About Kathleen O’Bryan

Kathleen O'Bryan, Fine Artist

2013 Art Maui artists’ reception

Hawai‘i state artist Kathleen O’Bryan has been a working visual artist for the past 35 years, participating in solo, group and juried exhibitions in three thriving cultural art markets, Santa Fe, New Mexico and both Honolulu, O’ahu and Maui, Hawai‘i.  She was a founding director of the Maui Fine Artists Collective which manifested in the acclaimed Viewpoints Gallery, one of the foremost galleries on Maui today.   During her tenure as an exhibiting fine artist, O’Bryan spent eight years owning and operating her own galleries as commercial production studios and consignment retail enterprises.

As a colorist, Kathleen found the undiluted dry pigment in soft pastel created the saturated hues that brought an emotional expression to her landscapes.   Her discovery that black paper as the ground eliminated all light and wave competition allowing the pastel medium to achieve a natural brilliance.  Kathleen’s formal education includes a degree from the School of Art at Montana State University.  She feels most fortunate to be self-taught in her pastel technique.  It has allowed her to find her unique approach which has distinguished her work in a traditional field.  Her work is currently available at Maui Hands Galleries in four locations and her online gallery.

For the past four years, Kathleen balanced a professional art career with bringing art and art career pathways to people with disabilities.  Since October 2009, Kathleen has been Creative Director for VSA Hawaii (formerly VSA Arts of Hawaii-Pacific), bringing Career and Technical Education programming for high school transitioning students to The Honolulu Museum of Art School at Linekona.  Today, she works in her Upcountry Maui studio, painting in her favorite pastel medium, as well as beginning an exploration of the encaustic medium.


The pastel medium allows me to capture the nature of light that illumines and defines my world. Part of the theory I have come to understand through the use of the pastel medium, is that purity of color is best obtained on a black surface or ground. Since black absorbs all light waves while white reflects back all light waves, the pigments I apply to black paper need not ‘compete’ in the viewer’s eye with a white or other-colored ground. A purity and special light become a part of each piece. The colors are incredibly vibrant; the work a study of high desert light and the saturated atmosphere of island Maui.

Another wonderful aspect of pastel is that I have the option of using a single hard line (pastel pencil) or of mixing 2 or 3 buttery layers of color right on the paper to create an infinite palette. Through constant exploration, I have combined my love of pastels with the landscapes of both New Mexico and Maui. Each landscape is infinite in form; each sky is electric. The possibilities of color and form need never reach an end. My vision begins simply and grows emotionally as I put that first pure mark of color on each piece of black paper.

Copyright © Kathleen O'Bryan. All Rights Reserved.