Joe’s talent has been recognized by some of Scotland’s leading collectors. He has been referred to as Scotland’s most significant rising star and collectors compare him to Stephen Campbell, Peter Howson and Graham McKean.
“I was born in 1961 in Glasgow’s Maryhill district and had a normal working class catholic upbringing. In secondary school, during religious education, a priest told us how wonderful heaven was and it was a place of perfection. Well, how was it possible, I asked, that the devil could commit a sin there, the sin of jealousy? I never got an answer to that one. My working life has been spent in and out of dead end jobs, mostly laboring in and around Glasgow’s parks or on the railway. To many, this may seem like hell but it became my heaven as it allowed me time to try to resolve so many unanswered questions.
One particular job, about ten years ago was dispensing change in St. Margaret’s Student Union pool hall. I had always enjoyed art at school and drawing the regulars seemed like a therapeutic way to pass time. I realized that by studying the characters around me, I was digging deeper into those questions that life demanded answers to. One day, a university lecturer noticed some of my sketches and told me how impressed she was. She said I was in the wrong job. That night I thought long and hard and by the next morning had decided to become a professional artist. As simple as that. I handed in my notice a short time later and, although at times it has been a struggle, I have never regretted that decision. I still haven’t found an answer to the questions, which so annoyed the priests at school. I think that I’ve learned that in life there are usually no easy answers. Painting is the best way I know of continuing the search.
Joe O’Brien has produced a body of work based on Scotland and the Calvinist reformation of the 16th Century, often with a modern twist. The quality of his paintings has caught the attention of artists and international buyers.