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Art & Life with Richard Keen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Keen.

Richard, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’ve made art my entire life. As far back as I can remember, it’s the only thing that I’ve done that has stuck. I grew up in the Midwest during the 70’s and 80’s when a career in art was not particularly popular to say the least. Making art though secondary school certainly kept me from getting into more trouble than I could afford. When I decided to continue pursuing art in college, my parents were a bit stumped, although very supportive. The common question I heard was ” How will you make a living?” For a while, I staved off that question by tying art making to art therapy, but by the time I finished my B.F.A. at Millikin University in Decatur IL, I had decided studio art was the only way forward for me – the only way answer the call and define who I was. After I completed my M.A. at the State University of New York in Albany, and spending weekends in NYC, I decided the East Coast was home. For the past 20 years, New England (Boston, Vermont and Maine) has been the fuel for my creative fire.

During that time, while continuing to make and exhibit my own art, I’ve also worked in and out of the art world. I’ve taught, volunteered, curated and directed galleries. Currently, I subsidize my artwork by diving in and around boatyards and marinas. This method of living maximizes and balances my ability to make art. I’ve spent a large part of my life outdoors collecting experiences to incorporate and reconstruct to share with anyone who cares to look.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My abstractions always begin from observation. Whether from the sea as a diver, the landscape as an explorer, or from boats as a source of inspiration, some final works reveal direct connections to my experiences while the origins of others are more disguised. I filter which elements of my experiences are brought into focus by removing unnecessary detail, often simplifying the world into line, shape, color, and texture. My studio practice is driven by paint and involves working on several pieces and series simultaneously. My process of working between mediums ( although I regularly make sculpture and venture into other art making processes) provides me with multiple options for solving problems and constant avenues for dialogue between my various series of work. I believe that abstraction, in all forms, allows the viewer to bring their own meaning to the conversation and enter a personal dialogue with my work verses presenting them with all the answers about who I am as an artist.

There is inspiration.
There is the past, the present and the future.
There is technical proficiency.
There is instinct.
My creative process involves finding the balance between all aspects of these.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
It’s important to find people who believe in you and support you on your path. In those times when you’re faced with financial adversity, rejections and personal life struggles, it is important to have people who lift you up creatively. I’m grateful to have a super supportive partner, family and group of artists who share and offer an amazing amount of love. It takes extreme dedication any way you slice it, but if you have to balance “financial woes,” a “day job,” or other “life events,” it can be hard to store the energy and make time to create.

It means telling the people who love you and want to spend time with you, that you need a little more studio time, or staying up late when everyone else goes to bed (or getting up early if you’re one of those morning people). To avoid some of the financial pitfalls, I would recommend that if you are beginning college, go to a state school, or community college with a good art program for the first 2 years, save some money and then transfer to an art school, or university with a solid art program. I believe there are times when we all “starve” for our art, with our art, and without our art…

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work is represented with Elizabeth Moss Galleries (www.elizabethmossgalleries.com), online at the Painting Center (www.thepaintingcenter.org) in New York, and I have an upcoming solo show at the University of Maine Museum of Art (www.umma.umaine.edu) from mid-January through early May, 2019. I also keep my personal website (www.richardkeenstudio.com) as up-to-date as possible.  You can also find me and my work on Artsy, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. People can support my work by purchasing it and by recommending it /me to museums and galleries.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Erin Little Photography (personal photo only)

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