Art in Pittsburgh has always had its superstars, painting murals and gaining traction as the new best artist. Baron Batch and currently Jeremy Raymer are two Pittsburghers who are renowned for the amazing murals they create to beautify the bland steel-town vibe that Pittsburgh has always had. As incredibly talented as those two are, Pittsburgh has another artist on the come up: Dave O’Brien.
I first met Dave when we both participated in a RAW Artists Showcase. At that point in time, Dave hadn’t quite made a name for himself as an artist, working full time as a teacher and dreaming of doing murals. Since that event, I’ve watched Dave grow as an artist, with his work improving tremendously, and getting recognized around the city and invited to do large-scale murals and highly respected events. It’s been a fun journey to watch from the sidelines, and I’m sure even more exciting for him to have been a part of, and because of where he’s gotten in so many short years, I knew he would be the perfect first fine art feature for Moxie.
Dave’s style definitely utilizes a lot of bright colors and loose brush strokes, a style he defines as, “a mix between pop art, expressionism, realism, and a mix of abstract art.” He has done quite a few projects in this city and others, including a portrait series of some famous Pittsburgh natives like Andrew Carnegie and Roberto Clemente, live painting events, and murals in the South and North Hills Beauty Academy of Pittsburgh, as well as some sponsored by a curator in New York City called 501 See Streets that are located in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey. His personal favorite project, however, was painting the Alfa Romeo Art Car for a series of events sponsored the Ron Lewis Automotive Group. “It’s not every day as an artist that you receive an invite to paint on an Italian luxury car. I love to paint with and on new mediums, so that car really exposed me to a lot and challenged me as an artist,” Dave recalls.
While soaring through the art world, he’s balancing his work with his full time job in sales, which he got into after being a teacher. “I changed my career when art became more lucrative than teaching, but I didn’t know how to sell my art to other businesses, so I took a sales job to learn the in’s and out’s of business-to-business sales,” he says. Art is on its way to being his full time career, however, as he just bought a full studio space to really focus on his craft. Every step is a baby one, though, and Dave says, “Once my pipeline of commissions exceeds a limit, then I will have to consider the change, but for now I enjoy doing it as a hobby.” He found his hobby about two years ago through painting christmas gifts for family members. Even now, he focuses a lot on commissioned pieces for which people reach out to him. He’s hoping to make moves soon to focus on his own creative projects.
I want to the focus to be on what I want to express as an artist, rather than painting other people’s prized possessions. The reason I started painting was to make others close to me feel happy and I still do with custom requests, but I am ready as an artist to express how I really feel on canvas. I have experimented with a lot of mediums and content, [and] a lot of my work has been so spread out, but there are a lot of messages I want people to hear and learn in which I can express through art. Rather than painting custom requests, moving forward I just want to express myself and connect with like-minded individuals through murals, events, sculptures and anything public for everyone to view.
Like any artist, he says he struggles to be proud of any of the work he’s making in the moment, but he’s focusing on challenging himself and pushing forward to be the best he can be. The journey as an artist is never-ending, and while Dave says he’s learned a lot, there’s always more to come. “I have learned in order to make ideas happen, that you have to take action. I have accepted a lot of constructive criticism of my work, but appreciate it because it only makes me a better person. I have also learned that in order to see continuous improvement, you have to fail multiple times and surround yourself with like-minded people with the same vision as you do.”
Succeeding in the art scene in Pittsburgh is big feat, and I’m proud of everything Dave has accomplished, but hope to see more success come his way. You can see and support all of Dave’s work by following him on Instagram @daveobrienart, checking out his website, and keeping up with his upcoming events. If you want to check out his local murals, you can find them at Legends Eatery and the South and North Hills Beauty Academy of Pittsburgh, or if you happen to end up in New York or Jersey City, you can hunt those down as well. His work also makes beautiful additions to any home to brighten up or add a sleek touch to your decor. To order commissions, you can send him a direct message on Instagram or contact him through his website.
Photos provided by Dave O'Brien