Vincent Brent is a local painter who was recently featured in our ongoing exhibition series Local Art @ EPL. His latest collection was on display at EPL’s Main Library throughout July and represented a departure from his typical vibrant colors as he experimented with black and white oils. If you missed his show, however, don’t fret. You can view more of Mr. Brent’s work by visiting his website, and he recently spoke with us via email about his artistic awakening following a kite flying contest, his creative process, and art’s unique power to heal.
Evanston Public Library: Can you tell us a little about your background as an artist? How did you get started in art? Was there something specific in your life that sparked a need to create? What drove you in the beginning? What drives you now?
Vincent Brent: I started painting at age 15. It all came about when I was invited to a school function with my cousin and received a 2nd place award for a kite flying contest. My award was a paint set, and even though it was a numbered paint set, I was seduced by its mysteries. Every day I would run home from school to paint a little more, and the more I painted, the more progress I could see, it was as if I was awakening something hidden on the board. With 3/4 of the painting done, I came home one day to find it gone. I looked around the room with my heart racing, looked under the bed knowing I didn’t put it there but hoping to find it anyway. I didn’t. I walked into the living room and sat beside my grandmother. She had her eyes fixed on the floor as she took one hand from her lap and put it on top of mine. I could hear my father walking towards the living room talking loudly about how he didn’t want that strong smelling paint back in the house. I won’t go into the big fight we had.
A few years went by, and I was walking this alley trying to find a shortcut home when to my surprise I found this guy dumping what I thought was paint. I asked him why was he throwing out so much paint, and he informed me that it was disregarded ink. As I continued walking down the alley, I thought to myself how beautiful the colors were and that I couldn’t smell an odor. The next day I went to the corner store, bought some small containers, and went back to the waste can and began to fill them with the ink. The next day I bought some white boards, and the moment I started painting, I could just feel this warm seduction starting all over again. Even to this day I paint because I feel part of something far greater then myself.
EPL: How do you describe your art? Do you see yourself as fitting in with any particular artistic movements or styles? Do you work in any other mediums?
VB: I’m working on my “Black & White” series, but in the past, I have always used a lot of color to express my creative side. I paint in oil , draw, and do graphic design using Photoshop. I also have an Associates Degree in Photography.
EPL: Can you give us a window into your creative process? When and where do you work?
VB: When I’m painting in my home studio, it’s like being in charge of a band. My brushes are instruments that I orchestrate – creating texture with a brush stroke, making tones of sensational colors. For example, using white or yellow makes a louder “sound” than when I’m using a softer earth tone. I apply paint to my canvas to make “high notes” or “low notes” until I have a sense of harmony that I feel intuitively. As the band begins to play less, I step back more and try to find the spots on the canvas that still need a higher or lower tone.
EPL: What are your future goals and plans as an artist?
VB: My plan is to always find new ways to create and to use my artistry to help businesses distinguish their brand creatively and with a strategic advantage.
EPL: How do you find Evanston and the Chicagoland area as a place to work and exhibit as an artist? What inspires you as an artist about the community where you live?
VB: When I look around me, I feel this need to share my art experience to try to heal my community. Art can play a part in health care, but art in the community mostly doesn’t register so profoundly. It’s there to lower high blood pressure, calm frantic worry, and mostly to help distinguish one identical hallway from another. What if art was more then just something pleasant to look at? What if someone used creativity to begin the process of healing , change their perceptions, and increase their general self satisfaction? Art can help convey what’s contained inside and move our community along its journey toward healing.
Interview by Russell J.