Kevin Peterson has an unparalleled passion for urban details, abandoned places in which young princesses are led by calm bears. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see his paintings during his latest shows, if not, lean back and enjoy this exclusive conversation with Kevin.
Hello Kevin, first of all, tell us something about your upcoming work, what are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a small body of work for the Scope Art Fair in Miami Beach. I am showing 6 new pieces with Thinkspace Gallery.
Tell us a little bit about yourself: where is home, and how long have you been a painter?
Ive been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember. It has always been something I loved doing and made me feel good about myself. I moved around the states a bit growing up, Ive lived in Nevada, Michigan, Washington and Texas. Right now I live and work in Houston, TX.
Solitude on figures and a constant search for another world are very frequent in your production. How did you decide upon some of the recurring themes in your work?
I’m trying to capture a moment. These moments usually contain a stark contrast between subject and environment. The innocence of a child against a ragged, defiled backdrop. I put a child in an environment that you wouldn’t normally see a young person alone, I think it’s a metaphor for growing up. Its about that stuff we all go through that forms who we are as adults. Little traumas or sometimes big ones, all of those things that form our defenses and cause us to build walls and inner strength. Time is another important aspect of my work. The way we change and the way our environment changes around us.
Thanks very much. The process is usually pretty similar with all of my work. I usually start with a setting. I work from photo reference. I have a stockpile of mostly urban settings which Ive taken in different environments. I will then pair it up with a photo of a model I’ve taken down at my studio. The girl in Coalition II is a friends daughter named Chloe, shes made several appearances in my work. I will use Photoshop to lay out the composition. I decided on the group of animals I wanted to accompany Chloe and I use different photo references to sketch out unique faces and positions for them. Coalition II was a bit challenging because there is a pretty hard mid-afternoon sunlight coming down so I had to figure out the shadows. I used some little animal toys and a flashlight to try to get some of them close as I could. So I have this rough sketch laid out in Photoshop, some things look pretty much how I want, and some things I know I will need to tweak when I am painting. This is what I use as my reference to paint from. Once I have the layout figured, its just a matter of getting it down on the canvas, which is many many hours and layers of painting. I think this piece took about 100 hours over probably 3 weeks.
All the tags on the urban landscapes reveal an impressive attention to details. Is it something you use to express a sense of reality or are you in a way involved in the street art thing?
I had a brief career doing the street art thing, but I retired after some law issues and my wife and I had a baby. Ive just messed around a lot with spray paint and different caps and paid really close attention to different writers and how the paint lays down and looks on varied surfaces.
Tell me some about your recent years, how has your work evolved from when you were beginning?
Most of my earlier work was more focused on the subject. The figure was the main focal point of the work. More of a focus on portraiture. My work recently has sort of “zoomed-out”. There is a lot more background. The setting has always been important, but now there is a much wider view of the scene. I think it makes the story behind each piece more interesting. I’ve painted animals and birds for years, but recent work has brought the children and animals together which is a fairly new development for me.
Talking about the painting technique, is there something you are studying right now or trying to get and still eludes you?
Painting foliage, like leaves and trees is never something I feel comfortable with. Honestly, I tend to hate painting anything green. I don’t know why, its a color that annoys me. Shadows and reflections are always unique to each piece. Working the way I do, almost a collage with a subject inserted into a different scene often adds to the challenge because I’m not just copying a reference photo. I have to figure out how exactly to make the subjects fit into the scene correctly, it often take some trial and error before I get it right.
Do you remember the very first piece of art that you worked up?
No way, I was really young. I can tell you that planes and cars and dinosaurs were very popular in my earliest work.
Who’s the first painter that comes to your mind in a second?
When you were 13, what did you want to be?
I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was 23 let alone 13! I can tell you that I never thought being an artist was a viable career option. Turns out it is possible!
Now what’s the hardest and the easiest part of your artistic passion?
The hardest part is starting a painting. That blank canvas can be intimidating and I know its going to be such a struggle to get the painting to a place that I’m happy. I absolutely hate those first brush strokes.
The most satisfying part is when I have a painting about 75% done and i can just zone out and geek out on every stupid little detail. I can just refine a piece forever, I have to make myself stop at some point. I really love that part, then once its all finished I get a little depressed cuz its over and I have to start from the beginning on a new one.
Something you want the world to know about you.
The less the better I think. I’m a pretty private person.
Something that annoys or frustrates you about people.
Jeez, where to begin! I don’t know, sometimes I wish people would just stop talking. There’s nothing so horrible about silence once in a while. It beats talking about the weather.
What’s overrated/underrated today?
Overrated- celebrities, Underrated- boat rides.
What’s next for you, what shows or projects do you have planned?
I will be returning to Thinkspace Gallery in Los Angeles for my third solo show with them. That’s gonna be August next year.