Keemo, Outsider Artist, Grand Rapids, Michigan
“I am a pretty low-key kind of guy. When I painted Silencio, I was exploring the idea of listening to silence. I spend a lot of time in the studio, alone and quiet.
It becomes very meditative and interestingly enough, the emptiness fills itself with sounds, voices, words, colors and ideas. The painting Silencio is about those moments and in those moments you will find more than silence if you listen just right.”
“On a bit of a side-note, the word ‘silencio’ was also a small reference to one of my favorite scenes in ‘Mulholland Drive,’ where the character’s reality undergoes a major shift and her world turns upside down.”
“I am a huge David Lynch fan. I think that his [cult classic television show], ‘Twin Peaks’ is actually very much like so many small towns around the world. On one hand, these small towns look quaint and nice, but once you hang out a while and learn more about the people, all kinds of things reveal themselves. It may not be as amplified as in ‘Twin Peaks,’ but it’s all there.”
“What I like about his work is that he doesn’t provide all the answers. If anything, he makes you participate and come up with your own answers. Shoot, you end up creating your own questions too. For this reason, his films are more like paintings than films. I watched ‘Inland Empire’ a few weeks ago and I loved getting lost in it. I love where your mind goes if you allow it to.”
“I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The youngest of six kids. I think one of the perks of being the youngest is that by the time I came around, my parents where pretty well preoccupied with the stresses of raising six kids on little money. So I had quite a bit of freedom to wander around town and experience things on my own terms. Without question, my role models where my two older brothers. They still are today. By the time I was 10 or 11, they had both moved out, but when I would see them, they would introduce me to great books, music, art, photography and most importantly a way of looking at the world that wasn’t easily found in a small Michigan suburb.”
“My biggest influences are people who are on their own path and following their own compass. I don’t know that any of that translates directly into my use of color and line and pattern; but I do know that it drives me to sit down, pick up the brush and get
“I still have so many questions about the world and find enough material in it that I don’t ever feel the need to create an alternate reality. I tend to paint about what is close to me at the moment. This can be a person or an idea or a feeling or all those things rolled into one.”
“I’m no Jackson Pollack jumping all over the place. My work mode is very trance-like, and I suppose that comes though. I usually start working somewhere around 9:00 PM and stop somewhere around 2:00 AM. If I am listening to anything while working, it is usually classical or jazz music. I prefer music without words when I paint. Words tend to pull you back to a reality or influence imagery or ideas based on message of the lyrics, where classical lets you drift off into your own world.”
“One of the hurdles for artists, especially self-representing artists, is coming to terms with the line between your art being ‘art’ versus your art being a ‘product.’ I know the word ‘product’ is not a friendly word among artists, but unfortunately at that moment that you decide you want to sell your artwork, that piece becomes a product. For me, coming to this realization and understanding where that line is makes it much easier to keep those two worlds separate. This is essential to making the art that you want and still feel good about selling it at the end of the day. When you let that line blur, I think the artwork starts to suffer.”
“I suppose according to the definition, I would be considered an outsider artist. Although, I don’t really give any thought to what label might be appropriate to where I fit into the art world. I just keep trying to make the art that I want to make and that is about it.”
“If you love painting pictures of fish, then paint fish and love every minute of it. Ignore how other people paint fish. This is irrelevant to how you paint fish.”
“After that, the most important advice that I can give an artist just starting out is to throw out the old idea that you need a gallery or representation to make a living as an artist. This is simply not the case. The Internet makes it possible for us all to be self-sufficient as artists. Learn everything you can about selling online. After that, it is about working hard and painting your own fish.”
Thanks and appreciation to artist Keemo for his support for Combustus.
My dream: to create a unique vehicle for artists and visionaries from all genres and all over the globe to inspire and learn from one another.