How did you get started and then develop your career?
Matthew Bird: Like many after art school, I was “painting on the side” while working in another field to make money. In my case it was graphic design. At the time, I thought it was a blessing to have a creative outlet where I could make a living, even if it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing.
I was also rather good at it and continued to get promoted up the ladder until I was working as an associate creative director, managing other people, and doing little of the actual creative work. The agency model seemed ironic to me, the better you are at something, the less you get to do it.
Eventually I was miserable and couldn’t keep going. I knew I had gifts and talents that I wasn’t using, and I needed a change. That was when I walked away to focus on painting.
It was also at that time that my wife and I started our family. Nothing has enriched my life like my wife and children, and in turn, my work has grown and now touches others. The painting that shifted my career was of my first daughter. It’s titled Lost In Thought because that is exactly how she was. It’s a sentimental picture, but she was not posing or trying to be angelic. That was just how she moved.
With that painting, I won my first award in an exhibition with the National Watercolor Society. It toured the country for a year, and then I was pleased to learn it was acquired into a private collection. The collector was a doctor of oncology. He displays art in and around his offices and where patients receive their chemotherapy treatments. For those battling cancer, it is a very difficult and emotional time, and he displays artwork to help bring joy and beauty through their trials.
My mom was battling breast cancer when I learned this, and I found it to be incredibly moving and could not be happier to have a painting help in that noble endeavor. What a testament to the power of art!
How do you find inspiration?
I believe beauty is everywhere, we’re just not always inclined to see it. The key is to keep working, even when you’re not “inspired.” I look the inherent beauty in something even if it isn’t exactly inspiring, and often find that I’m onto something. Although people may think that artists sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, that’s not usually the case for me. Chuck Close said it best, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”
What is the best thing about being an artist?
I think the best thing is the continual pursuit of truth and beauty. The artist’s life is not an easy path, but there are great rewards, and I can’t imagine living any other life.
How do you describe success?
Success for me is being able to do what I love, in order to provide for those whom I love, and impacting the lives of people who love art.
To see more of Matthew’s work, visit: www.matthewbird.com
I really enjoyed Nancy Miller’s article, it brought back memories having studied both with Murray Dessner and Neil Welliver.
Thank you for the well-written article on Matthew Bird. Originally, I knew nothing about his work, but I find myself besotted with the beauty of his paintings. What a talent!
As a teacher, I think that Matthew Bird’s comments about employment will resonate with my students. How lucky we are that Mr. Bird left a successful career to do what he loves!