The following excerpt is from an interview with Brian Petro. Brian is a self-taught artist that lives and creates works in Washington D.C. To arrange a tour of his Washington D.C. studio, 1829 14th Street, NW, please contact Brian directly at (202) 270-7352 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I began creating art in the evenings and weekends while I was working a job in corporate wellness. At this time, my weeks were typically about 70 hours with a full time job and nearly fulltime job creating art on the side. I soon realized wearing a suit and tie just was not for me, and I decided to leave my job in the corporate world. That was over 15 years ago, and I haven’t gone back! I’ve been creating and selling art full-time ever sense!
I have no full formal education in fine art. But for as long as I can remember, I’ve liked to make things. Overall, I like to think of myself as just an artist without a specific label. On my business card, it just says, “Brian Petro –Artist.” My thoughts and chemical brain firings give me a desire to create from there I find a way to make it into reality. I’ve been described as a mixed- media artist because I utilize painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, video, and found objects in my creations. Whatever needs to get done to express myself, I find a way to do it. I determine what resources I have, what knowledge I have, what skills I have, and how I can learn more of all of those aspects to improve my expression. Ultimately, I desire to use my knowledge of the world, of history, and aspects of materials to create pieces that educate, document, amuse, offend, and stimulate.
To me, art exists to make people think deeper about the world around them. It exists to educate people; it exists to document things that are actually happening; and it exists to create new ideas. There is an aspect of creating artwork that is natural and free flowing, and that’s the category that most of my works fall into. Some works come to me very naturally; they just happen. But also, for my other works, I find it important to cogitate on ideas when creating works. Because art also has the purpose to teach and help people go beyond what they currently know and experience. There are some concepts that exist on the edge of most people’s personal limits, but I know I need to push those ideas along to help people experience and see new things.
Below are some images and descriptions of different pieces and mediums that I have enjoyed creating:
This style of work comes from a show I did for a gallery in Washington D.C. This piece is considered a pigment ink work, and came after doing a lot of work with photographic thermal transfers. I wanted to take a break from the complexity of photography because it requires a meticulous thought process and exacting level of execution. I did a whole series of pieces similar to this. My inspiration was really just my emotion of the moment, which influenced the colors I chose and the forcefulness of the brush on the paper. The subject of this is nothing more than abstraction that arose from those emotions.
The medium I used for this piece is combination of spray paint, pigment ink, and oil bar. The first layer is an orange spray paint in the middle of the piece. It is followed by a blueblue pigment ink, and than then the top layer is an orange oil bar placed on top of the blue ink. This is done in layers, and even though it is 2two-dimensional there is a noticeable raised texture to it, when looking at it straight on. The piece is on 22” x 30” archival watercolor paper, and in my experience this size tends to market well.
I consider this to be a self-portrait because the different elements of the piece all have strong associations with my identity. The photograph at the top of the piece is a statue in Rome. I’ve always had a fascination with ancient Rome from their history and ideas and may be originally from my connection to Roman Catholicism. I also love to eat beef. I was looking for a beef chart for almost 8 years to include in a piece. I finally found this chart in the back of a menu while I was on vacation in Puerto Rico. The teeth are actually my dental x-rays. The dentist was a little suspect of me taking the film, but there are certain things you can get away with as an artist.
I created this piece with a thermal transfer process. These are photographs I took of different places and found objects. The thermal transfer process is done with 35mm film, partially because I am a little of a technophobe. In this process, I print, develop, and enlarge all the photos. And with a four-color press I press them onto a paper that has a layer of plastic with a chemical release agent coating. This agent melts the colors from the film into the plastic. So it ends up being three steps removed from the original photograph. This allows me to make a print that has no way to be reproduced, and it assures my clients that the piece they are purchasing is absolutely one of a kind.
This piece is actually an inspiration from my travels to Brazil. When I travel I only pack my bags half-full because I always bring back found objects. I was doing some dumpster diving while I was in Brazil, and I found these great pieces of linoleum. There were a bunch of 18 X 18 pieces that I knew I needed to include in a piece. I packed a bunch of them in my bags and I was ultimately able to convince U.S. customs that the linoleum was not a security risk.
For this piece, I scuffed the linoleum up a little, and I hammered them into a 2×4 frame. I then put a polyurethane coating on them to create a glossy finish. Next, I took a carbide tip and made deep scraping marks across the linoleum. Finally, I added red varnish from a can by allowing the varnish to slowly seep out and dry on the surface. This is another piece that I would consider a complete abstract.