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Plein air painting near the elliott/carter county lines

I’m close to the elliott/carter county lines, and am going to try to get a painting from this view

Here is my sketch

The cell phone reception is not super, but I’ll try to post updates as I work, check back later ..

Setup and ready to start painting!!!

I more or less have the values and composition worked out…I’m painting on a board slightly wider than a traditional landscape proportion, so my center of attention keeps falling into the center…supposedly a no no in art, but I think I can make it work…time for color!!!

This scene is backlit (I’m facing the sun) so I’m having a lot of fun, experimenting with some new color combinations in the shadows

It’s backlit ( we are facing the sun), so I didn’t get the best photo of the painting with the landscape. When I get back to the studio, i’ll take a better photo to share with you all.

What an enjoyable experience: painting from life out in the country! I don’t consider myself a representational painter, but I REALLY enjoy the exercise of working from life, learning about light and color. I did some things with color that I never would have tried on my own.

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Road trip Update

Some of my friends and family make fun of me. They think I’m becoming agoraphobic during the pandemic. It might be true. I was camping and doing my best to avoid people and indoors while on my recent road trip, but there is a problem of using public bathrooms. I don’t want to use them while Kentucky and Indiana are having record breaking highs in COVID infections.

selfie style photo of ken the artist with a car loaded with paper

I skipped over some of my original plan, to arrive at my destination (The French Paper Company), where I stocked up with more paper than I could ever use in a lifetime! Now I’m going home, where I plan to make a lot of woodcuts and never leave the house again!

UPDATE: 10/8/2020
I might have a paper problem…not sure where to put all of this. I came up with this idea of a shelf to stack the paper over a set of drawers. I used the 3d Modelling software, Blender (normally for animation and 3d graphics), to plan the design

it WORKED!!! The lumber was a little bit longer than I thought it would be, so I’ve extended the height…there’s room for one more shelf

home made shelf for oversized paper
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Plein Air Road Trip

I’ve pretty much stayed put since march during the pandemic, so today is a big deal.  I’m going to leave my house and the 5 miles radius in which I live..maybe for a few days. I’m off to madison, indiana to do some painting…then. Brown county indiana (see the awesome guidebook my friend Diane sent me?). After that:  michigan! 

Artist with car packed with art supplies, holding a book of brown county artists

I take the pandemic serious, so I’m bringing lots of sanitizer and masks…doing to sleep in a tent. No indoor spaces, or close proximity to other people for me.  Wish me well, and check this website from time to time. I’m going to share trip updates here. 

4:30 pm UPDATE

I have been nervous thinking about painting in a public place. Normally I welcome people to look over my shoulder, but not during a pandemic.

Photo of a farm house near Carrollton, kentucky
Farmhouse near Carrollton, ky

I decided to stop and paint a country scene before getting to madison. There was a classic looking farmhouse on a hill by the highway.

Sketch of the farmhouse scene

A nice thing about the country, there aren’t a lot of people around, which gives me the opportunity to focus on the painting

Easel setup ready to paint

There was no cellphone signal at this spot, which disconnected me from any distractions. It’s been a long time since I’ve painted plein air with no company…in person or virtual.

Just getting started with the painting

I tried some experimental things with color that I never would have tried if people were watching. Halfway through the painting, I was really frustrated, and thought I was going to lose the painting

Plein air painting. Farmhouse near Carrollton, ky

As luck would have it, I didn’t give up, and the painting came together. I’m happy with how it came out. It’s possibly one of my favorite plein air paintings.

Plein air painting in the light

The first photo was with the painting in the shade…here’s another in the light!

Now I’m in madison, indiana. Instead of put myself in a situation where someone can stop and breathe all over me, (setting an easel and paint up) I’m going to walk around with my sketchbook, and do some pen sketches of the river and old houses. Stay tuned!

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Herding the Horses – new Linocut

While on a painting trip out in the country, i watched a sheep dog, herding a group of horses into the barn. The farmer, cussed at the dog, and told it to quit, but I think the little pup, couldn’t resist it’s instinct. When the horses ventured outside of the barn, it would herd them back inside.

unfinsihed woodcut depicting a sheep dog herding a group of horses

I knew that I wanted to make a print about the spectacle. When I returned to my studio, i started carving the image into a block of wood. I quickly realized that the wood wasn’t the right material for the image I had in mind…i have learned with art, that it’s ok to fail and start over…that’s how we learn and get better.

photo of linocut work in progress depicting a sheep dog in a kentucky scene herding horses

I started over, this time cutting into linoleum

linocut work in progress almost finished

I was a lot happier with my second carving of the scene. Linoleum was a better material to carve the thin blades of grass and fur of the dog and horses

animated gif of a linocut being printed with a traditional press
At the Log Cabin Print Shop, revealing the first print
Herding the Horses – 6×8″ linocut on 8×10″ paper
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Thinking about current events

red linocut with houses and hearts with text Love One Another

I AM watching the news, and I don’t want you all to think that I have my head buried in the sand, and am just happily in my own little world, making art. I see what’s happening to us, and it hurts me deeply. I don’t know what I can do to make it better, so I share things that help me and others feel good, and encourage them to work on their own creative projects. Art is a great way to deal with feelings. For me, art is a therapy, and there are a lot of studies that show it really does cause positive things to happen in the brain. There are also studies that show that social media is causing psychological and social problems…

i don’t use social media for politics. In my perspective, it’s a terrible way to try and have dialogue about divisive issues. I’ve watched friendships end and families grow further apart because of the way social media brings out, and magnifies the worst in some people. (i guess it’s profitable, or the tech companies just like to destroy people’s lives) I have friends from a wide range of perspectives, who I know in real life, and I can tell you, we have more in common than social media would have us believe.

