Ajay Brainard
age: 40
occupation: artist
found at: New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain)

No pun intended, what drew you to becoming an artist?
I don’t think that I ever chose to be an artist, I think that it chose me. Using my imagination and creating things was a huge part of my childhood. I enjoy the quiet, calming and reflective qualities of making art. I was never a very social kid and drawing was an activity that I could do in a secluded environment. My mother would say that she knew I was going to be an artist when I painted our family dog blue at the age of 6. The dog was white prior to me taking a paint roller to him. From what I remember, the dog didn’t seem to mind at all, but my mother had felt otherwise.

What don’t they teach in art school that you had to learn for yourself?
My education in art was very formal and very technically based, but what I had to figure out for myself was my own personal path. I learned how to analyze and meticulously render my subjects, but learning how to do it with emotion is something that can’t be taught.

Have you always lived and worked in Connecticut? What is it like to live and work as an artist in Connecticut?
Yes, I was born and have lived in Connecticut all my life. Growing up in a small town in Connecticut offered great exposure to nature, which has had a huge impact on me and my artwork, but Connecticut seems to have changed a lot in my years here and I am ready to relocate. I feel like both myself and my art are more connected to the Southwest.

What influences your art, the focus of which remains exquisitely rendered images of nature, many executed in trompe l’oeil?
My greatest influence is the cycle of life and death and the balance of hope and despair that exists in nature. I choose to be a representational painter because it allows me, as a painter, to portray my subjects with all the intricacies and visual beauty that they possess. I always work directly from my subjects in studio because in order to represent objects realistically, I feel it is essential to have a physical and emotional relationship with them. I like the intense study, almost dissection of an object that is required in creating such realistic renderings. You really have to know your subject well in order to paint it well. Nature never ceases to astound me and that is what motivates me as an artist.

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?
Quitting my job of 15 years as a truck driver to go back to art school and pursue my dream of being an artist. I have become an advocate for facing and overcoming your fears because what lies on the other side of your fears is life’s most rewarding moments: self-discovery and self-confidence.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
My greatest and most life-changing accomplishment was getting married to the most generous and understanding person in the world. Not only is she my best friend, she is my biggest supporter.

What is your biggest regret?
Not listening to my heart and quitting my job sooner to follow my dreams.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
I would still be an artist who is unhappily driving a truck. I had always wanted to do something in the environmental or biological sciences. I love digging in the dirt and history, so maybe archeology would be a good fit. Interestingly enough, both science and the history of an object plays a huge role in all of my artwork, so at times I do feel like a bit of a scientist and an archeologist while being an artist.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a glorious spring day?
Anything that involves being outside absorbing the splendor and wonderment that the natural world has to offer.