Focus grabs a coffee with rapidly emerging artist Brad Kenny to talk about his inspiration and tips on artistic development.

Brad Kenny is 24. Having graduated from the University of Chichester last year, he shares with us his experiences and inspirations in the lead up to The Londoner's Compass.

How would you describe your work?

My work is a balance between representation and abstraction.

What drives you to paint?

It’s the idea of having a goal and you’re not going to get there right away, so you have to keep producing new artwork and developing your relationship with it. You don’t only develop your art, but you develop yourself on the way. I know where I want to be in life and I won’t get there without my artwork progressing. On the way I am learning a lot about myself.

When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?

I’m dyslexic and I’ve known that from a young age, so when kids would read Harry Potter I would be doodling and getting told off a lot in class. I wasn’t good at reading, writing and spelling like normal kids. My parents pushed me and told me, "this is what you are good at, you should stick to it and develop it."

I enjoyed doing art when I was younger, though I didn’t know if I wanted to be an artist. As time went on I realised it was my passion. I can’t think of anything else I would want to do if i wasn't an artist

When did you sell your first artwork?

I sold my first artwork to my godmother. I did a portrait of her dog, which had passed away and it was quite life-like, so she snapped it up straight away. Another one I sold was at the end of the second year at university. It was chosen to be exhibited in a local library and one of my class mates fell in love with it and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She had to buy it. I had to pinch myself, I couldn't believe that I not only had the opportunity to make the art, but someone actually wanted to buy it.

McCabe, Oil on canvas, 102 x 90cm

From which artist do you take the most inspiration?

I take a lot of inspiration from Jenny Saville because her painting technique is gorgeous. Her subject matter captures something that makes viewers want to know more. The way she uses colour and paint brushes was something I fell in love with.  

Another would be Andrew Salgado, I met him in my second year of university and seeing the drive and passion he had for his artwork and the results he got made me realise where I want to be. To see how much effort and hard work he put into his art made me really want to live up to that.

Is it specifically his artwork or the energy that he brings which is inspiring?

It is his artwork that I really aspire to, and it makes me think a lot about my own artwork, but then when you get talking to him and you see the way he is always doing something different and diverse; it’s a risk that doesn’t always pay off, although in many ways it has for him.

Climb, oil on canvas, 125 x 150 cm

What has been the most pivotal part of your career thus far?

Parallax was a pivotal moment. It was the first time I exhibited in London. To see the reaction of the audience and the different types of viewers I got. It made my eyes widen having lots of gallery owners come up to me and artists themselves. I could see how they genuinely took an interest in my art; it was a "wow" moment, thinking this could have genuinely been the spark that started off my career. It made me feel like an actual professional artist.

What do you think the hardest thing about being an artist is?

Being motivated, constantly getting rid of negativity and keeping positive. There will be a lot people who say you can’t do it. They will discard or discourage what you are doing. Some people say stop, give up. I mean, I have moments where I’ve been in the studio thinking have I made the right decision? Should I start doing something else right now in order to not be a failure? Especially because it’s you on your own, and you are dealing with yourself whilst painting. In the end though the pay off is bigger the harder you work at it.

What advice would you give to someone starting a career in art?

Do not stop your practise. Painting, sculpting, whatever you do. Even if you haven’t got a lot of money in your bank or your work is asking you to work longer hours, or to dedicate your time fully. Do not give it up, always dedicate time to your art. Secondly, I’d say be prepared to make sacrifices, and hard decisions. If you have a job and you want more time to work your art be prepared to quit that job.

Don’t just do the artwork. You have to maintain your presence and be noticed. Constantly update Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Make an effort to visit shows and meet people who can benefit your art career, as well as, you benefitting theirs. Constantly try to find new and different ways to getting your artwork seen.

Brad is creating an original painting for The Londoner's Compass exhibition this October 19-23rd at The Strand Gallery.  Click here for more details.