Sunday, March 1, 2015

In the Art Room: Kid/Artist Interview, Charles Keiger

The Celebration, oil on canvas, 25" X 28", Charles Keiger

You would think that looking at surrealistic art with children would make perfect sense as most of them live in the land of surrealism. “Look, Mrs. Stephens, I drew a self-portrait,” said one kindergartener, handing me a drawing of a purple poodle. “Wow! Look at you! A striking resemblance.”
Conjurer, oil on panel, 16" X 18", Charles Keiger

However, children are also very literal and their world is often black and white, hold the gray. Independently creating a landscape, children will often begin with a blue stipe at the top, green stripe at the bottom and a bright yellow corner sun. Because, well, that’s what a landscape looks like to the under-ten set.
When Nashville Arts Magazine asked if my students would like to interview the surrealist artist Charles Keiger, I jumped at the chance. I spent time pouring over Keiger's work (which is like entering into a delightfully dreamlike fantasy world) and created this prezi to share with my students (please feel free to borrow, change and use in your art room if you wanna). The kids were so engaged examining the work of Keiger that we nearly spent an entire art class chatting about his work. 
The Dreaming Cat, oil on canvas, 22" X 24", Charles Keiger

Showing children the surrealistic and imaginative world of Charles Keiger both piqued their playful mind and annoyed their analytical one. Which was wonderful because it got them asking questions. Here’s our third grade interview with Charles Keiger.
 Roam, oil on canvas, 18" X 20", Charles Keiger

Why is the background and floor the same? It looks like the people are on a stage. Is your painting like a play?

I don't see the paintings as illustrations for a play but they are definitely theatrical. The stage like setting, with the curtains, floors, and backdrops, helps to open up my imagination. Since it is an illusory world being presented, the choices of what I can paint are expanded, in other words, you can get away with anything.
A friend said recently,“your paintings are like poetry and theater on canvas”, I like that.
Tidal Adult, oil on canvas, 25" X 28", Charles Keiger

Your paintings look very 3-D and realistic. But then you mixed everything up and got us confused. Why?

Painting from real life has never been my forte. “Mixing everything up” suits my temperament and skills. If I am enjoying myself while painting and engaged as I create these scenes then hopefully the viewer will also be intrigued.  As an artist you want people to look and this is my way of trying to hold your attention and thus, my own.
Distant Planet, oil on canvas, 29" X 38", Charles Keiger

You have so many ideas. Is it hard to think of these ideas? Where do your ideas come from?

This is the question I am most often asked and the one that can be difficult to explain. The short answer is, everywhere and everything, the long answer can get complicated and mysterious but let's see.... I keep a journal where I sketch out ideas as they come to me, these are quick, small thumbnail drawings. As I go about my day I might hear a phrase or see an object that will spark my imagination and this gives me a starting point to build a picture. Then there are times when the painting I am working on will inspire ideas for the next one. I must admit however, that some paintings I look at when completed and wonder, “Where did that come from?”.
Still Life, oil on canvas, 40" X 35", Charles Keiger

I like to make a lot of things at once. Do you ever make a bunch of paintings all at the same time?

I know many artists that prefer to have multiple paintings in the works, but for me it's best to focus on one till it is complete. Each of my pictures has a specific mood or spirit and if I stay immersed in that world for the duration, it makes for a better painting.
If y'all live local (that'd be the Nashville, Tennessee area) and wanna get your kitten mittens on this kid-lead interview with Charles Keiger, here's a sneak peak at the beautiful Nashville Arts Magazine. Riiiiight?! It's a positively beautiful publication and totally free. 
And here's my article that, unless you have ant-sized eyes, I know you can't read. But have no fear, the entire article can be viewed right here, kids. Until next time, I hope your day is as delightfully dreamy as a Charles Keiger painting! 
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  1. How fun! So glad you and your class could share and discuss his work and then interview him as well!

  2. Very cool! Congrats to you and your students - love Keiger's art!


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