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Artfinder newbie Brian Nash talks to us about going from working in advertising at Polo Ralph Lauren in NYC to becoming a painter in Nashville

We're kicking off the new year by introducing you to fresh new talent: this week we interviewed Artfinder newbie and Nashville-based painter, Brian Nash.

Brian describes himself as a pop artist, who loves painting familiar images remembered from his childhood and growing up in 1960's New England. His colourful pop paintings are inspired by Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud and his varied career in marketing and advertising for high-end brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren.

Read more to discover what Brian had to say about going from advertising to country music and now painting, plus his experience of Artfinder so far.

Did you always intend on becoming an artist?

Brian: I never planned on becoming an artist.

I've had a varied career. I have an MBA from Dartmouth. I worked for Leo Burnett, the large ad agency in Chicago and was the Director of Retail Marketing and Advertising for Polo Ralph Lauren in NYC. I then I moved to Nashville to write country music and had a bunch of songs recorded.

A few years ago an artist friend stayed with me for a little while and when he moved out, he left behind a half-finished portrait of a friend of ours. Instead of throwing it out I finished it, despite never having painted before. It felt really natural for me to paint and after I finished the portrait, I painted a few more things using the canvas and paint he had left behind. I showed the paintings to my friend Arlene who creates incredible murals and she showed them to friends of hers, one of whom bought one of them.

The positive response I got pretty much immediately, encouraged me to continue painting and I haven't stopped since, not even for a day.

Does your advertising background influence your paintings?

Brian: Absolutely. I worked for Leo Burnett, in Chicago, an ad agency that is famous for creating brand mascots. They created Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Morris the Cat, Charlie the Tuna, the Keebler Elves, the Green Giant, et al. Although I haven't painted any of those characters yet, I understand the power that an iconic character or image has.

Additionally, I strive to have an inherent narrative in my paintings, which is something I learned at Leo Burnett: every image should tell some sort of story.

Were you painting whilst working for Polo Ralph Lauren?

Brian: Not at all; I started painting just a few years ago. A few friends, Beth, Natalie, Tracie and I would often have 'craft day' where we'd created something and it made me start to enjoy the process of creating.

How do you want your paintings to make people feel?

Brian: I want people to look at my paintings and feel happy. Also, because much of what I paint are images from the past, I hope they feel a slight twinge of nostalgia and are reminded of a time when everything was just a little more innocent.

What is it that inspires you?

Brian: I'm inspired by pretty much everything; my eyes and ears are always open and I'm curious by nature. I'll overhear someone say something and that triggers an idea. Or I'll see a photo in a newspaper and that inspires me.

I'm also inspired by memory. I grew up in New England in the sixties, I have vivid memories of Boston, the Cape and Nantucket in the summer. I love to paint images from my childhood, which is why much of what I paint has a nostalgic and retro feel.

How do you feel about the artists you paint in your paintings?

Brian: I admire artists who have developed such an identifiable style, that you can see an unknown work by them and still know it's theirs. The artists I've painted such as Warhol, Matisse, Picasso, Haring, etc have recognizable styles and I thought it would be amusing to paint their work in my own style.

Do you have a favourite artist?

Brian: Favourite artist? I would have to say Warhol. I'm not sure there is a pop artist alive who isn't indebted to him.

I'm also a huge fan of Wayne Thiebaud, who I think doesn't get the credit he deserves for being at the forefront of pop art. He blurred the lines between advertising illustration and art, which is the territory that most appeals to me and the one that Warhol also hewed.

I also love Basquiat. I mean, how could you not? I also admire how Haring managed to be both high and low-brow simultaneously.

Do you miss living in New York?

Brian: I've been going to NYC since I was a kid. My cousin Julia lived there, and I would often visit and crash on her couch. I moved there after grad school in order to work for Polo, and everything they say about NYC is true, the good and the bad. I loved living there, and I loved the people, but I also knew when it was time to leave.

I miss the city, but I miss the people more. Working at Polo was incredible, and I had never been surrounded by so many incredibly smart, talented and creative people before or since and there's not a day when I don't miss that.

Do you still write country music?

Brian: No. I wrote for many years and had many songs recorded by major artists but the industry has changed, and what is considered country music now doesn't appeal to me.

You've recently joined the Artfinder community, what has your experience been like so far?

Brian: I am beyond happy to be here. It is an incredible, efficient way of connecting art lovers with artists.

One feature of the site that is incredibly helpful to artists, is that we can monitor the responses to individual paintings. I live and paint in a vacuum. I don't really know which paintings people respond to the most. However, Artfinder has a feature that tells the artist how many times people have viewed or 'liked' a painting. Feedback like that is encouraging and helpful.

What do you have planned for the future?

Brian: In addition to selling on Artfinder, my paintings are exhibited at several galleries. I'm in random exhibits here and there; the next major one is in March at Mitchell-Hill Gallery in Charleston, SC. The exhibit will focus on my fashion-oriented paintings, and will coincide with Charleston's fashion week. I'm looking forward to it and the gallery is incredible.

I also recently started a line of pajamas and t-shirts that feature my artwork, the company is called LaLa Land by Brian Nash. I hope to start producing items like greeting cards, coffee mugs, etc with my images.

'Bertha and her cat' by Brian Nash, £1,142
'Cheerleaders' by Brian Nash, £1,142

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