Kevin Kehoe: Painter With a Camera
By Stacey Burton
Courtesy Heber Valley Life Magazine, August 2020
Thirty years of non-stop hustling. Thirty years of mastering a competitive craft with constant creative challenges, where no two days looked the same. Thirty years of working his way to the very top in an intense environment.
Thirty years of visiting gallery after gallery in all the towns and cities he toured across the U.S. Thirty years of frustration knowing an inherent reservoir of talent was left untapped. Thirty years of inspiration seeing the expressive and meaningful creations of others.
Starting A New Chapter
After a thirty-year career in advertising, Kevin turned fifty and decided to do some serious soul searching. After much contemplation, he knew it was time for a change and time to start a new chapter. Although Kevin had enjoyed a successful advertising career, the urge to paint continually nudged and beckoned him. He could no longer ignore the call, that gnawing at his heart. Of this experience, Kevin shared, “I knew there was this other door I never really opened and I never wanted to get to a point in my life where I had to wonder ‘What if?’” Kevin summoned his faith and courage and took a mighty leap.
In January of 2013, he found a space in the Heber Valley and put together a studio. After high school, Kevin had attended the Art Institute of Boston, but he hadn’t picked up a paintbrush in thirty years. He didn’t know what he wanted to create, what kind of paint he wanted to use, and ultimately who he was as an artist.
Instead of allowing the overwhelm to overtake him, Kevin got to work. He started with three small paintings highlighting hallways and stairwells in post-war buildings of the Chelsea Gallery District in New York City. He was inspired by the “light pouring in the vintage glass, the twenty coats of paint on the walls, and the colors.” These three paintings became the beginning of what he titled his Chelsea Light Series. They sold quickly, giving Kevin the confidence and experience he needed to move forward.
Kevin Kehoe - White Dove Chapel | Oil on Linen | 20" x 30"
Hitting The Road
Kevin developed his particular art process, which doesn’t start in the studio at all. Instead, it begins with days on the road with his camera. While on his way, he waits to be “struck.” He describes being struck as having everything to do with the “beautiful relationship between landscape and light and person and place.” He never forces these moments, but patiently allows them to happen. “I think my true gift is being a really keen observer of the world we live in. What I see and what I feel about what I see, I allow to really take me. I know when it happens, and I know it’s a very special feeling when I get struck like that,” Kevin shares.
After a week to ten days of traveling, with miles and miles covered, Kevin will return home with hundreds of photos. He shares, “Out of 500 photographs that I’ve taken, if two are worthy enough for me to want them to become a painting, then that’s a huge victory.” A big part of his artistic process happens through the lens. Kevin shoots all of his own reference photos because it’s imperative to him that his work feels authentic and captures what he felt as he saw it.
After returning to the studio, with his photo reference in hand, his goal is to express “the true essence of the subject matter.” Each of his subjects has a story to tell. What he paints on the canvas is how he wants to remember it. He says, “I choose to paint realism because I know there’s a lot of unseen, underappreciated beauty in the world, and if I see something that I think is beautiful, that I think gets passed by or overlooked, I want to express that beauty.”
Kevin now has four separate and ongoing series that he’s developed: Chelsea Light; Western Therapy; Western Night, Western Light; and Of Horse, Of Heart. To some, Kevin’s work may seem to be quite contrasting because of the various subject matter: man-made structures to horses and western landscapes. There are reasons for his versatility. As a relatively new painter, Kevin doesn’t want to leave any doors unopened. He doesn’t want to miss out on creating something special. With an eye for seeing details and nuance that often go unseen by others, there certainly are many open doors. However, there are common threads that run through all of his work and define him as an artist. He describes the qualities that tie his work together as authenticity, soulfulness, and reverence.
Kevin credits part of his success to his advertising career and his experiences in both the East and West. He calls his thirty years in advertising the ultimate boot camp to becoming a disciplined painter. He credits his work ethic and perspective to his Eastern upbringing, and values the West because it inspires and “ignites his heart and imagination.” He says, “The wide-open west is open wide with possibility.” Having life experiences in both the East and West, he describes as a beautiful yin and yang.
When Kevin took that leap back in 2013, he wasn’t positive where it would lead, but he was determined to go places. He had his sights set high. Now, he has seven and a half years under his belt. Seven and a half years putting in the work and expressing with paint what strikes him; tapping into his creativity and learning his personal style and artistry. Seven and a half years of following his intuitive nature and building patience and trust; using his talent to produce many inspiring pieces to share with the world. Seven and a half years since that mighty leap into the unknown. What has come of it? Kevin expresses, “The creative fulfillment and personal reward that I get from this is off-the-charts. It’s immeasurable.”
If you would like to view Kevin’s work, he will be featured in a Red Ledges model in the upcoming Showcase of Homes. His work can also be found in Altamira Galleries in both Scottsdale, AZ and Jackson, WY. You can visit his website at kkpainter.com.