Desmond O

"The right lighting conditions can make just about anything interesting," says Denver, Colorado, artist Desmond O’Hagan. He travels extensively, looking for cultural nuances and idiosyncrasies that he can capture in his oils or pastels.

Sunlit Courtyard, Spain (pastel, 9×12)

The seed of a painting may germinate in a stolen facial expression, a momentary burst of sunlight on a garden wall, or waning shadows on a sidewalk during afternoon rush hour. "I tend to lean toward scenes that are somewhat fleeting, where the light source or the subject may only be there for a few minutes," he explains.

A Walk in Paris (oil, 12×16)

He alternates between cityscapes, landscapes, interiors and figurative works, often working on three or four paintings at the same time. He’ll usually bring paintings to 80 or 90 percent completion, then stop: "I like to live around them for a little while before I finish them."

Fountain Place de la Concorde, Paris (oil, 12×16)

His main advice to fellow artists is to avoid jumping on the trend bandwagon. "It’s a mistake to start painting things just because you see other people selling them quickly," he says. "If you just ride a trend, your career may be short-lived." Not that O’Hagan—a former graphic designer at an ad agency—doesn’t recognize the inherent commercialization of the fine-art world. But he nevertheless distinguishes his former and present careers.

Street Reflections, Parisian Evening (pastel, 13-1/2×18)

"The difference is that in advertising, you’re fulfilling a need," he explains. "Whereas in fine art, you’re creating one. My goal is to paint what I want, and in the process, create some intangible connection that makes people feel as if they must have my paintings."

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