Artist of the Month: Brian Mathas Burt

Mention Me (pastel, 17×21) by Brian Mathas Burt was a Portrait finalist in the 25th Annual Art Competition. Burt is our April 2009 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Cincinnati, Ohio


His art career: I was encouraged to pursue art as a career by my high school art teacher. I graduated with my bachelor of fine arts degree from Miami University in Ohio and went on to serve a three-year apprenticeship at the Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art in Minneapolis.

The majority of my work is pastel on panel, but I was trained as an oil painter. I’ve always liked working with my hands. My father remodeled homes, and I fell in love with building and creating things. If I wasn’t painting, I’d be building houses or furniture without a doubt.

About this piece: The inspiration was The Pastel Journal’s annual Pastel 100 competition. I wanted to do something different from my normal submissions. After a while of beating different ideas around in my head, I thought of this shamelessly self-promotional self-portrait. You can see the entry form tacked to the wall along with four pieces of mine that were previous honorable mentions from this competition.

His process: My still lifes are painted directly from life; my portraits are usually done from photographs; my landscapes are usually a combination of the two. I typically spend 10 to 20 hours on a piece that’s 6×9. On Mention Me I spent about 40 to 50 hours completing it. Nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, but that’s what keeps me coming back to art. If it was always the same, I’d feel more like a performer than a painter. The best part of this piece was doing the approaching hand and paper. When I started finalizing the colors and shapes, it really began to give the illusion it was pulling away from the surface.

Sense of humor: Much of the art that is designed to make you stop and laugh or at least crack a smile. Every now and then I paint something I think is really clever only to find out I must not be as clever as I thought. Mention Me is the perfect example. I painted it specifically to enter in the Pastel 100 competition, and it didn’t win a thing!

Now I have this huge self-portrait of myself, and I’m wondering, “What am I going to do with this?” I don’t have any of my work hanging in my own home, and I’m certainly not putting a huge portrait of myself up. But the next week a client purchased the piece, and since then it’s been published twice. I guess I got mentioned after all—just not in the way I initially intended.

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