Keith Spencer Studio

 
   
 
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Manda
"Manda" Ebony pencil on paper, 7 x 9 inches, Copyright ©1979 Keith Spencer.

Art History

Keith's unusually strong drawing abilities were evident at a very early age. By age fifteen, his ability to capture a person's "likeness" launched him into the world of commissioned portraiture. By the time he left for college he had successfully completed nearly twenty commissions. In college he held a 4.0 average in all the required art classes and completed a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Fine Arts as well as several Independent Studies under the direction of abstract painter Dr. Thomas Mew III. Over the next ten years, while managing a horse farm in Kentucky, he began to think of his natural strengths in draftsmanship, perspective, contrast, and detail as almost a handicap to creativity...he wanted to do more than simply render realistically.
In the mid eighties he enrolled in a Life Drawing class at the Louisville Visual Arts associtation, to have access to live models, and has continued that practise throughout his career. "Working from live models is where I tend to experiment and it has kept me in a continual forward motion as a fine artist."
Along the way Keith was fortunate to work with a few important people. Steven Nash, Senior Scientific Illustrator, University of Long Island at Stoneybrook, allowed him to work in his department for a week and showed him a way to draw more loosely. While taking figure classes at the Greenville Museum of Art Keith told the instructor Tamarra that he wanted to work more loosely and creatively. She had him work with large pieces of charcoal and work left handed in order to remove control, and she taught him the beginnings of "working outside your comfort zone". In 1996 Keith met an 89 year old artist named John Rosmini that would have a profound influence on him as an artist. "John wanted to see everything that I had ever done. So over the next three months I dragged artwork over a few at a time...mostly pastel drawings from figure groups and college work. Eventually he said "You don't need anyone to critique your work anymore. You just need ackknowledgement...we ALL do." John had an extraordinary life as an artist, knew Picasso, Willam deKooning, Dali, W.C. Fields, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alexander Calder, Warhol, Lichtenstein, etc, so to have him say that showed Keith that being an artist is much more than just the mechanics of paint and technique. “You are forced to learn a lot about yourself along the way." Keith did his first oil painting at John's request.
Sweet 103
"Sweet 103" 18 x 24 inches, prismacolor on paper
Copyright ©1979 Keith Spencer .
Keith feels that he had to basically "unlearn" a lot of what he did growing up. To "reinvent" himself as an artist was an unsettling and painful process, but one he would not trade anything for...it became the basis for his understanding of what his natural strengths and weeknesses are. "I have come to feel that an artists true "style" is born out of doing the work itself. If you have the courage to do your own work, and not simply mimic other artists that you may admire, then it will lead you to YOUR art. In my view nothing else has any real value."
Oddly enough, Keith sees his experience with the fast paced demands of modern Commercial art as a powerful teacher. "It was like being thrown into a fast moving river...you either swim like crazy or get dashed on the rocks. It was a self taught crash course in color for me and I quickly realized how much I loved it. People don't realise, sometimes, that commercial art is not that different from fine art...you are solving the same problems...and with more restrictions and requirements. And, of course, you are ALWAYS on a deadline." Being a self employed Commercial Artist also proved invaluable to the business side of making a living with art. From the process of working with clients with a wide variety of needs to negotiating contracts with large corporations, the record keeping, self promotion and gallery relationships all play essential roles in a successful career.
© Copyright 2014 Keith Spencer. All rights are reserved.