James M. O’Brien (American, b.1989) spent the majority of time living among the rural parts of New Hampshire. Early in his youth he was raised among the majestic Catskills, Adirondacks and White Mountains regions and often admired the Hudson Valley scenery. He began drawing and painting early and was instantly inspired by the British and American romantic landscape painters of 18th and 19th centuries.
O'Brien began his professional career in video editing, and audio recording for a short time before shifting towards the visual arts. Early success and popularity in his artwork led him to study at the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2007. There he graduated with summa cum laude and began increasing his focus on the American landscape painting.
In 2012, he briefly worked at the Currier Museum of Art taking on a wide variety of projects in a short time including cataloguing a series of early 20th century photographs which entailed transcribing handwritten German, revealing historical significance as it documented portions of the German invasion into Poland during WWII. While at that museum he also spent time regularly researching archives and cataloguing several unknown objects within the collection. With the preparators he assisted with art handling, gallery up-keep and quickly became involved in nearly all aspects of the Registration and Prep departments. In conjunction, he worked within the educational department studying the collection, guiding and developing tours, and providing art instruction to visiting students.
At the same time outside of his work at the Museum, he learned traditional framing and began a more robust personal study on antiquities. In the summer of 2012, he helped fix and restore Egbert Fosters 1920s ceiling fresco, originally painted during the Great Depression. That particular ceiling mural is an impressive and permanent fixture of the New Hampshire Masonic Lodge.
O’Brien began exhibiting his personal paintings in quiet places across the New England area and started taking commissioned projects that soon crossed the United States. Some of his projects have reached beyond the United States borders and selective paintings can be found internationally in private collections. Today the majority of his clients have been from the United States, but some of his original works are with collectors in Europe, the Middle East, and Southern Asia.
His interest in academic draftsmanship and classical painting led him to briefly join the Ingbretson Atelier in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he studied for two years within the Boston School Tradition. From 2015-2017, O’Brien returned to the New Hampshire Institute of Art going on to earn his MFA in Visual Arts. Shortly following graduation, in May of 2018, he was awarded the New Hampshire Institute of Art Distinguished Alumni Award primarily for his work bringing the arts to at-risk youth through the Mayhew Program. Additionally, he was recognized for his educational installation piece at the Hooksett Wastewater Treatment Plant which also received a state award.
Post grad school, O'Brien's work expanded beyond his strict use of paint to consider the boarder space around the displayed painting. These new creations focused on site-specific installations often including electronics and specialty lighting features that transformed the work into a more personalized experience for the viewer. O'Brien has since demonstrated proficiency in numerous traditional mediums, as well as, integrating technological components beyond just digital images.
He privately teaches and often holds lectures open to the public on American Romantic Landscape Painting around New Hampshire. Throughout the year he continues to exhibit his work in a variety of venues and constantly seeks new special projects. Some of his earliest works in oil can be seen on permanent display at the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts in Rochester, NH. He has been exhibited in the NH Children's Museum, recognized as an Artist of the Month in Exeter, NH, and was awarded "Best in Show" at the Hampton Fall Art Fair in 2019.
When O'Brien became a father, he quickly began creating collaborative works with his two children which he called "Father Daughter Doodles" and "Father Son Sketches". These were playful and whimsical two-dimensional works which despite the informal nature gained some popularity and were mentioned in this 2019 Artist Feature in the NH Hippo publication.
Aside from his painting, O'Brien continues to mentor at-risk youth and in 2019 represented the Mayhew Program in a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and Media Policy Center documentary. From 2009-2020 O'Brien led successful programing at Mayhew which focused on the visual arts and teaching young men how to responsibility fish, which inspired and improved the wellbeing of several young men during the 2020 pandemic.
O'Brien currently resides in the outskirts of central New Hampshire where he continues his personal artwork and currently building upon his early successes and pursuing larger goals. Today O'Brien enjoys fatherhood and remains curious about the natural sciences, especially natural phenomenon and sublime experiences. He enjoys time outdoors studying the native wildlife in the area and decoding the landscape.