Brian Rea is not only a distinguished illustrator but has also been on the commissioning-side as art director of The New York Times Op-Ed section.
Born into a big Irish/Italian family in Massachusetts, his New England roots grounded him in the art of storytelling. His mother was a bookkeeper, his father worked for Polaroid, neither were artists but they were always supportive of his drawings. His grandfather, a mason, had perhaps the most impact on Brian. His sketchbooks were filled with old advertisements and comics he had copied; a private person, Brian only saw these drawings on rare occasions. Later he would share his own drawings with his grandfather who genuinely appreciated seeing the work.
Growing up Brian absorbed anything that had to do with drawing or painting whether it was the Bob Ross TV shows, Atari cartridges, Pink Floyd albums, comics, books or magazines. He was obsessed with Garfield for a while and got beat up a lot for stealing his brother’s Mad magazines and comic books. For a while he wanted to be a truck driver—to see the world—his fallback plan was drawing Def Leppard logos on jean jackets. In high school, Brian was interested in drawing crazy realistic images of water, reflections, self-portraits and such. His art teacher, Eric Hoover, encouraged students to pursue art and illustration which lead Brian to Baltimore.
Brian attended the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) under the tutelage of James Yang, Whitney Sherman, Lew Fifield and Ken Krafchek. One of his painting instructors, Ken Tisa, organized a meeting in New York to show Brian’s portfolio to a friend of his, the illustrator and artist Ruth Marten, after a day-long meeting he was convinced illustration was want he wanted to do. The move to New York lead to part-time design jobs at publishing houses and several stints at The New York Times working on a number of sections and eventually he was named full-time art director for the Op-Ed page, a job he held for the five years before leaving for the West Coast.
After an eleven-year stay in New York, Brian now resides 45-minutes from the beach outside of Los Angeles and is involved in a variety of projects. He has produced drawings and paintings for books, murals, posters, music videos and magazines including The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, Nylon, Men's Journal and Time Magazine among others. His design clients include Kate Spade, Random House, Honda, Herman Miller, Billabong and MTV. Brian’s work has also been exhibited in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Barcelona as part of the group show Murals at the Fundació Joan Miró. He collaborated with Malcolm Gladwell and designer, Paul Sahre on Collected a three-book box set showcasing over 200 original drawings. In addition to his illustration career he currently teaches at Art Center in Pasadena.
Brian says moving to California has made a difference, "Working on the West Coast has changed my work and also my approach to it—better balance between living and working and that feeds back into my work. I tend to be more focused while in the studio; maybe more so than I was in NYC. I’m about 45-minutes from the ocean, too, so if I need to recharge my battery, I can sneak out to the water."
Brian is judging our professional show.
Deadline: March 25, 2016