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Feature Mon Jun 23 2008

An Interview with Jeremiah Ketner

Jeremiah Ketner's dreamy compositions incorporate clean lines, a muted color palette, and fanciful scenes featuring flowers and fairy-like people. Ketner's currently got a show at TAG Galleries in Baltimore, and has also recently shown at the DVA Gallery's Gala Tiki and Splat Flats' Lumbart all-day festival, among other places. Ketner took a few to tell GB about his work.

Your work is very eye-catching -- I can spot it instantly now when I see it at a show. Do you hear this often?

Every so often someone says my artwork is eye candy. I don't mind my work being like candy -- after all, it's sweet and hard to resist.

What is your artistic training?

I learned a lot about painting and color when I started taking lessons with a private instructor at the age of 12. My father had the same instructor: a little old lady who loved to smoke endlessly and paint up to 12 hours a day. I stuck with her through high school, then went off to art school. I attended Columbus Art and Design for my BFA, and then Southern Illinois University for my Master of Fine Arts degree.

How do you come up with color combinations? Where do you draw inspiration from?

I have always had luck with color. My palette is determined by the weather and seasons. I find that subconsciously the environment I am surrounded in will always make an impact on my color choices. I try to mute certain colors to preserve a calm and serene effect in my work.

Almost everything in my day-to-day life sparks inspiration for me. I am an at-home dad and take care of two very young and curious boys. Living vicariously through them has been my greatest inspiration.

How did you come to be interested in Japanese art and design?

My obsession began when I met my wife in grad school. She is Japanese, and has taught me a great deal about her culture. What really turned me on to Japanese aesthetics was a visit to Japan. We stayed in Kyoto and Tokyo for over a month, and go back every year to visit her family. I was really impressed with how everything from toilets to stationery has a very strong sense of good design. Each time I visit, I find something that completely blows my mind. I love that the culture is so different from ours, and I think this is why I am so attracted to their aesthetics.

Do your subjects have names?

Sometimes. I tend not to name them. Mostly my collectors will give them names. I am waiting for my kids to start giving them names.

How did your wooden toy project come about?

I was invited to be part of the show "Neighborwood," curated by Mike Burnett at Compound Gallery in Portland, Ore. He masterfully made these really cool wood figures for each artist to paint on. After the show, I asked if he would be willing to make some custom wood figures based on my designs. Fortunately, he said yes, and there you have it.

How long does it take you to make a painting?

It all depends on the scale and the style. I tend to shift from making highly decorative paintings that mimic wallpaper to my current style, which focuses on a central figure and a light narrative. Over the last few years, I have been making paintings for Nordstrom.They are on display in the girls' department, and mostly are showing at their keystone stores. Some of them are fairly large -- 46 x 60 inches -- and are hung behind the cash wrap. Something of that scale would take me about 60 hours. By the way, there will be some of my work hanging at the Nordstrom in Woodfield Mall later this year.

Also, if I am excited about a new idea, I can easily sit down and make an entire painting in one day. But for the most part, I really am not sure how long it takes to make a painting. They just appear, like magic.

Flowers figure prominently in your work. Where does that come from?

I am drawn to the simplicity of nature. I have always been fond of flowers. We have long winters here, and flowers really keep my spirits high through those nasty days.

What is the strangest comment anyone has ever made about your artwork?

One guy thought I was an Asian female. Then he met me, and seemed highly disappointed.

You've talked before about using the Web to increase your audience. What have you done recently in this area?

I have always been adamant about building and maintaining my own Website. Along with that, a slew of Web 2.0 sites have really boosted my exposure. Setting up a proper blog and integrating Flickr, Twitter and Facebook have really been useful tools for gaining a larger audience. Plus, I've found that Flickr has been a great tool for sharing my images with collectors and galleries. I have had many invites to shows just from my Flickr account alone.

About the Author:

A native of Johnstown, PA, Lauri Apple is a contender for the title, "world's most renowned bag lady," thanks to her somewhat popular (at times) website, FoundClothing. Lauri has a JD and doesn't know why, but it will take about 30 years for her to pay it off, and that worries her. Her favorite cities are Prague, Pittsburgh, Austin and Chicago. When she's not looking through people's trash, she's either painting, taking pictures, or making/thinking about making cartoons about her weird life.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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