Looking for someone who could teach artists how to paint with confidence, editor-in-chief of the Pastel Journal, Anne Hevener, introduced me to Desmond O’Hagan. Known for his loose painting style, and bold, confident stroke work—and for instilling that skill and spirit in his students—Desmond visited the ArtistsNetwork studios to show us his pastel and oil painting techniques firsthand as we filmed four art instruction videos.
Watching Desmond translate everyday scenes into light-filled, energetic paintings is inspiring, and his instruction on shape, form, color, value, and how to avoid the trap of too many details, encouraging for those wanting to capture their world in paint. Wanting to know more about how Desmond sees the world and portrays it through his paintings, we asked Desmond to give us a glimpse into the person behind the painting with this artist spotlight.
When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?
I knew from childhood that I wanted to be an artist, I just didn’t know the correct path to take to achieve that goal.
When and how did you get started as a professional artist?
I studied architecture for a while in college and then switched to graphic design and advertising. After graduating, I worked as a designer and started to see a possible path to take for fine art. My advertising and design experience help me see that there was a value in creativity. So in my late 20’s, I took the leap to fine art and used my advertising and design skills to promote my art.
What mediums are your favorite? Why?
Over the years I’ve worked with several media but I always favored oils and pastels. Pastels for their pure color and diverse textures, and oils for their wide range of expressive qualities that can can be achieved with brushwork.
You describe your work as “Bold” and “Direct,” what do these terms mean to you?
Bold and direct is what I always try to achieve in my pastels and oils. My painting technique is to lay the colors down in a way that is confident and expressive; no overworking.
How does “Light” and “Color” play a role in your work?
Expressing light and color is what makes the painting come alive. Achieving this in every painting is my goal.
What are your favorite painting subjects?
My favorite painting subjects are urban scenes, figurative, interiors, and still lifes.
Why are people / figures so prominent in your work?
People give life to a painting and a connection to the viewer.
What is it about the everyday scene that captures your attention as a subject for a painting?
I’m intrigued with the variety of subject matter in everyday life. Just a simple combination of color or a unique effect of light can make for a great painting.
What is the story behind the scene of the nighttime cityscape in your pastel painting video demo?
I was walking to meet some friends and was struck by how the light was reflecting off the pavement in this scene. It was only an instant as the car was leaving.
What is the story behind the scene of the floral still life in your pastel painting video demo?
My wife has many flowers she takes care of in window boxes and a garden. She had just clipped these and put them in a vase. I was intrigued with the play of light and reflections.
What made you decide to teach people how to paint?
I enjoy helping people achieve their painting goals. I think it’s important for them to receive accurate answers to their questions.
Painting with confidence plays a role in your work, as well as your instruction— what advice do you have to give students the confidence to paint?
My advice is to be constantly looking for unique scenes to paint, and looking at paintings that inspire you. Also, experiment and be fearless and don’t be afraid that a painting will fail; you can always start another one!
How would you describe your painting style?
An expressive approach to representational painting with a touch of abstraction.
What are you currently working on?
I’m presently working on a show of Paris from a trip earlier in the year.
How do you challenge yourself as an artist?
I challenge myself by constantly trying to achieve a higher level in my work. I do this through experimenting and pushing my painting technique. My primary goal is to be constantly improving my art.
Any pieces of wisdom for artists looking to better themselves as artists?
Paint as much as you can, and don’t be nervous in stepping outside your comfort zone.
Desmond O’Hagan’s four start-to-finish art instruction painting tutorials (two in oil and two completed with pastels) will be available in December 2016 through NorthLightShop.com and streaming on ArtistsNetwork.tv, with plans in the works for an art instruction course to be available through ArtistsNetworkUniversity.