Adjusting to retirement is much easier when you know what you want to do with the rest of your life. Architect Michael Brady has been painting seriously since college, but he put his desire to live as an artist on hold while building the successful Knoxville-based architecture and engineering firm that bears his name. He retired in late 2015 and has spent the last few years creating an impressive body of creative work, abstract paintings in acrylic that are full of color, movement and texture.
“My passion was to be an artist,” Brady says. “I was anxious to get back to it.”
His works are highlighted in “Pieces of Time: Paintings by Michael Brady,” at West Knox’s Liz-Beth and Company. The featured exhibition runs through Feb. 27.
Brady’s works are big and bold. He says that as he’s gained confidence as a painter, his works get larger, with the largest one being 4 feet by 10 feet.
“I’m constantly improving,” he says. “I’m critical of myself. But I’m starting to feel a particular direction. I like friendly art, art that cheers you,” he says. I don’t like dark art.”
As an artist, he first worked in watercolors, and you can see that influence in his paintings. He studies and collects the work of Knoxville watercolor artist George Galloway, whom he cites as a mentor. Galloway was also a practicing architect.
“Architecture is a blend of art and engineering,” Brady says. Like architecture, he says, good art reveals something new with each look and is designed to evoke response.
“How do you create feeling? How do you create emotion?”
Brady grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, then headed to college at Texas Tech. After graduation he made a list of places where a new architect could build a healthy business, one with a great quality of life and natural beauty around it. A move to Knoxville followed.
The firm he founded, Michael Brady Inc., is responsible for some of the area’s best buildings: the UT Federal Credit Union, HGTV headquarters, White Avenue Parking Garage, Crown College, Lakeside Tavern and many more. Several years ago, he moved to Chattanooga and began working out of the firm’s Chattanooga office as a way of weaning the staff from the founder’s presence.
Today he mostly paints from a condo in the heart of downtown Chattanooga, where he has northern light, a view of the aquarium, and 20-foot-ceilings. He still has a house in Sevierville and family in Knoxville and is up here at least once a month.
“I fell in love with Knoxville and with the Smokies,” he says. “Chattanooga is pretty cool, too.”
Liz-Beth and Company is at 7240 Kingston Pike, Suite 136, in the Gallery Shopping Center. Visit liz-beth.com for more information.