EDIT: Okay, this was fun! Until next time, save the Orbach car, save the dream: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brandonbird/the-jerry-orbach-memorial-art-car

I'm Brandon Bird, visual artist (brandonbird.com). I'm responsible for the "Law & Order" coloring book, SVU Valentines, and that painting of Nicolas Cage as a snow monkey floating around reddit, among other things. I've travelled across the country making paintings of Sears stores, and I'm currently raising money to make a Jerry Orbach-themed lowrider. I've also been in Kelsey Grammer's house. AMA!

Proof: http://brandonbird.com/reddit_proof_bird.jpg

Comments: 72 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

humblegrundlebundle9 karma

Hi Brandon - I love you.

You're great at painting dudes with weird faces. Who has the best weird face?

Also, do you ever get mistaken for Brad Bird? How about Big Bird?

Those are my questions.

brandon_bird3 karma

Was going to say Jerry Orbach but changing my reply to Colm Meaney.

When I was a teen looking at art schools the Cal Arts people kept asking if I was related to Brad Bird. I am not tall enough to be Big Bird or even Average Size Bird.

notsofastmyfriends7 karma

you've explained this before, and for the life of me i can't find it, but can you tell us more about how you use your art to critique pop culture or society? obviously your work is funny and wonderful, but can you tell us more about the layers and depth to it?

maybe i'm missing the point by needing to have it explained, but it would be a big help nonetheless, thanks.

brandon_bird10 karma

Apologies if this turns into a lengthy reply, but first and foremost I don't feel that art needs to have any sort of critique or broader social statement (I think the notion that it does mutated out of the academic scene, where art as a discipline was being taught alongside analytical writing in fields where social critique was the point). I think it's enough for art to have an emotional response; in fact I think that is the exact function and purpose of art. So, for me it's enough to make something that's funny. That said, I try not to make dumb jokes... if the humor can be layered on top of something, like making fun of certain artistic forms and conventions (like coloring books), or making fun of a certain type of masculine figure (Michael Bay, Guy Fieri), then it becomes a deeper and better joke. Humor that is "about" something is usually better than humor that is just trying to be "random."

foxycodone286 karma

Brandon, I'm a backer of Orbach Car and I really, really hope you meet your goal. If - Lenny forbid - you don't reach your goal, will you still make the bumper stickers available for purchase? I have an Ass, Cash, or Grass bumper sticker on my '05 Taurus and I NEED the Orbach equivalent on my car like, yesterday.

brandon_bird2 karma

The stickers (or at least that sticker, which is also my favorite) and the keychain, probably, since I don't need to make a thousand of them like the air fresheners or the Orbach on board placards (part of the reason the goal is so high is just to make the rewards).

dougnaugler6 karma

Hi Brandon. How do you feel about fans getting tattoos of your art? Has this happened yet, or would I potentially become the first?

brandon_bird10 karma

People have done it, which is cool, but I'm weirded out when they ask for my permission. Like, I don't wanna be responsible for someone else's skin, ya know?

Dynamite_Fools5 karma

What is the title of the 1981 Gus Levy film in which Orbach played an NYPD detective prior to his iconic role in L&O?

Bonus points: what was that detctive's name?

No googling!

brandon_bird6 karma

Prince of the City. I know this because when he got the L&O part they told him, "Just do 'Prince of the City.'"

staton705 karma

Hey, Brandon. Thanks for all the great stuff you've brought into creation. My question is that even as your art gets more and more well known, I don't see much about you as an artist. So have you started being recognized in public? Is it strange when it happens? Or do you just kind of roll with it in a Hugh Jackman sort of way?

brandon_bird4 karma

I was recognized while I was waiting to meet Mr. T, that felt really good.

