Toby Brown: The Power of Music and Colours

Thahab Alosaimi – DEBUT Contemporary, London

It takes one a few seconds to fall for Toby Brown’s imagination. It is not only the shades and colours of his paintings that breathe in life to your soul. It is also the tunes that come out from each and every piece to bring it to life too. And it is effortlessly powerful. Today, you read the story of Toby Brown as he knows it.


1. The influence of music in your paintings is quite obvious. Do you come from a musical background?
No not really, but I do like to play my guitar when I can, I find it relaxes me. I remember as a child my dad always having his records playing, and I used to watch him tapping his foot along to the music, he wasn’t home very often as he was a long distance lorry driver. It was always nice to see him home and watch him enjoy his music…his love of music has rubbed off on me. I couldn’t live without music, and when I paint the music has to be very very loud. I often find myself singing along when I’m working. To me art and music go hand in hand together.

2. Whom do you listen to? Is there a musician\band that always has a print in your work?
Bands such as Reef,Tool and Unkle influence a lot of my work, not directly but in the way the lyrics make me feel…I listen to all sorts of music, it all depends what sort of mood I find myself in, the iPod is always on shuffle, so I get a mixture when I’m painting. My iPod is my best friend, I don’t leave the house without it.

3. Turning a hobby into a career is never an easy road. When did you decide to take your artistry to the next level and how did it all come about?
It all started in April 2009 at an art therapy session in the Priory hospital…sitting there drawing myself from memory, I never thought any further than the next day. After 2 weeks in the hospital, I returned home and used to lay on the floor in the living room and draw Japanese tattoo designs on a big piece of A1 paper…still not thinking any further than the next day….fast forward to March 2010. Standing in the shed I saw my easel in the corner covered in cobwebs…then I found my oils and brushes…I bought a canvas and started on a painting titled ‘Namaste’ I’d just joined Facebook and when the painting was finished, I shared it. People seemed to like it, but I still didn’t think too much more about it. More paintings followed, and it seemed that the more I painted the stronger I became mentally. Lots of things changed personally in my life, those that know me know that the change needed to come, for everybody involved…and I won’t go into that any further.
In June 2010 I moved into a caravan….with some personal belongings, my art equipment and an overwhelming urge to become a professional artist, at that time I was still working in the family business, as a motorcycle courier…that changed in 2011. Interest in my work started to grow and commissions started coming through…stupidly I left my job with no money behind me and started painting commissions full time in my caravan, desperate for money I’d paint anything for whatever the client wanted to pay….£30 sometimes. At that time sadly my granddad passed away and I was left some money, I became friendly with a gallery owner in Southend on Sea and was asked to buy into the gallery as a partner…unfortunately it wasn’t as it said on the tin, but I soon got up and dusted myself off and carried on following my dream…there are always knocks in life, and it’s not how hard you can hit but how hard you can get hit and still get up again. It’s taken hard work and persistence to get to this point, and I’m very grateful for all the support my family and Debut has given me along the way…and it all started from a painting I started in my shed in 2010 and self-belief.

Toby Brown, She makes Me Feel Alive, Her Power More Than Words Can Say 2014 oil on canvas, 102x76cm

4. When you’re missed, where are you found?
Wow….what a question. I’m never very far away in body, I can be found at the easel most days…but in my head, I travel vast distances to places I’m sure must exist somewhere. Or maybe I’ve already been there…who knows.

5. Many artists need somewhere outdoors to ignite imagination and draw and London has many hidden treasures. Any secret paradise you know of?
I love cemeteries…in particular Highgate cemetery, it’s a wonderful place to just walk, and contemplate, rather than rushing around looking at our phones as we usually do.

6. My father once said “love has a colour too and it’s down to us to see it.” What colour does love wear?
Love to me is not a colour, it’s more like an intense explosion of light.

7. How far have you travelled? Did you find your favorite spot in this world yet?
I’ve been very lucky to have traveled to many places over the past 42 years, but the one place that I still think about is Costa Rica, and the cloud forest there, amazing place. I have many places I would love to visit….Alaska being top of my list, I’ll let you know when I get there.

8. Looking back to all the artworks you created, any personal favorite? (If yes tell us the story behind it)
I have a piece that is very special to me, when I painted it I had no money at all. I remember I was listening to a song by Tool called ‘Forty-six & 2’ it was a cold day in January 2013. I had no new canvases at the time but I did have an old canvas with an old painting on it that I wasn’t happy with. I remember finding a Tin of white emulsion and roughly painting over the image that was there…impatiently waiting for the emulsion to dry I couldn’t wait to get started. The painting that resulted shows my interpretation of the 3rd level of human consciousness. We are at the 2nd level, with 46 chromosome. We are a chaotic, disharmonic consciousness that is basically used as a stepping stone between the 1st and 3rd levels. The 3rd level is 48 chromosome or 46+2 with 2 being the sex chromosome (x+y) this is the higher level of consciousness…..our destination.
I love this painting even though the quality is not great as it’s painted on emulsion, and the original canvas was a basic cheap one, but in my mind it was my first steps into using music and my imagination in my work.

9. What’s on your calendar for 2015?
2015 will be a busy year for me, I have a project that I am keen to get started on, at the moment I am researching and am in talks with a mental health charity regarding working together on my idea of painting portraits of people in the public eye such as artists, musicians, actors and actresses, who have openly spoken about their experiences dealing with depression, and This will lead to a solo show at the end of the year…but before that I’m finishing off a portrait of Gary Stringer and Jack Bessant from the band Reef. The portrait will be signed by Gary and Jack and we will auction it off to raise funds for two worthy charities…Bibic and Prostate Cancer UK. I’m also working on my brand image.

10. If you weren’t an artist, you would be….?
That’s a really good question…I was a motorcycle courier for 20 years…so I know that job pretty well….did I like it? No not really. I think if I wasn’t an artist I would love to work for the forestry commission, living and working amongst the trees would suit me very well…but then again I love the ocean…so a professional surfer would also suit me well.




By Toby Brown


By Toby Brown


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