The Outlaw Process & the Art of Slaying Dragons
I'm a travel artist. I fly, I drive, I paint what I see from sea to shining sea. My work as a landscape, cityscape, and cultural painter began with my career as an international flight attendant, which I started shortly after I graduated with my bachelors degree in fine arts in 2009. Previously, my work focused primarily on the figure and the human condition, but with my introduction to different cultures and cities around the globe, I started to paint the world.
My work is characterized by connected forms, strong lines and vibrant colors, that aren't always necessarily in the "right" places, but somehow together, they make sense... at least to me.
I ended my career as a flight attendant last summer, in order to focus more on my work. I am currently living and working out of Denver, Colorado. I paint daily, travel often, and am an internationally exhibited and collected artist. It blows my mind every day that I am able to do what I love, and I am so grateful to those who support my work.
When did you first realize you were an artist?
I took drawing and painting classes from the time I was very young, and continued to make art throughout high school, although I really wasn't very dedicated at that point. I grew up in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as part of a Midwestern farming family. It took me a while, but eventually in college I realized that art was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, not only as a hobby but as a career and a lifestyle. My family is absolutely amazing when it comes to being supportive of my work and my career.. your daughter says she wants to be a working artist, and you probably think "dear god".
I've certainly had some hiccups on the way to where I am now, and there have been a few times that I couldn't imagine I would ever make art again, but now that I'm a working artist I cannot imagine any other life for myself. It's something that has been gathering momentum gradually since the time I was very small, and now I feel that I am in full-bore creating mode, and don't see any sign of stopping.
My work is primarily landscape-based in a manner that tends toward abstraction and focuses on color and shape.
It's about what you don't realize you see, instead of what comes to you at first glance when you shade your eyes with your hand and look into the light.
My favorite is acrylic, but I also like to experiment with different mediums. Lately I have been incorporating recycled materials, like paper bags, into my work, and I've also started using spray paints. I never want to feel like my work or my use of mediums is getting stagnant, so I like to keep my options open.
My process is calm and calculated while being whimsical and spontaneous. I always have an idea in mind when I begin to paint, but oftentimes they take a shape of their own, and my pieces go a completely different direction than I had first intended. When using acrylics, I water down my paints and allow them to drip freely down the canvas as I work. I wield the paintbrush, but the paint take its own path. This come-what-may mentality has become a defining characteristic of my work.
My main theme is the weird, wonderful places that exist around the world, and the people that call them home. Open spaces, interesting architecture and crowded city streets also intrigue me. I still like to work with the human figure as well, although generally now I incorporate it into a landscape setting, and sometimes it becomes the scenery itself.
Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from the places I've seen and the people I talk to. I like places that are less brimming with obvious beauty, but rich with soul and culture. When I stop wanting to see new places and experience new things, I feel that I'll stop growing both as a person and an artist. I've been lucky enough to be able to combine both of my great passions.
Why do you create art?
Why do we do anything? As a species, we take action to survive, and making art is an absolutely necessity for me. I create art because it keeps me sane, because it gives me hope, and because I think about it all day every day. I create art because I can turn a few sticks of wood and a piece of cloth into a blank white canvas, and then into a colorful mess, and build a connection with it in the meantime as if it were my child. Creating something from nothing is my beginning and it is my end, and that's why I make art.
How often do you create?
My new years resolution for 2012 was "a little bit of art every day", and I feel that I have been pretty successful in following through with that resolution thus far. I am currently working a day job at a university, as well, and I make a point to wake up an hour early every morning so that I can spend a bit of time in my studio. Although I am working as well, being an artist is my full-time profession, so I make sure to set aside the time every day to get done what I need to do for my business, and also to keep creating new work and completing commissioned pieces.
What is the best artwork you ever created?
I have a very deep connection with a piece I created in 2009, titled "View from the castle in Nürnberg, Germany". I'm not sure that it is the best artwork that I've ever created, and even if it is, I hope that it doesn't remain that way.
I was in a dark place in my life at that point, I hadn't created art for some time, and a huge blank canvas had been mocking me from the corner for quite a while. I had a photograph that I took while traveling through Nürnberg, Germany-- a fantastic view of the city from a castle which is situated above it. I was already working in my current style, but it was the first landscape piece I ever embarked on, and it remains in my permanent collection today to remind me of where I've been, and what I've done with my work since then.
What role does the artist play in society?
We inspire hope, and create beauty, and show that there is light and also darkness and that both are acceptable. We are the outlaws of society. We give up conventiality for creativity and security for freedom. The world is full of all kinds of people, and all kinds are needed to make the world go 'round, but we are the ones who make even ordinary things almost too beautiful to bear, and expose them for what they really are.