If you mean that I don't get a lot of publicity or articles or interviews or such, that's the double-edged sword of being mostly independent and walking away from gallery representation... you have to do your own hustle and it is exhausting (I would much rather be painting than sending press releases to Buzzfeed or wherever). And when I was part of the gallery scene, it was the dumb butt lowbrow/West Coast/Gallery 1988 art scene, not the East Coast scene where they tend to write more about art and its meaning and whatnot. One of my mentors calls this, "the freedom from critics"--he means I just do what I want and put it out there--but again, double-edged sword.

jovietjoe4 karma

My favorite piece of yours is "The Death of Jennifer Sisko and the Destruction of the USS Saratoga at Wolf 359." You have an incredibly wide range in the styles that you paint in, what sort of training have you had, and what type of continuing learning have you taken part in (ie master classes)?

brandon_bird4 karma

I was always "the guy who can draw good" but didn't figure out how to use oil paints (which is what the Sisko is made in) till college. I lucked out and had a very good instructor, and a very good TA, and they emphasized the versatility of oils, and broke down the conceptual steps of painting (for example, treating tone and value as different things), and I walked away from that class realizing that I could potentially paint however I wanted to. Since then everything I've done has just been building on those techniques; I've thought about going back to school but I stop when I think about what a drag the non-art parts of school can be.

rioyeti4 karma

What sound, if any, do you imagine a platypus might make?

brandon_bird5 karma


Adelaidey3 karma

What are your thoughts on “Sonny” Carisi? I've found that he's a very polarizing figure for SVU fans, and I would love your thoughts.

brandon_bird2 karma

I think he's... fine? No one can ever be as bad as Detective Chester Lake.

churchofpain3 karma

Are there any other creative mediums that you're exploring or have plans to pursue? For example, I could see you writing/directing.

brandon_bird5 karma

I am working on a Law & Order podcast, and I have some ideas for little video projects (doing Kickstarter videos has been a way to kinda dip my toe in; also just being around LA in general). The thing with painting is that I can make something exactly how I want it and don't have to deal with other people, so it's a little scary to move over to other media where you have to give up some of that control.

Frajer3 karma

How'd you come up with the idea to do a Law and Order coloring book?

brandon_bird5 karma

I was watching A LOT of Law & Order (this was the days when TNT would have 3 - 5 hours a night) and being that deep into the rhythm / structure of the show made me think, "Oh this would be really funny if I turned it into a coloring book." Also, the juxtaposition of "dead bodies & banal courtroom procedure" + "something made for kids."

ChickenOvaRice3 karma

I've had the 7 foot Sears framed and hanging in my apartment for a few years now. How big could a Sears print get? 12 feet? 25?

brandon_bird5 karma

I think the large format printer I have can take rolls up to 100 feet, depending on the type of paper. Let's do it.

J_is_for_Jenius3 karma

Your work is all over my house and I love showing it off to new peeps when they come over...always a lot of laughs. :) My question is, what is usually the inspiration for your work? Just wacky ideas that you think are funny or are there direct reasons you like to put celebrities in the instances that you have chosen for them (Walken building a robot, Ford sad that no one wants to play Sega, Rod Stewart as a stormtrooper, etc.)?

brandon_bird3 karma

Sometimes it's ideas that pop into my head fully-formed, and other times there's more of a direct prompt--Rod Stewart as a clonetrooper was a birthday present commission for a friend who wanted "something with Rod Stewart" (yeah, what?), and the Harrison Ford painting was for one of the first 8-bit video game shows. The idea evolved from wanting to do something with Sega (we didn't have a Nintendo), and realizing that no one would recognize the '80s Master System characters so I'd have to come up with a concept that worked in the system itself.

Thats_So_Rhaegal3 karma

Are there any stories of note involving an interaction with a subject of your work that you are willing/able to share?

brandon_bird9 karma

My favorite is meeting Eric Roberts at a Doctor Who convention, giving him the last Eric Roberts lunchbox I made, half-expecting him to kill me, and instead having him give me the softest, warmest bear hug I have ever experienced in my life.

rootless3 karma

Two questions regarding L&O casting:

  1. By your estimation, which L&O main cast is the finest? (Given: Orbach is in it, but I think we know that goes without stating.)

  2. What's L&O fantasy cast? You can pull members of any season or iteration, and if you want to go crazy, feel free to pull from other cop shows.

brandon_bird3 karma

  1. Tie between any of the '95 - '98 casts and the final cast. No one in that final Lupo/Bernard/Cutter/Rubirosa lineup is as strong a singular figure as Orbach, but together they make a great ensemble. (And any lineup with Fred Thompson automatically gets points off even with Orbach in the cast.)

