An up-close look at a fire-red coral-like sea creature. A bird’s-eye view of a tight cluster of pointed, polka-dot-covered shells hovering in space. Swirling lines of microbial organisms spinning into a distant black hole. These are the lenses—magnified and telescopic—that Portland painter Jason Bradbury peers through when composing his brightly colored pieces. “I’m influenced by Ernst Haeckel, a German scientist who created detailed sketches of microscopic marine organisms,” says Bradbury. “I became fascinated with their complexity, and the symmetrical and radial forms.”
In this 5-foot by 7-foot oil painting titled M3304 (above), Bradbury juxtaposes the tiny organisms and the vastness of space. “I was playing with the idea of microscopic and telescopic,” he says. “I was playing with the idea that you can’t see microscopic images with the naked eye, and yet you can’t see these huge forms in space with the naked eye either.”
By day, when not wielding the paintbrush, Bradbury, 35, hones his skills as a custom tattoo artist at Atomic Art Tattoo Studio in Portland. “In college I became interested in tattooing, so I’ve made a career of it,” says the Massachusetts native, who attended Towson State University in Baltimore. “Our tattoo studio only does custom work, where we talk with the clients to get their ideas and then draw a design for them. It’s great because it challenges me to draw things I normally wouldn’t.”
So does Bradbury’s day job influence his artwork or creative process? “I usually draw a tattoo design on paper a few times to work out its problems,” he says. “But when I paint, I don’t sketch on the canvas. I have an idea of what I’d like to do and just start painting.”
That process is what Bradbury loves the most—and what is his greatest challenge. “As a painting comes together, it’s a challenge to make the composition work,” he says. “But I love when I’m just painting and I get lost in time.” Bradbury’s paintings range from $180 for a small scratchboard to $3,600 for a large painting. M3304 costs $3,600.
Contact painter Jason Bradbury through his website, jasonbradbury.net. His work is also available at Brian Marki Fine Art (2236 N.E. Broadway; 503-249-5659) in Portland.