A 20-year immersion in high-tech manufacturing may be an unconventional step on the path to becoming a fine artist, but for Bill Brown, his career in engineering has been a vital underpinning of his current work merging the mediums of photography and painting. Brown experiments with traditional materials and techniques to create his vibrant, large-format abstractions of natural and man-made scenes and forms. Here, the Denver-based artist explains the themes that spark his curiosity—and the process that turns inspiration into art.
What inspired your decision to marry painting and photography? Mainstream photography always felt like more of a tool or a starting point; a bit too close to reality. This pushed me back to the traditional materials that I hadn’t used since high school: paint, of course, but I find myself continually testing and learning from other materials as well.
Walk us through your process of combining those materials. I’m always capturing interesting things and places—I take over 10,000 images every year. I spend a lot of time manipulating an image digitally, then typically use a gel-alcohol method to transfer that image to a substrate. From there, I’ll use standard acrylic paint, oil pigments, encaustic paint, or gold or silver leaf to complete a piece, often finishing with a layer of clear encaustic wax.
What provides the jumping-off point for a new work? Frequently, my inspiration stems from nature, but when I reflect on my interest in human creations—like cities or machinery—I’m finding that it’s really complex systems and components that draw my attention.
Is there a takeaway you hope to impart to viewers? Recently, I’ve felt the need to de-stress. As I wonder if other people could use the same, I’ve sought to convey a sense of calm and space—to give the conscious mind a break, even if only for a few seconds.