  2. Hmmm..... time travel adventure where the '97 and '10 casts have to team up.

airJordan452 karma

You are fucking awesome sir. I remember seeing your Law and Order coloring books a little while back and was floored by how awesome it was! Very inspiring! Can you tell me more about your Sears paintings? What inspired you to paint them? What have you seen traveling the country and going to Sears? Do you think they're as doomed as folks say?

brandon_bird7 karma

Here are all the Searses I've painted so far: http://brandonbird.com/searses.html

The Sears thing sort of started as a joke when I was first learning how to use oils. I thought, "What would be the most unexciting thing to do an impressionist landscape of?" And then I thought it would be funny to do a whole series of them ("America's Greatest Sears Stores") with the joke being that they were all kinda the same, just beige boxes. As a lark I used to Kickstarter to fund a Sears trip, and I found that they were actually not all beige boxes, and there is quite a lot of variety to the Sears stores of this great land. I'm not totally sure what the fate of Sears will be, but I was recently contacted by a Sears investor interested in sponsoring a Sears art show... so some people are still out there fighting for it.

paulisnofun2 karma

Is Kelsey Grammer's beer fridge and whiskey collection really impressive?

brandon_bird7 karma

I didn't see what he had in his fridge but when I showed up (to give him a print of my "What if Frasier Joined the Fantastic Four?" drawing that his wife had purchased as a Christmas present) he was finishing an Entennman's breakfast pastry.

RebelSnowflake2 karma

Who is your favourite superhero?

brandon_bird8 karma

Hugh Jackman.

two_off2 karma

How much Sears stock do you have?

brandon_bird6 karma

None, but I have a lot of '90s Star Wars figures, which are worth about the same.

brendanfour2 karma

Do you still do the occasional work of art as commissioned by Craigslist?

brandon_bird5 karma

I do all the art on Craigslist.

Shaysdays2 karma

Thank you for the Walken mask- my husband and I have tucked it in many drawers and under pillows etc as a long running joke with each other.

Was it from a film/tv still or photo, or did you make up the expression yourself?

brandon_bird4 karma

If I'm remembering correctly, it was an amalgam of two photos I was using for reference... one where he was looking serene and closed-lipped but his head was facing slightly to one side, and another where he was looking dead-on to the camera but was making a ghoulish expression flashing his teeth.

ImA13x2 karma

LOVE your work! I had the "Joy" as my computer wallpaper for a while, as well as the Nick Cage(Uncanny Valley) one as my phone wallpaper.

As someone who is constantly trying to come up with new ideas/designs, I find my self struggling. What do you do in these situations? What inspires you to create these magnificent works?!

brandon_bird3 karma

I feel like most of my ideas spring suddenly, fully formed, but I also keep a MASSIVE collection of images I save off the internet and when I'm bored I just scroll through it--not just images of famous people, but hovercrafts, cool book covers, whatever. You never know when something will spark a connection, or you'll look at something in a different way than when you saved it three years ago or whatever.

kagrrakid2 karma

Do the celebrity subjects of your artwork ever reach out? Any good encounter stories?

I love your work and have for several years now - unique subject matter aside, your painting skills are really impressive!

brandon_bird3 karma

The best are when they are totally random--like, "Okay, Rod Stewart shared that painting of him on his Instagram."

drewisalrightiguess2 karma

Brandon, I love your pop culture art because it builds these upbeat and positive worlds. One of my favorite ideas was creating a Phillip Seymour Hoffman halloween costume for children without it being an insult. Do any of you ideas ever start out with the audience laughing at the person more than with the person? If so, could you name an example?

brandon_bird3 karma

Yes, but I'm trying to think of an example of an idea I scrapped for being too cruel... I suppose the Val Kilmer collector plate is right on the edge and that bothers me a bit.

thefuryoffire1 karma

I met you back during your time at Cornell, and I think you're still awesome. How do you decide if a particular work of yours is worth showing off, or is everything you do just that good?

brandon_bird3 karma

I will throw plenty of things away and start over (I think more than a few Risleyites got proto-Searses that would have gone in the trash). If I mess up it's usually in the early stages--the wrong color base coat or something like that--where I'd spend more time fighting the paint and correcting than just starting over.