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The Artistic Vision of Brian Rego: Crafting Masterpieces and Nurturing Future Artists

"My work is informed by where I live, and how I live out my life in these respective places. South Carolina has been the culmination of challenge and beauty."

This is a portrait of artist Brian Rego in his Charleston, SC studio.

Brian Rego is a seasoned artist known for his evocative landscape and figurative works. Born and raised in the United States, Rego's formal art education was forged within the robust arts communities of Pennsylvania and South Carolina.In 2004, Brian Rego achieved a significant milestone, receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of South Carolina. His unique talent was quickly recognized, earning him the prestigious Ed Yaghjian Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Work. Yet, for Brian, this was only the beginning. Driven by a relentless curiosity and an unwavering commitment to his craft, he pursued further studies at the highly respected Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, attaining his Master of Fine Arts in Painting in 2007.


Brian's dedication, however, extends far beyond his academic accomplishments. From the outset of his career, he has demonstrated an exceptional artistic prowess. His solo exhibitions, such as "Present Memory" at the Nancy Margolis Gallery in New York in 2021, "Tiny Mirrors" at the John Davis Gallery in 2019, and "Affections" at the Southside Gallery, also in 2019, have drawn significant attention and acclaim. This acclaim not only cements his status as an accomplished artist but is also a testament to his remarkable creative vision. Furthermore, his work has been featured in various notable group exhibitions, including "Rooms For Strangers" at the Pamela Salisbury Gallery, and "Working Small | A Group Exhibition" at Nancy Margolis Gallery.

This is a painting by artist Brian Rego of a girl walking down a beach road in the summer.

Above, Dream Walking, oil on board, 15 1/8 x 18 1/2 inches by Brian Rego. Image courtesy of Nancy Margolis Gallery

But Brian Rego isn't just about painting pretty pictures. He's got this passion for education that pushes him to go beyond his studio. He's taken on roles as a teacher, a critic, even a visiting artist at different places. He really puts his heart into fostering the growth of young talent, nurturing the next wave of artists who'll make their own marks in the world.. These have included the Jerusalem Studio School in Israel and the University of Mississippi. Notably, he also returned to his alma mater, the University of South Carolina (2008-2019) serving as an Adjunct Professor in 2-D Design Foundations, Figure Drawing and Painting. In 2022, he taught a course, "Considering the Masters: Cezanne and The Organizing Principles of Design," at the Penn Studio School of Art.


In recognition of his contributions to the field, Rego received the Blackwell Prize in Painting Award from the University of West Georgia in 2023. This honor underscores the potency and originality of his work. His artistic vision and technique have also made their way into print. In 2022, his thoughts and creative process were shared in "Art In The Making, Essays by Artists About What They Do," where he was featured on pages 228 - 231.


From long nights in the studio to countless hours in the classroom, Brian Rego's journey through the art world is a shining example of how grit, imagination, and a love for teaching can shape a successful career. Every brushstroke tells a story, and Brian's art, full of beauty and depth, reflects his unique take on the world around him. But what's really cool is that his work doesn't just hang on gallery walls - it also lights a spark in young artists who dream of following in his footsteps. Pair that with his impressive list of exhibitions and teaching roles, and it's no wonder Brian is making waves in the modern art scene.

This is a painting by artist Brian Rego of a woman getting ready to swim in the harbor of Charleston, SC. There are several sail boats in the background.

Above, Swimmer, oil on board, 14 1/4 x 18 1/2 inches by Brian Rego. Private Collection

Q & A with Brian Rego

Dawn Hunter: What initially sparked your interest in art, and how has your upbringing in South Carolina

shaped your artistic style and career?


Brian Rego: From the time that I can remember, I had an interest in drawing. Looking back, it seemed like a natural thing to do. There are certain people who have temperaments that compel them to record their experiences to understand the significance of them, and to tell their stories. I grew up reading and drawing Sunday comics and followed the styles of Berkely Breathed, Bill Watterson, and Jim Davis. I was overtaken by how real the characters felt, and how easy it was for me to relate to them. I engendered a deep affection for these illustrators, for treating with such care and attention, their ability for, and dedication to storytelling. For a moment, I found a place to belong. I soon developed my own characters, and told my own stories. My grandmother was an artist, a painter. When she was in her twenties and thirties, she painted in oils, but by the time I had come to know her, she was a watercolorist. I loved her work as a boy, and I wanted to emulate her. I didn’t relate to art as an ideology, but I understood it through my grandmother. I was in awe of the non-diminishing return of her work, how the power of her paintings intensified the more time I spent with them. But I wouldn’t try my hand at painting until my twenties. (continued below)

Brian Rego painting en Plein air.

This is a Plein air landscape oil painting by artist Brian Rego of a girl in a garden in the bay area of downtown Charleston, SC.

Girl in Garden, oil on canvas, 20 x 29 inches, oil on canvas by Brian Rego. Courtesy of Nancy Margolis Gallery.

