I came to find Keemo , quite serendipitously, online through a search I did about art. His work is striking and colors are bold. He is instantly recognizable. The characters in his works are rendered with vibrant strokes of paint and ink. I asked him to answer a few questions and he graciously agreed. Please enjoy and feed your eye candy gremlins.
KEEMO copyright 2012
Keemo can be found online at
Q. Tell us a little about yourself. Were you self taught or went to school? Where are you from? Short Bio.
A. Hmm… let’s see. Short bios are always tough because you try to sum up yourself in just a few lines. Easier said than done. You know, you always want to make yourself sound pretty cool and intriguing but in reality I am just a regular guy who likes to make art. I have been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember but have no formal art education beyond high school. I just paint or draw every single day instead. Of course, there are days that I wish I would have went to art school but then I look at all the art school grads I know and none of them are making artwork anymore. So, maybe it was good thing that everything worked out like it did. I did go back to school a few years ago and get a psychology degree but that was just for my own general interest in things.
Q. The colors in your work are very primary and bold. Is there a reason? Tell us about your use of color.
A. I think this is really just a product of how I work. I have never been much for blending and shading and all that. I always felt it slowed me down or got in the way of where I was, in the process of creating my artwork. Also, I have never really been interested in being a “good” painter of things that looked like things we recognize. You know, like trees or dogs or cars or bridges or whatever.
In regards, to the color itself. After all these years, most of the colors have some kind personal meaning to me and I use them for personal reasons. For example, a common theme is a particular blue color that I use around most of my eyes. This started when my father left and I used the blue around the eye (tears) as a personal way to connect with what I was going through during those messy years. Each time I would paint the blue around the eye my mind would wander off about him and then over time as my feelings about the situation changed the blue around the eye has evolved to mean looking to the sky (hence the blue) and seeing hope and change and good.
KEEMO copyright 2012
Q. I love that you often use text in our work. Do you do so as a means of enhancing the work or simply as an exercise in catharsis? Is it a necessary means to an end?
A. To be truthful, I always wanted to be writer. When I was younger, I wanted to write great novels and be taken serious but as I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that just isn’t who I am. I love writing but when I am honest with myself I am only good for just a few lines and that is about it and then rest just becomes writing for the above mentioned reasons and not for who I am. I didn’t want to give up on writing so I started thinking about writing simply for my own pleasure, in ways that I enjoy. That was the beginning of using text in my paintings.
Q. I have noticed that at times you use old photos. Is there something you are trying to say with that?
A. I am huge history buff. Most of my reading is historical in nature and I am always watching historical documentaries. This is just part of what I do so it was only natural that old materials would be incorporated into my work. I don’t know that I am trying to say anything in particular about it other than the fact that understanding history can go along ways to helping understand the present.
Q. Are there any recurring themes in your work? Anything you keep going back to?
A. Almost all of my work has some kind of human element and a majority of that is portraits. At the end of day all I am really trying to do is explore who I am, who we are and how we all fit into this mess together. How that directly translates visually into themes in my work would be that most of my design elements revolve around seeing, listening, thinking and feeling. If you look at most of my paintings you will often see lines emanating from the ears, eyes, head or heart. This is a direct reminder to myself that these things are what is really important and everything else is just filling in the empty space.
Q. You produce a ton of work. What helps keep your output so strong?
Two things. A love of making artwork and a need to pay the bills! I truly do love making artwork. I do it almost everyday because that is what I love doing. Making artwork is one of the only things you can do in your life that you get to make all the rules and learn about who you are while you are doing it.
KEEMO copyright 2012
Q. Give us 5 words that describe you.
A. How about: Always, working, working, working, working.
Q. What helps you stay inspired? Are there any artists, living or dead, you go to for inspiration?
A. I like to think that artistic inspiration should come from non-artistic sources. I am really inspired by people who are doing their own thing, being their own person and who are hardworking. This could be my wife, my brothers, my dentist, my neighbor, etc… I don’t really look to other artists for inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of artists that I enjoy and love their work but I just try to keep it out my own art. Each artist has a voice and it harder to find your own voice if you are busy singing other people’s songs.
Q. What are some common phrases you hear from people when they describe your work?
A. “I could do that!”. No, I am kidding. I can’t think of any common phrases off hand. Sorry.
Q. A lot of your “people” seem kind of asexual… are you purposefully avoiding a defined sex?
A. Yes. To me gender just is not important in defining who we are. To a certain degree, we all have some ideas to what a male is and what a female is and none of those things are usually relevant to who we are as people and what makes us each unique. I want to leave all that extra baggage out of most of my paintings.
Q. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
A. I guess a couple of things.
First, learn how to do things yourself. If you want to make a living being an artist, you cannot rely on the gallery system to support you. Sure, there are people that do but not as many as you think and the odds of you being one of these people is pretty slim. No one will promote you better than you. Learn about website design, photography, graphic design, take some business classes and take control of your own art world.
Second, work. Simply, work. Work everyday. If you aren’t feeling creative, pick up the pencil anyway or go to the studio and clean your desk off or try drawing with the other hand. Just do something and make it happen. You will be amazed at what you discover and how productive you can really be. Don’t wait for it happen, make it happen. I have seen so many good artists lost to history because they underestimated how much work it takes to be an artist.
Please, don’t be one of those artists.
KEEMO copyright 2012 Continue reading