Perfectly capable of painting in acrylics, drawing with ink, sculpting with wood and silkscreen printing, Brendan Monroe, aka The Blob, is an American artist who’s constantly challenging himself with new ideas. Unable to choose the favorite, creating a diverse portfolio, keeping things fresh by following simple mantra – when he’s bored with a technique or medium, he moves on to something completely different. Charming and otherworldly, his work keeps a latent base of visual familiarity in both landscapes and figures. With a visual vocabulary inspired by scientific processes and internal landscapes, Monroe forges drawings, paintings, sculptures and occasional commissioned illustrations.
The Art of Brendan Monroe
His work possesses a dream-like quality, and it comes as no surprise since he draws inspiration from his dreams, especially for narratives. Other sources include popular science fiction such as Star Wars and things like The Hobbit and Wheel of Time. More recently, he’s been heavily influenced by the real science and ways it is happening. Undoubtedly a figurative artist, Monroe has made his figures go a long way from being a sort of recurring characters to being faceless beings. These beings are basically the inhabitants of the worlds or scenes he makes. In order to become more simplified, they have lost their features, like faces, hands and feet. “They’re still related but I’ve found that I like them without those things because they really don’t need them” and they are “very understandable without having to have eyes or other human features.”
Paintings, Sculptures, and Murals
Bouncing between a variety of mediums, from painting, drawing, to sculpture, and outdoor work does keep things fresh, but Monroe also thinks it would be quite impossible to pick one out and perpetually do it over and over again. He likes the idea that being an artist means that his ideas and portrayals are important, so long as the whatever medium he uses can help achieve that. So it’s significant to keep the work challenging while getting new ideas flowing all the time. Speaking of his favorite materials, Monroe says that recently, his choice has been ink and white gouache on paper. “For color, it’s usually on paper with acrylic. I use brushes most of the time for both and not so often pens, unless maybe it’s for sketches. I also like wood for sculptures because it’s got some inherent beauty and life in it.”
His sculptures have evolved over time, and now, Monroe is also able to create ceramic pieces, like the ones exhibited in Blobography (2015), a solo show that took place at Heath Ceramics in Los Angeles. A fetching, carefully considered myriad of contrasting glazes adorn his small-to-mid scale figurative work — planes of textural, swirling color that look like they were skimmed off the gaseous planets and their moons. The sculptures paired intricately with his wall-hung graphic illustrations, along with a subdued grey-and-white mural. When he was younger, Monroe was a bit into tagging. In 2014, he was invited to participate in POW!WOW! events at Hawaii and Taiwan, which were, according to himself, amazing experiences and “very different from each other in terms of experiencing working environments”.
Born and raised in southern California, Brendan Monroe studied at the Art Center College of Design, where he earned his BFA with honors. His parent used to take him to a yearly parade in Santa Barbara – the Summer Solstice Parade. The guys wearing all kinds of colorful clothes and their huge paper mache heads are one of Monroe’s earliest memories. Around that time, he also started making art, though he didn’t believe that art or commercial art and design could be a career until sometime in junior college. He is married to Evah Fan, another immensely talented painter, illustrator, and sculptor. He is extremely versatile, but it was his painting skills that earned him a place on our list Young American Painters To Follow.
Brendan Monroe lives and works in Oakland.
Featured image: Brendan Monroe working on a wall – photo credits Brandon Shigeta, photo courtesy of POW!WOW!
All other images courtesy of the Brendan Monroe