Brian Rego: (continued) I completed my BFA in painting at the University of South Carolina, and as a student, I had two professors who made a huge impact in my artistic development. One was in figure drawing, the other was in painting. Together, they pushed me to be my best while providing me the room to experiment, to struggle, to fail. If I managed to succeed in one area, it was met with brief acknowledgement and the demand to do it better; they were constantly looking ahead. I am grateful for that now because any time I am met with success, I treat it the same way, and that allows me to focus on the work instead of the results. I learned that failure and success are just a part of life, but given too much attention, they become detrimental to the growth of one’s work. 


My work is informed by where I live, and how I live out my life in these respective places. South Carolina has been the culmination of challenge and beauty. I paint from life, so the heat of the South is always a barrier to my work, but because I struggle against it to paint in the landscape, the work is neither sluggish nor indulgent, but urgent and direct. I have taken to the discipline of working in the studio once the painting is developed enough to sustain the use of memory as a resource. My blessed wife and four children have contributed to the necessity of this development in the process of making paintings, and I have grown to love it. Memory has a limitless capacity for engaging the imagination, and as I learn to channel that powerful interaction through my sensibilities, the expression through the material, as a consequence, has shown itself to be something of a personal style. But I don’t give much attention to that; I focus more on the accuracy or the tone of the gestural expression of form through paint.

Rego studio 2.jpg

Artist Brian Rego working in his Charleston, SC studio.

This is a Plein air landscape oil painting by artist Brian Rego of downtown Charleston, SC.

East Bay Street, oil on linen, 20 x 24 inches,

by Brian Rego. Courtesy of the artist.

Dawn Hunter: Your solo exhibitions, including Present Memory; Tiny Mirrors; and Affections; have garnered a lot of attention. Could you give us a glimpse into the creative journey that led to these pieces and what they represent for you?


Brian Rego: Each piece of every body of work is a visual accounting of my life in a certain place, in a certain time. But the paintings are about themselves, they are not about me. I just use what is around me and how I engage with those things as material to make the work. I have my own attachments to the work, my own entry points, but those will be different for someone else and what I have to say will only hinder their relationship to the painting. Each painting needs its autonomy. I need to keep looking ahead to what is next, not because I know what to look for, but to keep myself moving, one step at a time. 

Dawn Hunter: Alongside creating your own art, you’re passionate about teaching and nurturing the next generation of artists. How has this commitment to education shaped your own artistic workand the way you view your role as an artist?


Brian Rego: I believe in giving back. I have had many people contribute their time, energy, knowledge, and love, to my development as a person and as a painter. The biggest influences in my life, aside from my family, have been teachers. I am grateful for the ability to teach, but even more so for the desire to do it. It brings me satisfaction to share something that I consider to be so good and so rich with other people. I love to see people struggle and grow, to see them enriched; I never tire of it. This attitude has fostered within me an ardent love for what I do, and in a way, it justifies what I do. If I painted exclusively for myself, I don’t think I would do it.

This is an oil landscape painting of visitors in Charleston, SC by the Pineapple Fountain by artist Brian Rego.

Pineapple Fountain, oil on canvas, 22 x 28 inches by Brian Rego. Courtesy of Nancy Magolis Gallery.

Dawn Hunter: You’ve been honored with several awards, like the Ed Yaghjian Award and the Blackwell Prize in Painting. What influence have these recognitions had on your artistic perspective, and what words of wisdom would you share with budding artists aiming for such honors?


Brian Rego: Awards are wonderful because they represent someone believing in the value of your work, but whether the work is received favorably or unfavorably, the focus must be set upon the needs and demands of the work, which are established solely between you and what you make. Do not aim for honors, it is a distraction. The people who honor you will also dishonor you the moment you and your work cease to represent the values they hold dear. If you, especially as a budding artist, give that level of influence to someone else, you will lose your way. Expect there to be good times and bad times, but remember that each does not last. Listen to your heart, follow your gut, and move onward. It is not about you, it is about the work.

Dawn Hunter: What do you hope viewers will experience or understand when they interact with your art? Looking forward, are there any new themes or techniques you’re looking forward to incorporating in your upcoming works?


Brian Rego: Ideally, my hope is for a viewer to enter into the compressed space of the painting, slowly expanding, finding themselves immersed in another world. One that connects deeply to the viewer’s interior world, to their sensibilities, and form a connection to it. My hope is for the viewer to understand that the painting is there to be seen and that it reveals itself in layers, that it imparts something of value, but that it takes time. 


Regarding my upcoming work, I want to paint on bigger surfaces. I want to learn how to make large paintings, really get into things. I am working out the practical aspects of making large paintings on location, and then of course, how to paint them.

This is an oil painting of a woman at a beach in Charleston, SC by artist Brian Rego.

Above, Woman Sunrise at the Park, oil on line, 22 x 26 inches, by Brian Rego. Courtesy of Nancy Margolis Gallery. 

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