Lines and Colors art blog

Tim O’Brien

Tim O'BrienI’ve had this post about illustrator Tim O’Brien on the back burner for a while, ever since it was suggested by illustrator Jack Harris.

Now seems a particularly good time to finish and post it, though, because Erik Olsen has just posted 2 parts of a fascinating 3 part Iconic Audio interview (Podcast) with O’Brien on the IllustrationMundo portal site. (The first installment of which features a nice nod to lines and colors. Thanks, Erik!)

Tim O’Brien is an outstanding American illustrator. He practices a precise realism, softened by the careful use of lost edges that pulls his images together in an atmospheric whole.

His palette is often muted, and his paintings are rich with with highly finessed tonal contrasts and occasionally punctuated with strong lighting. He seems to work frequently with a color range leaning to earth tones, at times transforming modern portraits into replicas of old sepia-toned photographs, complete with scratches and torn edges.

He lists some of his influences as Paul Cadmus, George Tooker, Gottfried Helnwein, Ingres, Lord Leighton and Ivan Shishkin.

O’Brien’s refined, elegant compositions have a classical feel, while remaining edge-on modern. His notable strength is portraiture and his numerous Time covers have featured incisive portraits of a number of the movers and shakers of our time.

He has also done work for periodicals like Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, Playboy and The New York Times, as well as publishers like Ballentine, Avon Books, Harper Collins, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster and others. He has been the recipient of numerous awards from artist and illustrators’ organizatioins and was featured in The Illustrator in America, 1860-2000.

O’Brien helped found the Illustrator’s Partnership of America, is Chairman of the Education Committee and a member of the Executive Committee of the Society of Illustrators in New York and teaches Illustration at the University of the Arts here in Philadelphia.

You might enjoy, as I did, listening to the Iconic Audio Podcasts while looking through the galleries of his work. (blog)

Workbook gallery

FolioPlanet gallery

Iconic Audio interview on IllustrationMundo (with illustrations) Part 1

Iconic Audio interview on IllustrationMundo (with illustrations) Part 2

Text interview on Illustrators Ireland site


One response to “Tim O’Brien”

  1. Thanks for the article. He does nice work.

    I also found a link to a blog on his site:

    Which features some additional work and also shows his working process. seems to be whole site dedicated to illustration blogs.