Redemptive Resilience: Meet Visual Artist David Brady

Written by Artie The Panda

Many people would prefer to forget their cancer experience, especially one that includes misdiagnoses, chemotherapy, radiation, and a terminal prognosis. But visual artist David Brady records — and redeems — his experience via sketchbook, imagination, and a ballpoint pen. 

“In the Pain Cave”

While going through stage 3 throat cancer, David chronicled his journey via hundreds of drawings and paintings. He used his sketchbooks to create the series “Into the Tunnel,” layering his artwork with such items as medical records and prescriptions. Because David believes art is a healing experience, he infuses this somber topic with threads of resilience, hope, and even humor.

Today, fully recovered and living near the mountains in Phoenix, Arizona, David is still using his art to bring attention to difficult subjects like the mental health crisis, creating psychological portraits of what he observes and feels as he explores the figure through collage, assemblage, oil, and drawing. 

Enter Frame Destination

The pen-on-paper piece featured above, titled “Nervous,” is part of the “Into the Tunnel” collection and is showcased in a black Nielson P-117 frame by Frame Destination. “Little Hero” below is a new work. David framed this oil, pen, and collage on canvas in our metallic bronze Canvas Floater Frame F342, featuring a slight inward slope that draws the eye directly into this powerful piece.

David holding one of his framed pieces, "Little Hero"
"Little Hero” displayed in Canvas Floater Frame F342.   

See More of David’s Work

David’s website,, showcases his collections, new works, and publications, including a published graphic memoir of his cancer experience. Tune into his YouTube channel for interviews and insights into his painting techniques. David’s company Brady Book Design helps turn people’s passions, adventures, and causes into personal publications. To discover his latest form of expression, read the Q&A below. 

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with David Brady …

1. What is your background; how did you get started?

When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my mom sent me to another school every Friday so I could attend their art classes. She said I was better than the public school teacher and was bored to death. After leaving home as a teenager, I discovered the power of a sketchbook; over 90 sketchbooks later, they have become the center of my figurative universe. Although I took art figure drawing classes in college, I never felt connected to anything going on and abandoned it all altogether until I was nearly 30. It took me leaving my corporate job and leaning on my tiny savings to go at it full-time. Like most artists, it was about balancing making money and the time commitment required to do good work. Today, at 60, I am deeply rooted in my daily creative practice and am grateful to have never given up.

2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?

Art, like music, not only can inspire others to pursue meaningful truths but also educate society in new ways. The first day I encountered the power of the internet (1992), I immediately thought, "Wow, artists can now not only present their work in their own voice, but they can also communicate with other artists all over the world; I wonder if we will see this opportunity.” When I saw Francis Bacon's "Pope Innocent X," I realized for the first time that artists could make art about things they were upset or bothered by. Art could be used to talk about wrongs, inform the culture of its errors, and inspire others to tell the truth. While others painted familiar, safe, and already-seen things, I became fixated on "the unseen" people we marginalized. Suddenly, bringing awareness about mental health and other issues became part of my purpose to create. Through my touring installation of 100+ psychological portraits, "The Mind Mask," and my graphic memoir, "Into the Tunnel," I have raised awareness about several subjects.

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?

Opportunities are created. Many of my relationships with professional creatives have yielded amazing conversations that have kept me going through the challenges of being a full-time artist. My best teaching experience was running a commercial gallery for years for a large company. I learned that whatever you do, whatever you make, be honest with intent, stick with your voice, and don't follow trends. The artist LeRoy Neiman once told me, "The art world will turn on you in a minute and label you done. Follow your own voice and create your own world." I have learned that, in the end, it's about what you have left for the world to digest, what you've added to the history of art.

4. In what ways does your work reflect your personality?

Well, I often get emails and texts asking, "Are you okay? Did something bad happen?”

People have given me business cards for shrinks and doctors and have even told me that their whole church was praying for me to stop making "that art." So, some people have associated my paintings with me personally. I wondered, "Do they think Stephen King has killed someone because of what he writes?" I often work alone, like most artists, and most of my images are solo figures. I have done bodies of work based on something that has happened to me. (My "Into the Tunnel" exhibition and publication are about surviving cancer.) The reflection is based on the viewer and their state when seeing it.

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?

Creative blocks do happen, and it's part of the process. After completing a body of work for an exhibition, the following weeks in the studio are often a bit flat. I continue to use my sketchbook and return to familiar music and traditional materials that slowly crank up my mind again. Sometimes, it is best to stay away from news, social media, etc., while resting my mind and doing fun, childlike experiments in the studio. In the end, the whole point is to have fun and be happy that you are alive.

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)

Discarded ballpoint pens. You can find them on sidewalks, public places, and even banks (lol). With my sketchbook companion, these two elements are just about all one needs to record daily.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?

With process and materials being key in my work, I have recently moved away from line drawing and into mark making. This slight adjustment to tap the pencil on the canvas or paper rather than move lyrically has opened a whole new form on my canvas, an entirely new way to express. With about 10 drawings and a few paintings in this mark-making, I am fully focused on its possibilities and new languages.

8. What is your favorite color to incorporate into your art?

Currently, yellow. Hope is a theme in most of my work, which often portrays a sense of loss or stagnation; yellow represents hope to me.

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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Last Updated March 13, 2024