a.  Brad is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and has shown his work across the USA and in Europe. Most recently, he exhibited with Quidley & Company Fine Art in Boston.  His work is fine art and filled with clever representations of light that draw the viewer into the work, and he explores themes of man’s mortality and search for peace via urban landscapes and abstract-realist compositions. Brad and I connected via Twitter when he recommended the book Do Over,for me to read (it was a great read).  Then I spent a really pleasant afternoon getting lost on his website, looking at his paintings.  You can follow Brad on Twitter, Facebook, as well as his website, and you can commission one of his beautiful paintings. He is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Art Shows.


Who are you, what’s it like being you ...

I'm Brad Blackman. I'm a fine artist who makes a living as a graphic designer. I'm also a dad and a husband.

On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I'm classified as INFJ, which apparently is one of the rarest types. I guess that means I'm a contradiction. The person most like me that you might have seen on TV is Ted from How I Met Your Mother. I'm the kind of person who loves to stay up all night drinking coffee and talking about life, the universe, and everything.
I have severe-to-profound hearing loss. For the longest time I thought of this as a non-issue. An inconvenience, maybe. Most people don't think about it after first meeting me since I get alone fine with hearing-aids, or they don't notice them until they've known me for a while, but the ever-present silence has actually had a profound effect on my work. 
I didn't realize how much my deafness meant to me until a few years ago, and even more so now that I have small (noisy) children.

Where are you from, where are you based ...

I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. I'm one of the few that actually grew up here. I moved away for a few years for college, but I came back and stayed. I fell in love with a girl here, married her, and now we are raising our children here.

Talk about your work ...
I started making art when I was about two. I have always thought of myself as an artist. I drew anytime I could get my hands on a crayon, pencil, pen.
But in college I fell in love with painting. I actually had no interest in it until I took Painting I for my graphic design major. 
There was something mesmerizing about putting paint on canvas. The way oil paint feels on my fingers. The way the colors blend together with a brush. I've been hooked ever since.
I experimented with exaggerated colors in portraits, and landscapes. Blue skies would be orange, gray shadows would turn purple, my friends would be green or blue or red.
After a while I felt like it was a hack, and began to paint "normal" colors, but I always got a bit of extra color in somewhere.
Then a few years ago I tried to paint every single day, making little urban landscapes on small canvases. I got burned out and gave up painting for about eighteen months. 
Not long after that I got an iPhone and discovered how much fun it was to shoot things with Instagram. I began to experiment with not just urban landscapes but abstraction. About two years ago I began to dabble in painting abstractly. 
At the same time I began thinking about silence and the role it has had in my life. Now, rather than fighting it and resenting it, I actually embrace it. 
Last November, I tried the Art Every Day Month Challenge and decided to explore abstraction in painting. I also tried acrylic instead of oil, since I could work quickly. I got up early every morning and worked on smallish abstracts before going to my day job.
Since then, my work is almost all abstract. I use hazy, foggy imagery to underscore the idea of quiet and as a metaphor for not having all the answers in life, and being okay with that.
My abstract painting tends two different directions: quiet and hazy, or sharp and graphic.
What are your future plans ...
Figure out how to make a living as a fine artist! When you look at the really successful artists, you notice that they have a specific product and a specific market. They produce(d) work that appeals to a certain audience. I think right now my job is to figure out what it is I make and who wants it.
How do you find inspiration, who you are inspired by ...  
My children. They are six, five, and three. They amaze me every day. They're so funny, and inventive.
Describe your space ... 
I have a corner in the bonus room over the garage. It's not much, but it's my space. I have a bulletin board with all sorts of things pinned to it, usually reference material for whatever I'm working on at the moment. I have tools like rulers and a color wheel hanging off it.
How are you feeling today ... 
The weather is changing here in Nashville, and I've got allergies, so I'm a little stopped up. Not as bad as I was last week, having to take NyQuil at 3 in the afternoon and sleeping until morning.
A non-negotiable in your life is ...
Dinner with my wife and children. I'm blessed to be able to do this 99% of the time. If I can't, either I'm on a deadline, or major changes have to take place.
Most encouraging words you have ever heard ...
My friend Mitch told me in college that I have a good eye for color. That's always stayed with me, especially as I've noticed he has a good eye for color.
Your work life philosophy is ...
Make time for family and put time for them on the calendar. I may not be available all the time, but when I'm available, I'm all there. Put the phone away at dinner time.
What is your favourite smell ...  
Who do you like to listen to, what’s playing just now ...
I listen to a lot of podcasts or 90s ambient on Pandora inspired by the film The Matrix.
Best meal and your favourite three ingredients ...
My mom makes a really good chicken vegetable soup. She would always make it for me when I came home from college.
But I can't think of much of any single ingredient I love more than coffee. :)
That said, I like simple meals that consist of something like grilled chicken, flaky bread.

Three things or products that have changed your life...

1. coffee
2. oil paint
3. hearing aids that connect to Bluetooth devices
How do you relax ...
I wind down by watching old sci-fi shows on Netflix after everyone else has gone to bed. Right now, I'm working my way through The X-Files.
What makes you happy, where’s your happy place ...
Places where time stands still and everything grows quiet. It might be in the woods, on the water, or on a mountain. Where all you feel is the sun and all you hear is the wind or water. Natural places that are very high or very low.
You'd think it would be in the studio. But I can't relax there. That's a place where work gets done.
What is your favourite journey, where in the world would you like to visit ...  
In college I spent a semester in Italy, and I would love to return. I would especially love to take an extended visit to Ireland as that's where my wife's ancestors are from and she's never been. 
I really want to visit the UK again, especially Wales, since that's where my ancestors came from prior to the American Revolution. 
But one place I really want to see is Iceland. I've seen such amazing footage of it in films and on television that I feel like I have to go. The sky. The land. The mountains. It looks harsh and comforting all at once.
What do you most value in your friends ...  
Loyalty. Reserving judgement until all has been heard. Seeing the good in everything.
What are your favourite words, what are you reading, just now ...
Right now the word "haze" has been a sort of mantra and inspiration. It's the opposite of clarity, yet I think a lot of clarity can be found in the mist.
I'm not reading anything at the moment, but I recently finished up Do Over by Jon Acuff. It's a great book about how to think about your career.
Share some words of wisdom ...
I'll quote the Beatles: "And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
It was a pleasure to interview you Brad, thank you for taking part.
That's it for now ...
Salt & Sparkle = Life Remarkable


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