Tim O'Brien Speaks at the United Nations

[ Posted: Apr 30, 2016 ]

At the invitation of the World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, I was asked if I would speak on a panel titled, DIGITAL CREATIVITY: REIMAGINING CULTURE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Organized by The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, New York.

Initially upon being asked, I suggested that I might not be the ideal person to discuss digital innovations in art, offering that my final art is actually, still oil paint. In a back and forth conversation we realized that I was as good as anyone to be a liaison between the two worlds of traditional and digital.

Digital methods had in fact revolutionized my process slowly and steadily over the past 15 years. Sketches in the past were laborious endeavors. I would do a drawing and if I needed a variation I started all over again or used a copier and scaled, cut out, and drew over this print. Digital methods allowed me to do many versions quickly, arrive at unexpected variations, and do things I never would have tried. My work matured as a result and I’d like to think it still is evolving and doing so faster because of digital explorations. I showed my work in the United Nations. Pretty amazing.

The second part, and perhaps the most important part of what I discussed was how digital methods affect illustration worldwide. As a member and current President of a 115-year-old organization, the Society of Illustrators, I spoke of the fact that at the outset, the membership was all centered around New York City, and mostly white men working in fairly similar ways. Today the organization and industry are nationwide, in fact global, and thankfully more diverse. We have members from all over the planet and artists in our annual exhibitions in recent years reflect this global expansion coming from places such as Japan, Israel, Slovenia, Italy, England, Ireland and on and on.

Arriving at the U.N., I went through the security area and then had lunch up in the guest dining area. The view from there is a stunning view of Brooklyn and Queens. The conference where I spoke was equipped with personal earpieces that translated what we were saying into several languages, it was a real U.N. setting, something that blew me away. On the panel was the head of the New York Coordination Office of WIPO, Lucinda Longcroft, The representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, Mr. Dian Triansyah Djan, Dr. Kate Stone, a scientist working on making objects and paper and printing “smart” such as having the ability to offer sounds and words. Also on the panel were, Ms. Francine Snyder from the Rauschenberg Foundation, Ms. Lily Valtchanova, from UNESCO and a 12th grader, Ms. Sophie Frances, a talented young digital artist who worked primarily with type.

In private conversations with people before and after the session, we discussed the amazing innovations that we all experience or soon will, such as 3D printing, VR drawing, etc. While all this is true, artists can sometimes go the other way. More and more illustrators are painting, drawing, and sculpting both traditionally and digitally. All of this is a good thing and makes our art and our industry more exciting.

--Tim O'Brien

The panel just before speaking.

Images shown at the U.N. discussing tradtional illustration and digital innovations in my work AND the Society of Illustrators

Related Links

- Tim O'Brien's Altpick Portfolio