Born in Belfast, Brian Ballard trained firstly at the College of Art, Belfast and then at the College of Art, Liverpool. He still lives in Belfast but spends long periods of time living and working in his house on the remote and rugged island of Inishfree off the coast of Donegal.
Brian Ballard enjoys painting and is constantly inspired by his response to the ordinary things, such as a vase of flowers, an old iron, a figure, a landscape, a model in his studio. He tends to work in intense bursts of creativity; surges of self-expression that often punctuate periods of restless inactivity. Once started, he may paint the same subject several times, a change of light, of weather, another viewpoint, a difference of scale or proportion of canvas being sufficient to prompt another exploration of the theme. The landscapes he paints are often harsh and untamed such as those off the coast of Donegal or Kerry. He paints the same scenes repeatedly in order to gain the confidence to express its many moods in paint. These landscapes are painted 'en plein air', in front of the subject.
Ballard prefers those moments when the sun infused the landscape with colour and chiaroscuro. Ballard is a rich colourist and is interested in the contrasting colours and textures in simple subjects. Painting directly onto the canvas with vigorous brushstrokes, he uses bold slashes of rich colour across a solid and heavily laden with fluid paint in which the bristles always leave their mark of speed and pressure, they are subject to a structural order, as well as a pictorial depth. He strives for balance in his work and his struggle is always centred on a concern to create a subtle harmony of colour and form, a search for the 'structure of a painting' and a desire to entice and lead the eye where he wants it to go.
Brian Ballard handles a paintbrush with confidence and a sense of purpose, suppressing details in order to capture an object in bold, decisive strokes. Ballard is concerned with the essence he sees in things. His subjects are always comfortable recognisable, but his treatment of them is invariably painterly and not an alternative to a photograph. He admires artists like Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, who painted in hard strokes with courage and audacity; for this is his way.