I was born in 1972 in Denver, Colorado. I grew up in the nearby suburb of Lakewood, and went to college to study art in Fort Collins, Colorado at Colorado State University. After that I went on to get my teaching license, and have since spent 20 years teaching high school drawing and painting. After finishing my 20th year of teaching I decided that a major change was in order, so I dedicated myself to creating art full-time, and to achieve my ultimate goal of living in the Crescent City as a part-time if not permanent resident.
Artist + Keith Oelschlager
Describe your art in three words.
Nostalgic, Lived-In, Cityscape
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, in your neighborhood specifically influences your work?
My art is ultimately and absolutely inspired by the French Quarter. I find it absolutely magical that a place so rich in life still exists and remains relevant. Of course the Quarter has its problems, but what it gives to me in terms of creative energy is ten times greater than what it takes. I find fascination in every brick, lamppost and neon sign. I have heard it said of Rome that if you are tired of Rome, then you are tired of life. I feel exactly that way about the Vieux Carre.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
Although it may be hard to tell at first glance, my work is somewhat influenced by comic book art. I start by drawing my subject out, and inking it in with a brush and India ink, just like how comic books are made. So my ritual is basically trying to initially reduce my subject to just lines. No value, no color, just lines. Once I truly understand my subject in terms of line, then I will go on to the glazing process to build up value and eventually color. I feel like I'm almost sculpting my paintings in this way.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from the lived-in and well-aged parts of the cities I visit. Anything that manages to survive the decades and centuries will grab my attention. I love getting away from realistic colors, so anytime bright neon is illuminating the scene is great. I love thick and chunky architecture, forms that show strength and timelessness. I was also a graphic design major in college, so lettering and signs are often a fascinating part of a scene. I love thinking about the hundreds and thousands of people who have visited a particular scene before me, that we all share these spaces together.
Who are your artistic influences or gurus?
My influences are a real combination of forces for sure. For color theory and understanding composition I love the work of Dinotopia creator James Gurney. For rendering urban scenes that show love and ultimate care I defer to Davis Cone and Rod Penner. In the comic book arena, no one beats Dave Stevens and Adam Hughes for their ability to handle ink and brush.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
Several years ago I came upon Richard "Piano" Scott playing at Fritzel's in the Quarter. He is probably the best piano player I have ever seen in person, and you can sit three feet away from him there and watch him play. It's absolutely stunning. In one of his songs he says "And when you make it down to Bourbon and St. Ann, me and the boys, makin' some noise, playing that dixieland". He writes new compositions but often in the style of the classics of New Orleans greats. I feel like I'm doing something similar in my work. Rendering scenes I love with a nod to the past and my eye still on the present.
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
I'll often be out for a walk or enjoying some live music in my favorite city in the world, but otherwise I will definitely be found watching a movie. I tend to see 2-3 movies per week, even the bad ones!
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
I really love being a part of the late night scene. There is something truly fascinating about wandering the Quarter at 3 am. I know it's not always to be advised, but so far so good. I also don't mind it when it's truly hot at night, so summer is alright with me! My birthday is in July, so that's a pretty solid favorite month.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
I have been practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for over 20 years, and I am now a 2nd degree black belt. I also have worked as a licensed ring announcer for MMA fights, so the warrior/ artist is something I kind of take to heart. Better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in war.
All works listed online are available to be viewed at Where Y’Art Gallery by appointment.
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