We had the good fortune of connecting with Dennis Bredow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dennis, how do you define success?
The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of one’s goals. That’s fairly straightforward. As an artist, my problem is not defining what success means. The problem is defining what my goals are. If my goal is fame, or followers, or brand recognition, or wealth … then success is elusive. My ability to accomplish my goals is now dependent on the value that other people put on my work. My success is based on likes or follows, on which gallery I can get to promote my work, or how much my work sells for.
The healthiest and simplest definition of success would be growth. Growth in my understanding of my subject matter. Growth in technique, execution, and craftsmanship. This is probably how I should define success. In practice, it’s more complicated.
I think success is unique to the individual. To me, success means creating art as a vocation. It means painting only what I am passionate about. It means living where I am inspired, surrounded by the people I love. My version of success necessarily includes a pickup truck, a dog, and a horse named Montana. But that’s just me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I began my art career with the distinct impression that there are commercial artists and fine artists. These are two different entities entirely, and I was determined to be the kind of artist that made money. After all, I had a wife and family to look after.
15 years into my career as an artist in the film and visual effects industry I began pursuing ‘fine art’. It was harmless enough at first. Just a few friends who wanted to create art and see what we would make if left to our own devices. We held informal ‘art openings’ in my office at work, then stayed up late over burgers and beer talking about what we would make next. I caught the bug.
My work is a combination of what captures me visually and thematically – Americana – from the 1950’s to the Wild West. Sometimes completely celebrating the optimism of mid-century America, and sometimes calling it into question. I always want my work to make a strong initial impression, but layer enough subtle detail to keep you coming back again to discover something new.
At this point in my career I have found success as both a commercial and fine artist. I’m grateful to the proponents of both sides of the art world who have taught me the value of both. It has taken me a lot of time and tremendous effort to get to this place, and I feel I’m just at the point where I’m starting to figure out who I am as an artist. My point of view is becoming more clear, my methods more precise and practiced. It’s never easy, and I’ve done some work I wish I could take back. But I suppose that’s the process of learning and becoming better. At the end of the day, I want to create work that is beautiful, that inspires, and makes you think.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
LACMA. This is where I gained a new appreciation for fine art. This is where I saw Jeff Koons’ Chainlink Fence, a piece which took every ounce of my self control not to reach out and touch. This is where I first saw the work of John Baldessari and found inspiration that influenced my own work for years to come. This is where I saw original Norman Rockwell paintings. The thick and thin paint, the pencil marks. The chance to see the work of great artists, to see their process and mark making up close, is one that should not be missed.
The Broad. A unique gallery experience where the building is as much a work of art as the pieces that hang within. A must see if you want art to be part of your visit.
For lunch, Santa Maria BBQ in Culver City. Tri-tip burrito, with homemade salsa and bbq sauce. I’ve eaten here an unreasonable amount of times. This is as good as it gets. If you have more than one day, JR’s BBQ on La Cienega. Maybe the most authentic BBQ in LA, where you can throw back an Arnold Palmer (ice tea & lemonade), or if you prefer, a Tiger Woods (ice tea and pink lemonade).
Back in the day I would have recommended an afternoon at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. This is where I saw Sheppard Fairey’s Revolutions show. But those galleries have moved on, and now I would recommend a stroll down Pico Blvd to Maxwell Alexander Gallery (among others). I spent many years working for Sony Pictures, and Downtown Culver City has some great galleries and a great vibe.
For dinner, Rush Street in Culver City. Definitely worth stopping in for a burger and a beer. Who wouldn’t want to sit beneath a massive oil painted reproduction of the famous Herb Alpert ‘Whipped Cream’ album cover? This is where I had some of the best art conversations of my life.
I would highly recommend taking in an LA Kings hockey game. this is a completely different kind of art, and in my opinion, there is nothing quite like it. A true LA experience that balances beauty and skill with brute force. And if you haven’t had your fill of LA, you can get some delicious (and possibly illegal) bacon wrapped hotdogs from the street vendors after the game.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Maxfield Strauss. Before I knew him, I loved his work. Later in my career I had the opportunity to work with him directly. He inspired me to see value in things I had previously dismissed. He is a champion of process, of being as thorough as possible in the study and application of material and subject matter. Any success I have had as an artist I owe in great measure to his investment in me. To this day I look to him for advice and his input always makes my work better.
Robert Mars. I almost stopped painting when I saw his work. It was everything I wanted my art to be, only better. He was working with similar subject matter and we seemed to be passionate about the same things. He was the one that encouraged me that there was value in contributing my own point of view. He took time to write, was kind enough to give input into my work, and shared some insight into his gallery experience. We have traded work and even collaborated on a few pieces. I try hard not to seek validation, but his friendship and encouragement has been exactly that for me.
More than anyone, my wife and kids. My wife is like my manager, keeping the studio stocked, getting screens made, and applying resin to my finished paintings – an art form in itself. My kids hang out in the studio, doing homework, listening to music, or even painting with me in the studio. It’s a family affair. My wife deserves a ton of credit for my success as an artist, and for making my dream a shared priority for our family.