John Brophy (Artist)
I’m John Brophy and I’m an American artist living in the Seattle area. I’ve been showing my work at Roq La Rue for the past few years and recently had my first featured show there last November. I’m now working on my next featured show at Roq La Rue in May ’11.
By day I work as a character artist in the game industry, by night I’m a roosting spot for my cat to sleep on… while I paint.
I never know what to say when people ask me where I’m from. My dad was in aerospace and my family moved a lot while I was growing up. I was born in St. Louis, but I’ve spent a good chunk of my life living outside the U.S., in Japan (twice) for nearly 12 years, Greece, and Spain, plus various places around the U.S. Because of having such a diversified background, I don’t think I’m typically American.
I come from a different kind of academic background than many of the artists I come into contact with. I studied art history (and some conservation/ restoration) at the University of Madrid. The focus was on the language of art and very little attention was given to the technical aspects of how the paintings I admired were put together. Of course, that’s what I really wanted to know! I spent countless hours at the Museo Del Prado scrutinizing Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”, the works by Memling and Van Der Weyden, and of course Velasquez and Titian, trying to deduce how these things were made. There was no one around me who knew anything useful about traditional technique, so I had to figure it out for myself. You could say that I basically come from the “sheer force of will” school of art.
Ultimately, I cooled on the art history approach because at its heart it was more about translating the visual experience into literature – a completely different medium. Though I considered what I was learning at the time to be very valuable, I also wanted to make my own paintings and the only thing I was learning was how to be a fan of other people’s work.
Many people say they see a spiritual undertone in my work. To me, any kind of perceived spirituality is a kitsch element. If anything it’s a kind of faux spirituality. I love the graceful poses and iconography of the 15th century Flemish painters and try to carry that over in my artwork, and I think people tend to read that kind of imagery as being spiritual. But ultimately, I’m not trying to communicate any spiritual message. I’m only doing what the paintings require to be good, in my view.
One of the recurring “characters” that I depict is the baku (tapir). This comes from the Japanese myth of the baku being the “dream-eater”. It devours bad dreams. So when a child has a nightmare he can give it to the baku to eat and make it go away. Of course, we all have things in our lives that we wish we could get rid of so easily! I loved this idea and thought it could be something fun to play with.
Right now I’m preparing for my next show at Roq La Rue Gallery in May 2011. Hope to see you all there!
Artist John Brophy’s Website
Article by James Day
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