Austen Brantley , 17-years-old creating during a recent public demonstration. He is considering going to college in Italy.
By Deborah L. Walker
Austen Brantley is not your typical teenager. Recently celebrating his artwork on display at the Truth Bookstore in Southfield, Michigan Brantley is sculpting a better tomorrow. Brantley, 18, says he got his start 3 years ago while taking a ceramics class at Berkley High School in Berkley, Michigan.
After a lot of practice at school and home Brantley says he was ready to put his work on display. Brantley says he let his pieces speak for themselves. According to Brantley after seeing his work the Truth Bookstore in Southfield, Michigan jumped on the opportunity to have his work showcased there. This was the perfect business junction for Brantley who says he was inspired by the store’s African works and other inspiring themes.
“I walked in there and I showed them my art work and they had a show for me,” said Brantley.
Brantley says the art show at the Truth Bookstore was a great way to get feedback on his work. For Brantley the art show was the perfect opportunity to meet the public and get a fresh perspective on his sculptures.
“I got to hear what people thought about it and also understand what pieces spoke to other people what made them more powerful,” said Brantley.
Brantley says he gets his inspiration from African, Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. According to Brantley it is the contrast between materials such as wood and bronze that interests him.
“I like using the human form to express emotions and deeper meanings,” said Brantley.
Brantley says he enjoys being independent and pays for the cost of materials himself. Brantley sells his artwork and uses the money to buy supplies to make new sculptures.
“I’ve been able to obtain everything myself with my artwork,” says Brantley.
According to Brantley advertising is the best way to drum up new business. Facebook and art fairs are a great way to advertise however Brantley says public demonstrations is what he prefers.
“Mostly I like doing public demos that way people can actually see the artwork being made. I’ll let little kids sculpt with me and maybe they will be a little more open to it so when they get older they’ll take art classes,” said Brantley.
Brantley says he never though he would make it so far. Brantley says he remembers attending the Ann Arbor art fair for the first time. According to Brantley hard work in the art business pays off.
“I was only 17 the year before and I didn’t have a booth. I just walked around talking to artist and they’d say maybe in 5-10 years you’ll get here at the Ann Arbor fair and I’m there the next year when I’m 18. It felt really good,” said Brantley.
Brantley says to never give up. Constantly working on his craft Brantley is determined to be the best in his business. Brantley says be open to criticism and accept honest feedback.
“Persistence and determination I say have gotten me the furthest and having a good work ethic and just loving what you do,” said Brantley.
“I’m always trying to get better, that’s one of my daily goals is to get better than I was the day before and I see it as helping me get better even if its deconstructive criticism or constructive criticism I’m always trying to get better with my art work,” said Brantley.
Brantley says there is no special formula for his success. Just practice often and work hard informed Brantley.
“I didn’t start off really good or anything I just practiced a lot,” said Brantley.
Brantley says putting on new shows and meeting new people is how he stays relevant. According to Brantley he is never nervous at his shows and he enjoys talking about his artwork. Brantley says he does not worry about trends in the art world because he tries to make pieces that are without boundaries.
“When I sculpt I try to make timeless art,” said Brantley.
Brantley says he will continue to sculpt and plans on attending an art academy in college to further his skills and techniques. Brantley says he would like to attend the San Francisco Academy of Art University in San Francisco but because of financial reasons that may not be possible. Instead Brantley has been checking out the Florence Art Academy in Florence, Italy.
“It’s probably the best sculpture school in the world,” said Brantley. “The director there said he would take me without hesitation.”
Brantley says he hopes to inspire others. Even though he is new to the art world Brantley says his goal is to make a powerful statement in the art world.
“I’m 18 and I’m young. I think I may also inspire others to also try doing artwork. I’ve been doing it for not that long but I’m really trying to make a powerful statement. That is most important to me is to make a statement,” said Brantley.
Brantley says for people to use their natural gifts and talents so they would not be lost. As an African American male Brantley says he has been blessed and understands the dilemmas faced by young black men today. Brantley says it is important to stay out of trouble and find a positive outlet.
“There’s a lot of young black men that don’t have the opportunity that I’ve had. By making those mistakes in life you throw your gifts away. I’m trying to hold on to it for as long as I can,” said Brantley.
To purchase a sculpture please visit the Truth Bookstore at 21500 Northwestern Highway in Southfield, MI 48075. the number is (248) 557-4824. Art work will also be on display at Jo’s Gallery located at 19376 Livernois Ave Detroit, MI 48221 (313) 864-1401.
This was printed in the September 7, 2014 - September 20, 2014 edition. (tncp 13-17)