Artists’ Career Paths: Brian Pike
Case Study 2
Brian Pike, Painter: Richmond
Where did you train / how did you begin your career as an artist?
Unlike most artists, I started off from a theoretical perspective. I considered going to Art College when I left school, but I ended up taking a degree in Philosophy instead. I opted to study Aesthetics as part of my degree course, and went on to write a PhD on the subject of human colour perception, and the extent to which the way we experience colour might differ between individuals and across cultures. I see colours slightly differently with my right and left eyes, so it’s a topic that particularly interests me.
This all eventually led on to my teaching Philosophy of Art at Cambridge and Durham Universities, and for the Open University. After a while I started to think that maybe I should stop talking about art theory and start actually making art!
What was most helpful to you in the early days of establishing yourself as a successful practitioner?
For me, networking was the most important factor in establishing my practice. Thanks to an artist friend of mine I got an exhibition at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal, and this led on to an offer from a commercial gallery in Cumbria.
Shortly after that I received sponsorship for an exhibition and online arts project from Vodafone, all of which helped me build up a decent CV in a relatively short time.
Studio space hasn’t been a particular concern for me because my work so far has been fairly small scale, so I can work pretty much anywhere within reason.
What do you think have been the most important /pivotal events or moments which established you as a successful practitioner?
The three things I already mentioned were crucial: showing in a public art space, being taken on by a commercial gallery, and winning sponsorship from a national company.
As well as that, I was one of the first artists to showcase their work on the Internet, and this fairly quickly led to one or two important sales and commissions overseas.
Is there anything you would have done differently or you wish you had avoided?
Not really. Apart from getting involved with a couple of rogue galleries that either went bankrupt or behaved less than professionally.
What advice would you give to someone starting out now who is working in your medium?
Despite what people will tell you, painting isn’t dead. (Nor is jazz.)
Paint what and how you personally want to paint, not what you (or anyone else) think will sell. What engages viewers is your own unique vision, so there’s no point borrowing someone else’s. Commercial galleries can be surprisingly conservative, and they’re not always happy if you want to move away from what they consider to be a winning formula. Don’t let that discourage you.
Do you have any particular ambitions for the future?
I would like to have a show in Japan.
Anything else you would like to say about your career development?
I’ve never had any kind of plan. Sometimes it’s better if you just wait and see where things take you.