The art o' the blues

Local artist's work selected to represent fest

Local artist's work selected to represent fest

February 03, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown artist's work has been selected to serve as poster art for the 12th annual Western Maryland Blues Fest.

Mike O'Brien, 22, used acrylics and colored pencils to create the illustration of two musicians that will be used in promotions for the annual weekend event in Hagerstown, which kicks off this year on June 1.

A 2002 graduate of South Hagerstown High School and 2006 graduate of Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia, O'Brien works as a part-time illustrator for Premier Kites & Designs in Hyattsville, Md.

"It's a tremendous start," O'Brien said in a phone interview Friday. "It's not really something you expect right out of school. This is a pretty prominent job that I just got. It's going to get my name out and my work out there."


Kevin Moriarty, executive director of the Washington County Arts Council, said he was impressed with O'Brien, who approached him last summer to show him his portfolio.

Moriarty said he asked O'Brien to create an illustration that incorporates a Hagerstown element, but would not depict an actual musician, living or dead.

When Moriarty was shown the final piece, he said he was floored.

"I just think it's really, really hot stuff," he said.

Moriarty presented O'Brien's illustration to the Blues Fest marketing committee, which approved it without changes.

O'Brien said he spent about five days working on the piece.

"I wanted to do more of a performance thing and include some type of jazz element," he said.

O'Brien used the downtown Hagerstown skyline to mimic an edge in the illustration.

O'Brien is inspired by Greg Capullo, an illustrator for the comic "Spawn," and other artists, but said he tries to create his own style, one that doesn't borrow from his art heroes.

"I don't like to do pictures that could be taken by a camera," he said. "I like to do things that aren't realistic, that are one-of-a-kind and can't be duplicated."

O'Brien is busy working on other pieces to be included in his monthlong exhibit, which opens June 1 at the Washington County Arts Council and Gallery on West Washington Street.

"Terrapin Blues," the illustration used for the 2006 Blues Fest, was created by Frederick County resident Mick Williams. Moriarty said he didn't think that illustration could be topped.

"How we'll top this one, I have no idea," Moriarty said Friday of O'Brien's piece. "An artist will always create something new that will surprise you."

O'Brien's original piece will be raffled off June 3 on the last day of Blues Fest at City Park.

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