Graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in biology, O'Brien worked as a draftsman for a firm specializing in naval architecture. He then attended art school at Virginia Commonwealth University. His intent to become a free-lance artist came true in 1986, and for two decades he painted artwork for several well-known organizations, including National Geographic, The Discovery Channel, and the U.S. Naval Academy. With his artwork displayed on posters, greeting cards, and in magazines, O'Brien turned to illustrating children's books for other authors. Next he began writing and illustrating his own works. His first of nine non-fiction books called The Making of a Knight shows his interest in historic and pre-historical people and events. Broadening his horizons, by 2003, he began painting in the marine field of art, and 2008 saw The History Channel filming him at work for their documentary. O'Brien continues to write and create artwork from his home in Maryland.
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