The Art of Speed Painting

Speed painting is both a painting and performance style that grows more and more popular with time. The terms “speed painting” and “speed painter”, however, fail to describe the multiple skills needed to produce quality artwork of this type.

Denny Dent is recognized as the first painter to introduce this type of painting style to the American art scene in 1981. His frenzied live performances captivated countless audiences who sat in utter amazement as they watched him produce great artwork (usually of famous people) through unique techniques known as an “Art Attack”. Although he passed away from heart complications on March 29, 2004, his flamboyant, passionate style of painting lives on.

Speed painting has a freestyle element to it that expresses an artist’s talents to the fullest extent as they produce a work of art with showmanship. Instead of just capturing a particular subject on canvas, a speed artist dares to go a step further, by giving the image personality and animation through choreographed music, constant motion and the several choices of colors–these are the principles of speed painting.

The audience’s anticipation of seeing blotches of paint slowly turn into a recognizable figure is partly why speed painting is such a great art form. The performance aspect of speed painting typically involves the use of up to six paint brushes as well as the use of the artist’s hands and elbows that aid in techniques like flipping, spattering and even throwing paint at the canvas in order to create the illusion of chaos as the image is brought to life.

More often than not, the artwork takes second stage to the actual performance. Seeing a speed painter bring Mick Jagger to life within minutes is a real showstopper. Furthermore, the impact made on an audience listening to inspirational music while watching the face of Dr. Martin Luther King being captured on canvas brings deep admiration and respect for the artist bringing this unforgettable leader to life.

I won’t argue that “speed painting” is the modern term for this style of art. In my opinion, however, this term doesn’t give the performance and the skills of an artist who holds true to the principles embodied by Denny Dent enough credit. I highly encourage you to take advantage of any chance you may have to witness this art form live to get the true sense and appreciation of what speed painting really is.

Going by the name only, most of you probably assume that speed painting only involves creating an image on canvas within a very fast period of time. To describe it more accurately, speed painting can be compared to seeing a great singer live in concert as opposed to seeing their picture on a wall. It brings life to a portrait in a way that you could never experience visiting an art gallery, since the creation of an image or portrait is accompanied by mood music as the artist splashes and spreads dynamic colors across the canvas with energetic flair.

Brian Olsen Performance Painting of Bob Marley

In this Google Hangout, learn about Brian Olsen’s painting of Bob Marley created in ten minutes with his fingers. Brian tells all about his mentor Denny Dent. Find out what happened to the speed-painters painting after it was created.

Bringing Art To The Corporate World

Corporate Event Performance PaintingCorporate Performance Painter Brian OlsenBy: Ines Min

We’re taught at a young age not to use our hands to paint, but brushes, and to shade within the lines with color pencils. For Brian Olsen, a one-man show of music and art, that’s exactly what he does — for major corporations.

Olsen brought his explosive 6-brush, hands, knees and elbow-painting style to Korea for the first time last week in Olympic Park, at the launch of Audi’s new V8 car.

At this point, many people would say: “Huh?”

Olsen, the world’s only apprentice to the ’80s name Denny Dent, specializes in a specific genre of artwork that doesn’t quite fit between the clean lines of traditional painting, performance art and speed painting.

Working with a recurring portfolio of iconic figures — his “repertoire” — the spiky-haired 37-year-old (will update Sunday) recreates the likeness of everyone from James Dean to Mohammed Ali.

Donning paint-splattered black clothing, he works on a black canvas to the beat of a rock song — furiously leaping, splashing and sliding his extremities across his medium. (While Dent’s show was the “Two-Fisted Art Attack,” Olsen goes for the alliterative “Art in Action.”)

The unique practice has evolved since the time of Olsen’s tutor, and the protege now performs predominantly for major companies.
Combining entertainment with inspirational tidbits between shows, the artist has moved from pop icons to buildings, logos and now cars.

He continues to develop his style with new levels of dimension; his newest show involves simultaneous portraits of The Beatles, painted on a rotating cube.

“In between the paintings I’ll address the audience directly and I’ll talk about my creative process, how I create artwork, and how that process can apply to someone else’s work,” Olsen told The Korea Times ahead of his Audi performance Tuesday, at the Park Hyatt Seoul.

“Whether they’re in sales, or in product development, the creative process is universal in how you approach things. And it ties into ‘How do you overcome obstacles,’ ‘How do you overcome problems,’ or ‘How do you recognize the tools that you have to work with?’

“The show is kind of motivational in that sense that I’m able to take my audience on a journey.”

A connection with his audience is what the artist seeks most, while accessibility is his best method — an important aspect considering Olsen performs 40 to 50 shows a year across the globe.

“What I do isn’t necessarily language-based, so I can create the same experience in any country that I go to,” he said.

“And it’s the excitement of art and music, in action, and kind of dance, and all these different art forms that sort of ball together into my show.”

While Olsen’s performances almost always finish without a hitch, there have been the occasional goofs such as stage lights blacking out or a CD player malfunction. Now he travels with two CD players and two CDs.

“Each show, each time I get on stage it’s an experience. Anything can happen, and that’s kind of one of the exciting (things),” said the artist-performer.

“It’s not like you hit the play button and it’s already been recorded and you can go through your track or something. It’s a moment in time.”

Reaching that stage took practice, as landscape architecture-trained Olsen worked closely with Dent to become an ambidextrous painter, create the right proportions at such a close angle, and time himself. While Dent helped his student construct his own show, an untimely death left Olsen without a mentor.

He picked himself up, however, and threw himself into the trade, learning to promote himself, create a brand and image. But through his success, it is still that desire to spread the reach of art that fuels him.

“I can go into the studio and create artwork, and sell it to a gallery, and you can go and look at it on a wall. But I think the process of creating is what’s really exciting,” he said.

“It’s not just this high-end gallery-like artwork. It’s real, it’s kind of in your face, and it happens quickly, in about eight minutes — so it fits into people’s attention spans.

“I’m able to grasp a huge population of people that aren’t interested in art because maybe they’re intimidated by it… there’s no secret. You watch it happen.”

And for all his flair on stage, Olsen isn’t just seeking the spotlight.

“Sometimes I let people in my studio, but I guess there’s still some part of me that’s this reclusive artist, and I don’t really like people to come in until it’s done,” he said with a smile.

Unique & Memorable Entertainment

Toronto Couple by Brian Olsen Art In ActionPlanners are always searching for ways to make that special day unique. Most recently a father of a bride-to-be, who Brian had wowed at a New Year’s Eve event at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, invited Brian to Toronto to perform and his daughter’s wedding. As guests filtered out of the ceremony they were left speechless as Brian, with six brushes in each hand, accompanied by a local DJ, painted a 6 x 4.5 foot portrait of the bride and groom in Brian Olsen style! What a way to make a wedding memorable.