Kenneth Lewis, SR is an artist with whom I have been acquainted for at least 16 years, as he had a framing business in the same building where my original art studio was located. We talked a bit now and then and I was always struck by his energy and positivity, his optimism and, what I’d call, exuberance. I didn’t know him well back then and I don’t remember seeing his artwork at that time, but over the years I have come in contact with his art in different places and at different venues. It seems as if he was everywhere all at once. I’ve come to believe it is from his unceasing work at promoting his art and getting himself seen. I’ve found his artwork to be bold, free and energetic and I’ve always been impressed with his passionate use of color and gesture in creating his canvases and various works of art.
I have wanted to interview Kenneth for quite a while on video, but time presented me an opportunity to interview him in this medium first, so I ran with it.
STM: Kenneth, Thank you so much for taking some time to talk with us for a bit. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing and experiencing your work for quite some time. It’s amazing to see how much artwork you produce. You are a very prolific artist and a mover and shaker in promoting yourself. In what ways has art affected you to turn you into such an active and production-oriented artist?
KL: Thomas, first I would like to thank you for this interview. It is an honor and I am grateful. I have always been a high energy person from childhood. I come from a large family; 4 sisters and 2 brothers. I’m the middle child. We all had chores and my parents were pretty strict. My father was a Baptist preacher and we had a stay at home mom. My father had many skills and would often flip houses. My brothers and I were carrying tool boxes before the age of 10. I come from a family where a strong work ethic was taught. Creating my art is a love and mixing that with my work ethic…it just seems normal.
STM: What meaning does art have in your life and how did that meaning develop?
KL: I have always loved art and artists of all genres. I have been around art all my life. However, I never tried to create any myself. I have been a picture framer for close to 30 years. I owned Mind Builders Bookstore and Frame Shop, Affordable Custom Framing and I currently frame for clients from my home. I often go to museums, galleries and art related events. I have always loved just being around art.
STM: What are you intending to communicate with your art?
KL: I am a very eclectic painter. I don’t have any particular style. I only paint when I am aligned with source energy; some would say God. I paint from a blissful state and when my energy is good. I would hope that people can feel that energy when seeing my work.
STM: You have varied art styles. What do you call the kind of art you create? What makes you use this kind of style as opposed to something like realism, for instance?
KL: I paint from feelings and inspiration. I like painting loose, open and free. My favorite way to paint is more childlike. I am glad I have no formal training because many artists tell me they experience blocks by overthinking. I have pretty much, no thoughts or judgement when I paint. I have never been interested in painting the perfect nose.
STM: I see that your art features many images of beautiful women. What is it that inspires you to use this subject matter? What other things inspire you? What perks up your ears, makes you grin, gives you a deep belly laugh?
KL: I have a muse collection and yes, I often paint women. I believe my mother paints through and with me. I also have so much respect for women. I believe women are not only beautiful but they are the nuts and bolts of society. Without them this whole thing would fall apart. I paint for all the beautiful, compassionate, loving, inspiring, tough, smart, and courageous women of the world.
I can be inspired by a variety of things, no one thing in particular. But when it comes I feel it in my soul. What gets me going is, first thing in the morning ...meditation, making a list of things to be grateful for, finding the feeling of happiness, and a cup of coffee.
STM: What kind of mentors or artists do you or have you looked up to? And what is it about them that draws you to them?
KL: Jean Michel Basquait, Willem De Kooning, Picasso, Cy Twombly, Helen Frankenhaler, Chase Langford, and Jean Debuffet to name a few; their open and childlike qualities of painting.
STM: Artists have any manner of ways of producing their artwork. Do you have a prerequisite of being “motivated” to create every day? Or do you create even when not feeling inspired? What gets you into the studio and keeps you there?
KL: As stated earlier, I only paint when I have positive energy going.
STM: Tell me about your creative process.
KL: I really don’t have a complicated process. I align my energy, put myself in the receptive mode, then I allow the inspiration to come.
STM: You are also a parent. What importance do you place on art education for the young?
KL: I think it helps to make children better-rounded. On a personal level I get more from painting with my grandson and live paintings with kids than they, most likely, get from me; their energy.
STM: There is spectrum which on one side says that one must be born with artistic talent. The other side says it can be taught. Where are you on this spectrum?
KL: I would not say I am on one side or the other. I think they both are true.
STM: Many people, sometimes even artists themselves have the view that the starving artist’s image is true. Do you find that to be so? What bearing does that view have on your efforts in an artistic career?
KL: I don’t believe it and it has ZERO bearings on me.
STM: How have you struggled to get to where you are now? How have your struggles affected your work? What have been your greatest obstacles?
KL: I would not say obstacles. I would say contrast. When I see, think or experience what I don’t want, I quickly see, think and believe in what I do want. Words don’t teach. Life experience does. I see opportunity for expansion.
STM: Considering money, fame, and notoriety, artists always have something they want. What do you want? Do you consider yourself to be succeeding in getting this and why?
KL: All those things you mention are manifestations or what people could say are signs of success. I would like to have continuous growth, abundance, joy and alignment with my inner being. I want to feel the feeling of success even if it has not completely manifested. The seeds are already planted.
STM: What was your biggest setback or failure? Where did it take you? How has it affected your view going forward from it?
KL: There are no failures, just life experience. There is value in all experiences.
STM: What things are working well for you in your artistic endeavors? What things have you found don’t work so well?
KL: I would say I have chosen not to focus on curating as much. Finding I can’t devote too much more time to it. Every year has been better than the last. I guess you can say that is working well.
STM: To what other activities have your creative abilities taken you?
KL: I repurpose furniture, create sculptures, and will be illustrating my first children’s book.
STM: On occasion, people who are not artists may ask questions which artists sometimes feel are not appropriate, like “Do you make a living from your art? How much?” or questions not easily answered, like “How long did that take you to make”. How do you feel about those types of questions? How do you answer them?
KL: I just think it is a part of the game. I answer them honestly. I don’t take offense for the most part. Some become collectors.
STM: What do you want people to know about artists?
KL: We take it serious and it’s not a hobby for most.
STM: Who is Kenneth Lewis, Sr.? What is one thing you want people to know about you?
KL: Artistically, I pour love into every painting.
STM: Where can people find you and your work?
KL: My website is www.kjlartsanctuary.com. Instagram https://www.instagram.com/kenneth_lewis_sr_artist_/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ArtistKennethLewisSr Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClVAi-48dqjILJDHBY07VSA?view_as=subscriber Twitter https://twitter.com/KJLARTIST Cell (609) 372-6022 Studio (609) 474-4199
STM: Kenneth, this has been a blast! Thank you for taking some time out for us at Studio Tour Magazine. I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons for you and your family!
"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life".