IN CONVERSATION WITH BRAD KENNY
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
I visited Brad a while back in his studio in Surrey. When I saw Brad's work for the first time, I was mesmerised by his abstract portraits, which had so much character in them! Hence, I was determined to find out more about Brad's work!
How did you start your career as an artist?
These are two different questions. Number one, I am dyslexic, so art has always been natural to me. Even during primary school and secondary school, I would get told off for doodling while the teacher was talking. I have always been art motivated, and my family has always been behind me on it. I studied art in college and university. Art was always something I was going to do for a career.
My art career started while I was at university. I met an artist, and I saw the life that he lived, and I definitely wanted that life.
It is funny because I don’t see it as a career; I see it as a lifestyle. A "nine till five" office job is definitely not for me, even though I work longer than that, most days.
Did you start with your career straight after university?
Yes, I did the degree in Fine Art and then Masters straight after at the University of Chichester. I felt that doing a Masters would help me in the long run and I’d be taken more seriously as an artist. It did help because it does broaden your mind.
As soon as the Masters was over, I got a brand new studio, and moved all my stuff from the university studio, I got a part-time job and started working on my art. I signed up for competitions and art fairs. I went straight into it after university.
Your main body of work is abstract representation. How do you find models and do you have them posing for you? Or do you work from photographs?
It is a mixture really. I know some of these people, so I ask them to pose for me. Others I just come across. I do spend hours in cafes, just watching the crowd. Sometimes I see a particular thing that I like about someone, so I ask him or her to pose for a picture. I do work from photography. I can't work from a live setting, photography is more instant, so I can capture the moment there and then. It also gives me time to think about how to paint a portrait, and it doesn’t waist models time either.
The most recent model I asked to pose for me was someone who sat opposite me on the train. So I just gave him my card and asked him to pose for me.
What is people's reaction, when you approach them like that?
It is a very weird technique. A lot of people are stunned by it. Passing by a girl one time I stopped her and asked her pose for me, and her response was ‘I have a boyfriend.’ She thought I was coming on to her. I had to explain that I am an artist. I showed her my website explaining that I really just wanted to paint her portrait. I find it quite hilarious, as you just don’t know what the reaction is going to be.
How did you develop your technique?
I developed it while been at the university by studying different artists. At university, you are given an opportunity to just try things out, see how it goes... When I tried oil paints for the first time, people started just saying to me, "why do you try a bigger canvas or why don’t you try a larger brush?" From there on, I focused on developing it and becoming bolder with colour and brush strokes.
Who was your biggest inspiration?
Jenny Saville - she is the goddess of oil paint. She is just amazing if you ask me. Her paintings are absolutely stunning.
Another one will be Andrew Salgado. I met him during my second year at university. He is very inspirational and very down to earth. He is very humble. Seeing his paintings up close just blew me away.
They are my inspirations really. It is interesting, there other things that inspire me, it's not just the artists. It is also images, people and things. The selection of images in my studio is film stills. One sudden snap of it can be very interesting.
How do you develop your colour palette?
Here are my palettes where I mix paint. Colour has always been something that I have been good with. I used to have a one to one tutor, who would always teach me about the importance of colour. I think I have always had an eye for it.
The colour can create such a different atmosphere. You can paint the same thing over and over again but in different colours, for example, all in blues or oranges and it will have a complete opposite atmosphere. I think colour has always been vital in everything I do.
Let's talk about your studio...
I do love my studio, I feel like it is a nice place where I can get lost in his work. It doesn’t matter if I get paint marks on the wall or floors. Actually, some of the paint marks are reflected in the artwork.
The other day I studied a mark on the wall, which was left behind from a square canvas. So it is interesting to think if that was a canvas what marks would work on it. It is nice to see what marks work and what don’t. I can sit and look at the wall with paint marks for hours, and then picking out marks that can work in different paintings. It all reflects inwards.
What is your typical day in the studio like?
It depends on what I am doing. There will be days when I don’t come to the studio. That is when I need to go to a show or visit an artist in London, or I am looking for a model. It is a bit of the mixture.
When I am in the studio, it again depends on what I am working on. For example, if I have got deadlines, that is when it is a full on studio time. I will be here for hours – painting. Loads of music and tea. To be here alone, can drive you mad, so sometimes I listen to documentaries. For example, David Attenborough or Stephen Hawkins. But it's not just daytime, I work at night as well. Last year I had three shows that came out of nowhere. These were the shows that turned up at the last minute. So I had to work throughout the night as well. I would start at noon not returning home until 9 am the next morning. That was pretty intense for three weeks.
I do work best at night. I think it is because when I am tired, I don’t care. So I just go crazy! Otherwise, I think about it too much. When I have deadlines, that’s when the best work comes because I am forcing into it. I like having the pressure on because I produce better work and more work that way.
“I like to keep myself busy. It forces me to do more work. I haven’t made a lot of paintings this year. First I was moving studio, and then I have had a really bad case of an artist block."
How do you overcome an artist block?
This is the longest artist block I have ever had. It's lasted for about two or three months now. I just try and do something else in the meantime. I have been looking for galleries I could apply to online; I look at competitions, look at other artists for inspiration, and go to exhibitions and fairs. Just going out and meeting people, and doing anything that isn't the art practice itself.
I had a bit of a breather, I think. It is also nice to just get canvas in front of you and just paint without thinking about it. It is really nice; it is almost like going back to basics. More like leisure, rather than work.
How do you start a new canvas?
I sketch first and then do a layer of wet paint in one colour over it, and then start building layers of paint. It does take time. It also depends on the piece itself. I can have two paintings the same size and one can take a week, and another can take a month. Ideally, they should take a month or two.
So you work on several pieces at the same time?
Yes. During the artist block, I have been working a lot on commissions, not my own work. I have been sketching a lot and I have got 6 new canvases. I will be working on all of them at the same time soon. For example, I will work on one canvas though out the day, and then it gets to the point where it needs to dry or there is nothing I can do to it, so I just swap and put another one on. And it's fine to jump from one to another. You can get blocked on one, so you start working on another and when you go back the block is gone.
You can see more of Brad's work here