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Life & Work with Brandon Dudley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brandon Dudley.

Hi Brandon, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I always like to tell people that creativity flows through my veins. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. I was always that weird kid with an overactive imagination. Whether it was me being convinced that I could fly after watching peter pan for the first time or thinking I was a Care Bear and could shoot rainbows out of my stomach. I was a born performer long before I picked up my first paintbrush. My first official stint in the arts was when I joined the Spokane Children’s Choir as a young boy, and then shortly after, I began acting in school productions and, of course, lots and lots of choir!

It wasn’t until I was in High School that I first began painting. My art teacher hated me. She was the only teacher who ever called my mom to tell her I was a bad influence in class. I think it was mostly because I didn’t take too kindly to her telling me what to do – I never liked being told how to express myself, and I still don’t to this day. I grew up in a small conservative town, literally in the middle of a wheat field. So when I first began painting, I used it to cope with being bullied for my sexuality at school. It was my way to escape, and really painting along with the performing arts saved my life when I was a teenager.

After leaving high school, I put away the paintbrushes for no particular reason. Instead, I began focusing on other forms of creative expression. As soon as I was old enough, I started doing drag for our local Drag Production group. At the same time, I started going to school to become a hairstylist. I spent four years or so as a Drag Queen before I decided I had done all I could with that and wanted to start moving in a different direction which was when I found myself joining the local theater.

It wasn’t until I was older that I decided to pick up a paintbrush again. I don’t know why I ever stopped painting in the first place. I think it was that life got in the way. I spent 12 years as a hairstylist and then went back to college, where I was lucky if I had enough time to sleep. It wasn’t until COVID that I found myself questioning why I stopped taking my art seriously. I think it was being faced with the fact that life is short and spending my time working towards something I didn’t actually enjoy doing wasn’t worth it. I didn’t realize how much I missed the visual arts, and now I can’t stop. I have been lucky to build a decent social media following and show my work while living in Idaho.

My fiancé and I moved to Austin about seven months ago, and I am so happy to be living in a city with such a vibrant arts scene. Having the chance to connect with creatives from all over has inspired my painting and gotten me into photography. I am still the new guy in town and working hard on making connections. I can’t wait to see what Austin has in store and how I can make my impression in this community.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I mean, is being creative ever a smooth road? For me, it has been a road, to say the least. A long and windy road with lots of bumps along the way. Getting your foot in the door of any creative community is never easy. It’s never about your work, but more about who you know, or at least that has been my experience. When I was more involved with the performing arts, it was easier to make a name for myself. I think this is because you are always on display. When I was a Drag Queen, I had many opportunities to perform outside my small town. This gave me exposure. With exposure, more opportunities came along. The same could be said of my time acting in the theater.

However, getting my foot in the door of the visual arts community has not been an easy one. Now, of course, as I mentioned, I didn’t start taking the visual arts too seriously until the last few years, but even then, it has felt like a long road. But I cannot really complain; I have been lucky enough to sell some paintings and get commissions over the last few years. Sure not enough to quit my day job, but knowing that my art is hanging in even one person’s home is always enough for me to stay driven, and knowing what I am trying to achieve is worthwhile. I was just beginning to make a name for myself in the visual arts community in Boise, Idaho when my fiancé and I decided we were ready to head off to Austin. So now I find myself at ground zero again. But, hey, I have always been and always will be tenacious. I don’t stop, and I have faith that a gallery show is just around the corner for me.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
You know the saying “Jack of all trades, master of none,” I think that really explains me in a nutshell. I refuse to be restricted to one specialty. If I want to try it, I give myself permission to try, and if I don’t like it after I have tried it, I stop. However, I do a lot of painting and street photography; I think they would be as close to my specialties as I could get. While I hate titles, I consider myself a contemporary abstract expressionist painter. I get a lot of inspiration from Jean-Michelle Basquiat, David Salle, and Elizabeth Murray, to name a few.

My recent work has focused on faces. They are like masks, except instead of protecting what is on the inside, these faces show what is on the inside while protecting my stoic exterior. Each face tells a story and expresses an emotion that I work so hard to hide from others.

I also really enjoy playing with color. My years as a hairstylist taught me a lot about color theory and what works with what. I like to challenge myself to blindly pick colors and make them work together. I enjoy creating motion; I want the eye to travel from one spot to the next; I want viewers to see the painting evolve as they view it over time.

My street photography focuses on people caught in the act of the mundane and every day. We spend too much time looking at our screens that we forget the beauty that exists in everyday tasks. When it comes to my photography, I want each photo to tell a story, or at least, I want it to leave the viewer wondering what the story might be. Sure one of my images may be of someone standing at a bust stop, but then you might find yourself asking, where are they going? Where are they coming from? What did they do all day? What is their story?

Everyone has a story to tell, and I want to know it.

Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
Curiosity and tenacity, I think, are the most essential characteristics of my success. I think all artists are curious. No, I believe all people are curious. Curiosity is what drives us all forward. Curiosity kept me going. It’s what keeps me creating and trying new things. Whether it is wanting to know someone’s story and figuring out an exciting way to tell it or wanting to know the various ways I can express myself and tell my own story.

My tenacity is what keeps me going even when I want to quit. My determination (aka stubbornness) keeps me pushing forward when it feels like no one is interested in me or my art; my determination (aka stubbornness) keeps me moving forward. I believe I have something worth sharing, and I won’t quit until I have a chance to share it with the world!

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