We recently connected with Brian Neher and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Brian thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. When did you first know you wanted to pursue a creative/artistic path professionally?
I’ve always had a desire to want to be an artist, even as a young child at the age of three. My grandmother was a commercial artist who always encouraged me to pursue that dream. She would often let me observe while she worked on a drawing for a product that she was illustrating. I was always amazed at how she could take a piece of white illustration board and transform it into a beautiful work of art. She was my first inspiration when it came to the idea of being a full time artist and making a living at something that you loved to do. Years later, as a student in college, I had the opportunity to meet Hall of Fame Illustrator and world renowned portrait painter, Joe Bowler. From that first, initial meeting, I realized that there was a great demand for hand painted portraits on canvas and the artists who worked in that field. It was a profession that had been around for centuries, but was still thriving today. The art of portraiture was not a course that was being taught in art schools, but primarily relied on being passed down from a mentor to a student, just as it had been for centuries. With this in mind, I continued to pursue as much instruction and inspiration from Joe Bowler that I could. This resulted in not only 23 years of hands on instruction in the art of portraiture, but also forged a lifelong friendship.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I’m a commissioned portrait painter who specializes in capturing a person’s unique personality, character and likeness on canvas. My goal is to paint a timeless work of art that will last for generations to come.
I pursued a career as a professional portrait artist after meeting world renowned portrait painter, Joe Bowler. Having the opportunity to meet a full time, professional artist with over 50 years of experience was a life changing event for me. It gave me the confidence and inspiration to pursue a career in art.
Being a commissioned portrait painter is unique, in that I have three different audiences that I’m trying to please. The first would be myself, as an artist. If I can successfully paint a portrait that satisfies my personal goals of draftsmanship, technique, composition, color, etc., then I am confident that the client will be pleased as well.
The second audience is the client who is commissioning me to paint the portrait. There are certain expectations that are placed on a portrait painter which make this field one of the most difficult and challenging of the visual arts. Not only is it expected that an artist can capture a good likeness of the person who is being painted, but also be able to convey a sense of personality and character as well. Doing this requires an artist’s ability to observe and interpret. In many ways, it’s like trying to ultimately capture a first impression of someone in a single image. Observing how a person sits, stands and communicates with their body language can give an artist clues as to how that person perceives themselves. This information helps to give insight as to what poses and compositions would work best for that particular person who is being painted. Interpretation is much like an editing process. An artist chooses the visual elements in his subject that he wishes to emphasize or downplay in order to bring out the character and personality that he saw when first meeting them. It’s the artist’s interpretation of his subject that makes his work unique from others.
The third audience is the general public. I strive to create portraits that not only please the clients who commission me, but also anyone else who views that painting. In addition to being a commissioned portrait, it must also have the qualities to be able to stand on its own as a work of art. It must be able to make a connection with the viewer. In many ways, the artwork acts as a bridge between the artist and the viewer, giving them the opportunity to see the subject just as the artist did.
If there is something that sets my work apart from others, it would probably be in the area of painting outdoor light. Many of my clients prefer to have their portraits painted in an outdoor setting. This type of lighting is more difficult to paint than indoor light, but provides an opportunity for an artist to employ subtle color techniques that can only be found in natural outdoor light.
As a portrait painter, I’m honored to have the opportunity to play a part in helping to preserve a family’s legacy by capturing memories on canvas that will last for years to come.
How did you build your audience on social media?
I often tell young artists that there’s no better time in history to be an artist than right now. The reason for this is the internet. Artists today have the opportunity to reach a world wide audience in an instant. This is something that artists of the past could have only dreamed of. For them, getting exposure for their work required traveling, shipping artwork, entering venues where prospective buyers were likely to attend, transporting original artwork in order to be viewed in person, etc. Today, an artist is able to go directly to prospective buyers without ever leaving the studio. The combination of technology and social networking platforms provides artists with the opportunity to share their work with audiences around the world. With the single push of a button, an artist’s work can literally be in the hands of millions of people through the use of smartphones.
It was actually my wife, Jacquie, who suggested that I join social media platforms in order to help get more exposure for my work. Although reluctant in the beginning, I’m so glad that I took her advice and started posting on outlets like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. A presence on these platforms has created opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. For example, posting my work on Facebook over the years has provided the opportunity for my work to be seen in two national art publications (American Artist magazine and Portrait & Figure Highlights magazine), as well one international art publication (South African Artist magazine). In both cases, the editors of each of these publications reached out to me directly through Facebook because that’s where they saw my work. I think that every artist should take advantage of using social media platforms in order to reach the largest audience possible. You never know who might see your work. The more people you have viewing your work, the greater chances you have of being able to sell that work.
As far as building an audience and presence on social media goes, much of the success will be in the content that you post. I think the most successful outcomes occur when you post content that you are passionate about. If it’s interesting to you, then it’s much easier to present it that way to others as well.
After being on social media for a short amount of time, I realized that I didn’t have enough of my own artwork to continually post something new every day. As a result, I began posting works of art that have inspired me over the years. The goal was to help inspire other artists by showing them what was possible in paint. Another goal was to help educate people who were not artists, by introducing them to artists and artwork that has been created over the centuries. In addition to these goals, posting the works of great painters of the past has resulted in having access to a tremendous amount of content that I can post each day. So, instead of reaching a narrow audience by posting only my work, I’m able to reach a much larger audience by posting a variety of other artist’s work.
As the audience of people who have followed my postings on social media has grown over the years, so has the opportunity for exposure of my own work. I will occasionally post one of my recent portrait paintings on these same platforms, giving it greater exposure.
At least two thirds of the content that I share on social media is to help educate and inspire others. The other third would be to share my own work.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
The most rewarding part of being a full time artist is having the opportunity to work at what I’m passionate about. It’s always been my dream to be an artist, so to have the opportunity to pursue that dream on a daily basis is extremely gratifying. To look back at the end of each day and have a tangible record of what you have accomplished is a rare and unique gift that every creative individual has the privilege of experiencing.
- Website: www.BrianNeher.com
- Instagram: brian_neher
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NeherPortraitPaintings
- Twitter: BrianNeher
- Youtube: BrianNeherFineArt
I really enjoyed Brian’s interview, particularly his comments about social media. As a portrait artist also, his take that “If I can successfully paint a portrait that satisfies my personal goals of draftsmanship, technique, composition, color, etc., then I am confident that the client will be pleased as well” rings so true. Thanks for the article.
your drawings are perfect.
Sou grande admirador da sua arte,
parabéns pelo talento!
É realmente inspirador.