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Q: How were you introduced to the Arts?

A: I was first introduced to art through watching my father paint when I was a very young child. I wasn't allowed near the process or allowed to disturb him while he painted, but I knew it was something I was very curious about and wanted to try. After that, I was mostly exposed to art in elementary school and upward, all the way through high school where I seemed to be the student who was most captivated by art in that very small school system. Once high school was over, it was up to me to take up the brush after work and keep at it.

Q: What is it about Fine Arts, painting specifically, that fulfills your creative needs?

A: I can't imagine not creating. If it weren't paint, it would be something (and usually is). I create gardens, metal sculpting, created recipes for cooking, written songs and written poems and books, made videos... But painting is the most immediate, fulfilling way to express myself. Take a brush, dip it into paint and then apply it to a white surface and see what happens. What could be more exciting? And seeing what other people get from my paintings is always interesting.

Q: Have you studied Art at either a secondary or tertiary level?

A: I've self-educated for many years, reading as many books and going to as many museums as possible. Other than a year at a commercial art school and some other classes at an art center, I'm mostly self-taught. But let's not forget that I had many years as a commercial illustrator working on the job in publishing or freelance and that helped cement my process. I think that kind of training is probably more important than any degree ever could be. It's real-world application and solving problems in a way that insular college work can't really match.

Q: How important do you feel exposure to a structured curriculum and critique system on a school or college level is for a budding artist?

A: I think it's probably quite necessary for some artists, to help give them focus or help them refine their craft. Many people are not self-disciplined enough to do something like that on their own and also need the grading system or some other feedback loop to keep them moving forward and keep them creating. I was fortunate enough to have a great work ethic which helped me study on my own and create "what if" scenarios that closely mirror what art professors teach. I've even had some teachers ask me if I've studied under certain people because my work uses methodologies that resemble teachers they know. Regardless, it takes discipline in each situation and you see a lot of attrition happening with artists in school because they realize at some point it's not an "easy grade" and it truly takes work.

Q: It seems as though there is much consideration and careful thought on your part, in terms of concept and the expression thereof, which goes into each of your paintings. Can you tell us a bit more about where this process begins, and how it evolves?

A: Well, that's true of some works and not true of others. I'd say about half are truly thought out in terms of a sketch, notes and concepting before the actual process begins. But others are spontaneous and came about by happy accidents. The entire "Historica Textura" show was one where I studied different ancient written language forms and used them to create works. Many of those were sketched out and copious notes were taken before I started to paint. I wanted that work to remain true to a central concept and I think it shows with the pieces. Sadly, I did not get a chance to show the work in a better venue and many people have not had the chance to see it in total and in real life. The internet helps in this way, but it's not the real experience of viewing the pieces at their real size. I think size can really change the impact on certain pieces.

Q: Have you had the opportunity to exhibit any of your work yet? If so, where and when did the exhibition take place, and what was the experience like?

A: Well, there's been a lot of exhibiting in the last 15 years, but I'd say some of the more important shows were in my own gallery and a few others in the beginning. Indianapolis has a limited amount of venues and it's difficult to get solo shows here unless you really know how to pull some strings. I've been in some good group shows, however, but I feel a lot of the work loses context in those situations.

Q: Do you have any exhibitions planned for the near future? If so, when and where can readers go to see your work?

A: Yes, I have a solo show, "Feather & Brush" coming up in September (2009) at Magdalena Gallery in Carmel, IN. It will feature pieces I've been creating for the last 6 years as well as 20 new pieces I'm working on now. All of these works are going to be bird-themed and it's going to be very eclectic in style, of course. I am beginning to see how that is truly my hallmark.

Q: What, in your experience, are the challenges for up-and- coming Indiana Artists, in terms of getting their work seen by the public and securing exhibition venues?

A: The biggest challenge is networking and finding the right people to connect with. If you aren't moving in certain circles, your work won't be seen. It's horribly unfair because a lot of great talent is getting ignored while a lot of questionable or simply bad art is getting shown because of who the artist knew and what circles they travel in. As well, just sticking to it long enough will help. I see artists like Lois Main Templeton and Gloria Fischer getting shown simply because they know the right people and have great work and they've been here forever and are not going away. I plan on that approach as well. I'm going to live as long as I can and just keep creating. Eventually, the right people will notice I'm still around and still making good work.

Q: Do you have any advice to impart to budding young Artists?

A: Don't worry about consistency! That's the biggest stumbling block that colleges and art schools throw in front of young people. There's so many ways to say the same thing. Why not try them all? If you want to paint the same way over and over, that's fine, but it's not necessarily the way to go for every artist. Personally, I think it leads to boredom and work that isn't very interesting. There's an awful lot of famous artists that didn't keep painting the same way over and over. To me that's truly being creative. The root word of creative is CREATE. Doing it the same way each time is not what any truly creative person does. Acting and music allow for artists to use various voices in their work, so why not painting as well? The "body of consistent work" hogwash is what really ruins art's creative streak. Steer clear of that kind of thinking.

Q: What are your aspirations regarding your career as an Artist?

A: To keep creating what I want to create and hopefully art buyers will keep buying and galleries will keep allowing me to show my work. I've been fortunate enough to find galleries and buyers who like what I do and it allows me to survive and keep painting. I am an artist for a living and there's no shame in saying that. It's not a hobby, it's my living and I don't have a wealthy patron helping me. So, in that regard, I hope to get more venues and a larger region of exposure than what I have currently. It would be nice to get a mention in some kind of high-end magazine or TV story, but the public seems to respond better to art if they are standing in front of it. I've been extremely lucky to have been in the right place at the right time in many respects. But there's more to the business of art than luck. Luck puts you in the right place and time, but what you create takes you the rest of the way. I'm hoping what I create takes me as far as it can.



 

 



Q&A

Keith J. Hampton