Brendan O'Brien lives on a hillside above Breaker Bay, Wellington. He is attentive to weather, family, music and the sea. He gets up early to maintain assorted pieces of old printing equipment and to work on various projects of collage.

After two years in Europe, during which he attended a Books Arts course in Oxford, he returned to Wellington. He was the resident artist at the Rita Angus Cottage (2000-2002). There he established the Fernbank Studio imprint for hand-printed books.

As the Printer in Residence at Otago University in 2005 he collaborated with Ralph Hotere and Bill Manhire to hand-print an edition of the Pine poems. July 2015, Brendan returned to Otago University as the University Library Printer in Residence to handprint a limited edition of 100 copies of the poet laureate Vincent O'Sullivan's Eighteen Poems from the Greek Anthology, with illustrations by Barry Cleavin. His work is held in many collections including the Wellington City Council Collection, the Alexander Turnbull Library, the James Wallace Collection and the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne.