Catching up with Kent Knowles

Kent Knowles’ creations can only be described as mesmerizing. A prominent artist and author on the rise, Kent creates imaginative worlds in which the viewers can immerse themselves. Many of his works include figures in solitude among colorful landscapes, reflecting the tone of the overall piece through wild color representation. His high range of subject matter is a testament to Knowle’s diverse collection and artistic curiosity. There is no predictability in what emotions an imaginative scene will conjure up until the viewer is in its presence. The artist masters the creation of a psychological connection between the viewer and work. Knowles provides insight into his career’s progression and inspirations through an interview with the Linda Matney Gallery:

LMG: What is your artistic process? How does your art evolve from the conception of an idea to a complete work? 

KK: I begin each painting with a series of overlapping lines – very gestural and without a distinct plan.  I am hopeful that this approach to composition leaves some residue of emotion or action, because once the paint is applied, it can go lifeless very quickly.  As I stated earlier, if I try too hard to create anything specific, it usually ends in disaster.  From the overlapping lines, a human or animal form will emerge.  I take my cue from the paint and hang on for dear life.

LMG: Your paintings evoke a strong empathetic reaction within the viewer. What is the intended psychological reaction that you want your viewers to feel when they see your painting? 

KK: That is a kind observation, which I can only hope is true.  I do my best to work from my gut.  I think much of my philosophy regarding painting can be attributed to how I grew up.  My childhood was magical.  My dad was a Chaplain in the Air Force, so I was living in foreign countries for years at a time, simultaneously entrenched in established rituals and new experiences. Finding myself the outsider on so many occasions, I think I developed a sense of purpose and a proclivity for observing people, which I channeled into my art.  I feel very comfortable drawing from the myths and history of the world; not just my personal experiences, but those which span the course of culture and time.

If a viewer enjoys some level of empathy with my paintings, I think that is wonderful, but it is not my priority.  Painting is a mystical experience and any painter who states otherwise is doing it wrong.  To be honest, I possess a strong suspicion that I am not the true author of my paintings.  It is a strange feeling, collaborating with the unseen.  If I start a piece with an agenda, it usually ends up as ineffectual decoration.

LMG: How have you felt that your artistic style has developed and grown since you first started your career? How does your latest work differ from your previous art? 

KK: It’s funny, but comparing my work now to that which I began to create 18 years ago, I don’t see much of a difference in my approach to composition or my handling of the figures.  I will say that, when I was a younger painter, I felt a great deal of pressure to complete work that was substantial and profound – trying to squeeze as much content and meaning into each piece that I could.  Now that I am older, I have learned to pace myself, realizing that what I seek to accomplish in a single work might be more appropriately distributed among 10 paintings.  I have always been drawn to the human figure, and I am certain that I will always be a narrative / figurative artist.

LMG: Could you describe your current motivations for any changing styles or techniques in your painting? 

KK: Currently, I am very interested in the role of fashion and the concept of celebrity.  Everyone is in the spotlight and the way people are presenting themselves in this sphere of scrutiny is fascinating. 

LMG: Could you elaborate on any new pieces that you have created? (If you want to attach some jpegs of new paintings, we could feature them with the blog post)

I have been doing a lot of drawing lately and some large-scale paintings.