Kentucky born and bred artist Brad Everett Kirkman is what some people might call an "outsider artist." He isn't trained, but some might say he's anointed. Looking at his work, you can clearly see that he's not only driven by art, but also a message. He works full-time for a precision manufacturing company, but art is his true calling and message. Incidentally, we had this chat long ago and begin by talking about his old website which has since changed to http://mainrinse.troyserve.com/. However, his message remains the same.
MICHAEL: Hey Brad. First of all, your website is called, mainrinse.com. Why do you have a website and where did the name come from?
BRAD: I felt I needed a space of my own that I could have complete control. No ads to distract and no restrictions etc. Main Rinse is an anagram of "I'm a sinner.” I named it this so I would always be reminded that I am no better than anybody else on this planet. I will always be in need of a Savior that can fill the hole in me that nothing or no one else can fill.
MICHAEL: Do you draw (no pun intended, sorry) any connection between your art and "Main Rinse"?
BRAD: I really can't separate the two. I think of the website as an extension of the art. I can say and do more there to expand on the message I'm trying to relay with my art.
MICHAEL: I have several different representations of your work and I think it's more driven by your vision rather than even the material itself. How would you describe your art? I'm tempted to say "outsider," but I don't love that term.
BRAD: My work is a direct reflection of my life at the moment it's created. It's not necessarily "pretty" in a department store sort of way. And it's not something that a lot of people will want to hang in their living room. My wife would never let me display most of my art in our house. I want to encourage people with my work. If it's not considered decorator art, no problem. If you want to hang it in your closet and have a private laugh or a secret bit of encouragement that's absolutely great with me.
MICHAEL: I seem to recall you telling me that you sometimes paint things and just leave them out in public for people to freely take? What's up with that?
BRAD: I create little sculptures under the name "Prayzine" (like Praising God) and have left them all over the country for people to pick up and keep. I do this as a gift to others. It's kind of like a friendly street art project. Just another way to try to help people smile and point them to Christ in the process. I leave just enough information for people to Google the name and see what the project is about.
MICHAEL: So, you're like a wandering, troubadour artist with a message. Where have you left these sculptures? Have you heard from anybody who has gotten one?
BRAD: Mainly east of the Mississippi from Michigan to Florida. I also have friends who leave them for me in places they vacation and travel for business. I have gotten email just saying thanks for the art and encouraging me to continue. Not a whole lot of communication comes back. Maybe people think that there is more to it than it seems. I suppose they think, "Nobody would leave art lying around for free. There must be a catch."
MICHAEL: Does your full-time job influence your art in any way or do you keep the two things separate?
BRAD: You can say my art is influenced by my full-time job in that there are a lot of people that I work with who need encouragement or just a kind word. I see them as a good cross-section of people, and even though these people have jobs, they still have needs, be it emotional, physical, or financial. Everybody needs to know they are needed and appreciated. This universal need for encouragement is something that pushes me to continue to make positive, uplifting art.
MICHAEL: Many art people might ask you why you live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. It's not exactly a booming art center.
BRAD: Hopkinsville is where I grew up. I've been a lot of places and I can't find a place I like better that I can afford. It's central, not too hot, not too cold, not too northern, not too southern. And it's easy for me to jet to NY or LA for my one man shows. Ha!
MICHAEL: Oh, okay. Why do I get the feeling that you've answered that question before? But I digress. You mentioned something early on about having "complete control" over your work. This is a huge issue with so many artists (not to mention writers). What's the deal? Is it the galleries? Who is trying to control artists?
BRAD: The pressure to make something that you know will sell is always lurking. You feel if you paint what you want, nobody will get it and thus not buy. I have control over very little in my life. My time is demanded, my attention is demanded, my finances are demanded. My art is really the only thing that nobody can tell me what to do.
MICHAEL: Yes, that's tough. On top of that, most of the time, you don't even know whether buyers are misinterpreting the message of your art. I also experience that myself as a writer. That must be a real issue with you because your work is so message driven. Still, you must create things hoping that there's an audience out there for it ... otherwise supporting yourself can be extremely difficult.
BRAD: I just try to make enough to pay for my supplies, anything above that is a bonus. I don't see me supporting myself/family on my art. It would be great if I could pull it off, but right now I can't see that being even close to feasible.
MICHAEL: So why are you even doing this? Aren't there other ways to spread the message? Living artists have such a tough time. What good is art to anybody?
BRAD: Creating art for me is cheap therapy. It relaxes me. I have a fairly stressful day job and I need a wind down activity. I tried other things, like golf. AHHH! That just added more stress that I didn't need. As far as the message, I have reached people around the world with my crazy little creations. I love that people anywhere can view my art just by happening upon it. If they look and don't buy that's OK. Maybe they get a little encouragement from just seeing it. Actually making a sale is just icing on the cake.
MICHAEL: Thanks Brad. You’re much more than just an optimist. You’re clearly a messenger.
Endnote: You can visit Brad at his website at http://mainrinse.troyserve.com/.