I don’t quite remember how or when, maybe a little over a year ago trolling around on the internet a colorful character catches my eye. I click and click again. I am in a world of pale faced little devils whose cheeks you want to squeeze, animals with colors radiating from their bodies and slack open mouth faces disgruntled blissful? I’m not sure. I’m intrigued, besides the arresting images this guy is selling Art a lot of it. Right there something exploded in my head if this guy can do it I can too. So after sitting on my butt for years I started to work. I went out into my storage and got some Masonite I had scored and started to paint.
I asked the questions, he gave the answers. Meet Keemo:
1. When is the first time you realized you were an artist?
A. To be honest, I don’t think I have ever fully realized that I am an artist. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed drawing, painting, and making things. It is just what I enjoy doing and it is just what I do. When I look at other people who paint or draw or sculpt, I always think of them as “artists” but when it comes to myself, I just think of it as it is simply what I enjoy doing.
You style is very distinctive when in you career did you develop your style?
A. My style has been evolving since I was very young. Maybe 15 or so. The single goal over my whole life has been to discover my own voice as a painter. I have always believed that the more I learn about myself as an artist the more I learn about myself as a human being. I am sure now that this will be a life-long process of discovery. Maybe at the end of all this I will know quite a bit more about who I am and I hope that looking back through a lifetime of paintings will somehow reflect that.
2. When someone is viewing your work for the first time, what do you hope they’ll see in it?
Hmmm, I guess I don’t give a lot of thought to that. I suppose, first and foremost, I just want people to enjoy it and simply hope it brightens the day for someone. That is the most I can hope for. As far as what they may see in it. I hope that everyone sees something different and see something that means something to them. I know that sounds a little dismissive but it is true.
A. I am drawn to artists that are on their own path. I personally enjoy art that feels sincere or honest. I am not sure how to quantify that in writing as it something that I just feel when looking at something. The best example, that I can think of is an artist named, Jeff Zenick. He does these wonderful ink drawings of people from old high school year books. They are wonderfully simple and clean and sparse but he gives you enough to connect with each person he draws. There is no pretension in his work and I love it.
4. What is it like to be an artist in your community?
A. I think I may be the wrong person to ask. I suppose I am bit on the outside of the Grand Rapids, MI art community. Actually, more than a bit. The art community seems pretty small and it appears that most people know everyone. With that said, I have never really tried to be part of the community. Since, I sell my artwork primarily online. I have pretty much existed outside of the local art community. I would work in the studio and then distribute my own work. All of my gallery shows have been outside the state of Michigan. It wasn’t until a group show.
last year, that I even had shown in my hometown and connected in any way with the local art community. The current show at The Richard App Gallery marks my first solo show in Grand Rapids. See:http://keemogallery.com/wp/richard-app-gallery-july-august-grand-rapids-mi/
5. How do you promote your art?
A. I promote my art primarily online. Basically, every single web-based channel you can think of. Website, social networking, mailing list, etc…
6. Why are you drawn to the media that you use? I moved into a new house in march and there were two plywood panels left here. Of course I painted them and started a new series on wood. It made me smile that we were both randomly painting on raw wood.
A. Well, I work primarily in acrylic and ink on paper or wood. I work pretty fast so I like to have a medium that drys quickly. Couple that with the bright color and acrylic ended up being a perfect fit. As far as the paper and wood, I really like a smooth surface. It responds much better to the ink that I use. Also, since I ship 99% of my artwork around the globe, paper is ideal because it ships so nicely and keeps costs down for my collectors. The last year or so, I have been using wood a lot more. I really love the softness of wood and the natural fibers that contrast with the bright acrylic paints.
7. I’ve noticed that you paint most people and sometimes animals what attracts to paint the animals?
A. I am interested in painting things that have a pulse. I have always lumped people and animals into the same group. Painting both people and animals helps me to discover the relationships that I have with each of them. I have also found that painting an animal is really not so different than painting a human. Right now my dog is at my feet and I can hear his breathing. As I focus on my own breath, it reminds me that we are a lot more similar to each other than say, myself and the chair I am sitting in.
8. How has technology helped you market your work?
A. Technology has MADE it possible. When I was younger, before the Internet, I tried to go the classic route of shopping my portfolio all over the place. After being turned down at every single gallery, I quit trying to sell my work and focused on just making artwork. I either gave it away or threw it away. (To be honest, looking back at that time, the artwork was not very good. It didn’t belong in any of those galleries.) As time went on I kept painting but as the internet started coming around, I learned everything I could about it and soon realized that I could do all the my own marketing and represent myself. I learned HTML, CSS, graphic design, photography, etc… No longer was I limited to having to rely on a gallery to represent me. I could now reach the entire world on my own. Technology, has helped with every single aspect of that. From the early days of building a website and creating a mailing list, on to social networking and then the current trend toward the importance of mobile devices and optimizing everything for that platform. So, to sum it up, technology has made it much easier for all of us to take control of our own destiny as artists.
9. You seem to have a lot of energy how much do you sleep? How late do you paint?
A. It sure doesn’t always feel like I have much energy. I am usually working until about 2:00 AM or so. Then it usually takes a bit to get the brain to slow down before actually sleeping. I would guess I average about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I think it is less about having energy and more being driven to pursue the life that I want to live. And that means making art.