Do you make a living with your art?
I am currently working at a university as well as working as an artist, but I am slowly moving into making art full-time, and plan to be doing that by the fall of this year. I sell my work through galleries and also on my own through my website and several different social networking platforms. I also do a great deal of commissioned work, and generally am working on at least two commissioned pieces at one time. It is absolutely mind-blowing to me, and I am so grateful for the responses to my work and the support system I have from my collectors and patrons.
What are your favorite two ways of promoting art online?
I know you only asked for TWO ways of promoting my work, but I also use Twitter to connect with other artists and buyers, and have recently started a blog about my work, my travels, and other mundane things that end up being hilarious and surprising (The Outlaw Process and the Art of Slaying Dragons).
At the risk of sounding expected, Van Gogh has always been one of my biggest influences, especially as my style was developing. My wild use of color is inspired by the Fauvist movement, and artists such as Franz Marc and Maurice de Vlaminck.
My art is also undoubtedly inspired by the way I live, the things I do, and the places I’ve seen and travel to. In my artist’s statement, I say that “the way I look at painting is the way I view my life– nothing is ever certain, and often the best results come from mistakes”, and I try to live by that statement.
Contemporary Artist Recommendation
God, yes. I’ve met so many amazing contemporary artists since I started using social networking to promote my art. To name a few, Lani Woods from California, Trevor Jones from Scotland, Alan Hurley from Ireland, Danielle Davis from Hawaii, Jacky Murtaugh from South Australia, and Jacqui Hawk from Massachusetts. These folks are all as amazing as people as they are innovative as artists, and I am constantly thrilled and encouraged by the work that they produce. I am also a huge fan of Cassie Marie Edwards, an artist from Wisconsin living in South Dakota, who produces photo-realistic work that is off-the-charts interesting and unexpected.
If I could pick the brain of one contemporary painter, it would be figurative realist Philip Pearlstein. He paints nudes in unorthodox poses and surrounds them with apparently mundane things- fans, blankets, furniture, other junk. His work is nearly photo-realistic, but somehow disturbingly unreal. The guy is a genius.
Please tell us some something interesting things your life.
When I was working on my undergraduate degree at California State University Fullerton, I didn’t have a car, and I would ride my cruiser bike ten miles each way to pick up supplies for my 3-D design class. For a particularly difficult assignment, I had to create structures out of 6-foot thin metal rods, and trying to bike home with them was especially difficult. I ended up taking a pretty terrible tumble, losing half of my art supplies, and somehow in the process, I lost a sandal and destroyed one of my bike tires. I had to limp home the rest of the way with one shoe. It’s funny now, and in retrospect I’m really lucky I didn’t poke my eye out with one of those metal rods. I guess that’s more of a story of laughing in the face! of a crappy situation.
Also, if you need to know, I won the award for “Top Poultry” at the Wisconsin State Fair with a chicken named George. In high school, I used to participate in rodeos with my horse, Romeo. My parents run a petting farm in Waterford, Wisconsin (it has an emphasis on being environmentally friendly and giving all creatures the humane treatment they deserve). And my dad, Charlie Keyes, is in the Guinness Book of Records for the “biggest loop ever spun with a lasso”. We’re not normal folks.
Did you ever feel like giving up art?
Yeah, I have. I’ve hit some rough spots, that’s for sure, but every artists does. Sometimes you hold a brush for hours and nothing comes out. It’s a reality when you’re a creative person; maybe something in your life is holding you back and sucking the motivation out of you. I know I’ve certainly been in that place in my life several times. I think for a while, it was really uphill for me, and every creative step I took felt like a backpack of rocks, but now I’ve realized my potential and what art does for me as a person, and I can’t stop. I’ll never cease growing creatively; I’m sure of that.
Where do you see yourself as an artist 10 years from now?
In 10 years, I’ll be older and wiser, still creating and still traveling as much as possible. The only thing that is certain is that I’ll have evolved as a person and as an artist. Other than that, I can’t really say. Life is a surprise.
Do you have any parting advice for emerging artists?
Making art is hard. It’s really, really hard. You make lots of crap work before anyone ever compliments what you do, and you make lots more crap work before anyone takes you seriously. I am thankful every day for the professors and people in my life that encouraged me to keep pushing forward even when it probably looked like I was going nowhere. I also thank them for their honest opinions and for forcing me to grow and keep improving myself. If you can accept that kind of constructive criticism and turn it into something positive for yourself and for your work, you will be successful. You just need to keep at it. This isn't just a job or a career, you need to live artfully.
The Outlaw Process & the Art of Slaying Dragons