I believe that religion is personal, and I don’t talk about it on social media (for the same reasons). Since it’s Sunday, and I think it is important, I will share with you that I believe that we are ALL children of God, we are ALL brothers and sisters. EVERYONE deserves to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity. I believe (and I’m trying to be better at) following Christ’s teaching to love thy neighbor as thyself. I know this is a crazy time, and everyone is scared and angry a suffering loss and going through a million other feelings right now. I hope that all of these challenges we are going through has some kind of meaning, and, in the end, we use this experience to lift each other up, and become better neighbors.

I’m scared, and feel helpless and angry, but I also feel more connected, and a feeling of togetherness with you all (even if we have to stay 6 feet apart). You have gotten me through, what is possibly the biggest trial of my lifetime. Since social media isn’t going away, let’s use it to keep the good vibes going, and try to have a little more understanding and empathy toward each other…this is HARD, but we will get through this together.

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Home Sick Art Fair – Tomorrow May 16, 2020

Tomorrow is the #homeSickArtFair!!! My original idea was to have a display on the front porch, but since the weather has its own ideas, I’m improvising a gallery inside the house. It feels really good hanging an exhibit. It’s been awhile, but this makes me feel closer to normal…even it it is still a virtual show. Hope you’ll come visit via Facebook and instagram. There are 16 participating artists. Tomorrow, use the #homesickArtFair to see everything happening at the fair!

artist with hammer in studio
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Upcoming printmaking exhibit at Appalshop

kentucky artists ken swinson and lacy hale at appalshop in whitesburg ky

Printmaker, painter and muralist, Lacy Hale invited me to ehibit some of my printmaking work and artZines at the Appalshop gallery in Whitesburg, KY. I have been a fan of her work ever since meeting her online. Not only is her art beautiful and magical, it also has social conscious, and is closely tied to her community. She recently finished a mural for the 2nd Mountain Mural fest in Harlan, KY.

still from lacy hale interview in corbin kentucky

She is interviewed as part of the news coverage of the event, and the story tells is a great example of why it’s so important to have art and artists in rural spaces. You can watch the MYMT segment here

Appalachian building with colorful mural
mural in Whitesburg, KY

As a rural artist, I’m interested in how we can help make a positive impact on our small towns. Whitesburg is an inspiring example of what is possible when creative people stay and make a positive change in their small towns.

panoramic photo of whitesburg kentucky
Whitesburg has a record store and multiple live music venues
photo of main street in whitesburg kentucky
busy downtown Whitesburg

For a small mountain town with only 2000 people, there’s a lot of creative type businesses, music venues, cafes and public art.

photo of public art on building beside creek in whitesburg kentucky
public art beside creek

Most of the main street buildings were occupied, and my first impression was that it has a good energy, and is the kind of place I would want to visit again.

appalshop in whitesburg kentucky

I had never visited Appalshop, but over my last 19 years as a Kentuckian, their documentaries have helped shape my understanding of our region.

antique video editing machine at appalshop
analog film editing machine at Appalshop

I consider Appalshop to be a national treasure. For 50 years, they have used the power of arts and culture to create meaningful social and economic change in our region. It was a thrill to see their studio and to meet some of the people who make it happen.

photo of appalshop building beside creek in whitesburg kentucky

Not only does Appalshop create documentaries — they also create filmmakers.

Across the street from their studio is another one of their programs: The Appalachian Media Institute (AMI).

exterior photo of the appalachian media institute in whitesburg kentucky
Appalachian Media Institute

AMI is a community-based arts and education center offering training and resources for young creatives and filmmakers.

the green room at the Appalachian media institute in whitesburg kentucky
One of AMI’s editing rooms

The program has been helping young artists and filmmakers for over 30 years. The current program coordinator, Willa Johnson is an alumni of the program.

portrait of wendell berry by misty skaggs
an artist/activist who i admire (Wendell Berry) painted by another artist/activist i admire (Misty Skaggs) hangs between 2 of AMI’s editing rooms

My printmaking exhibit will be at the Appalshop gallery from July 9 until August 22nd. I’m excited to announce that, at the closing of the exhibit (August 22), we are going to kick off our next artZine season by making one at AMI!

collaborative space for artists at the Appalachian Media Institute in whitesburg kentucky
A great space to work and collaborate at AMI

This will be an opportunity for YOU to visit Whitesburg, and get to know some of it’s people–while making art together!

Our theme for Summer’s ArtZine is:

Art Makes the World Better by…

so go ahead and start working on your entries! See you in Whitesburg!