Kim Keene: Peace & Calm Near Water

by Shannon Bowman

As a native of Portsmouth, VA, Kim Keene always had an inclination towards art. In high school, Keene was paired with an art teacher that would make all the difference for her as an artist. Throughout her art career, Keene has studied and practiced photography, sculptures and her current medium, painting. Keene graduated with a Bachelors of Art from Virginia Wesleyan and soon began working at a Virginia Beach gallery, learning how to frame. Soon after, Keene would travel to Croatia where she lived and was surrounded by other artists.

After returning from Croatia, Keene opened a local gallery and frame shop in Norfolk called The Paint Gallery, where she is involved in more than painting. Along with showcasing local artists and holding painting classes, Keene also works with groups, utilizing art to enhance team building and create collaborative experiences for non-profits and businesses alike. Her latest project took her to ODU, where she created a mural for the Lady Monarchs and helped to facilitate a group of young women who where learning leadership through art. 

The ODU workshop came about when Keene was talking to Coach Karen Barefoot of the ODU Women's Basketball team about painting a mural in their team lounge/locker room area.


ALL IN - Kim Keene and Laura Henderson

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While photographing her latest project at ODU, I was able to pick Keene's brain, sometimes begrudgingly, to get some insight into the work of this local artist. 

Shannon Bowman: When did you start painting?  

Kim Keene: I started painting in high school when my art teacher, Ms. Norcross, opened my eyes to the art world.


SB: What are your influences? 

KK: I am influenced by other artists, I could sit and talk with them all day. I am influenced by all of the talent in this area. I am influenced by the natural world and by the feelings it produces.


SB: Is anyone else in your family an artist? 

KK: No family members are artists. 


SB: Do your kids like art?  Do you see any talent? 

KK: Both of my kids enjoy art.  Kurt, my youngest, has the passion.  I just hope it stays with him.


SB: Do you play with any other forms of art? 

KK: I have worked with photography and some sculptures.


SB: Why art? 

KK: It is my passion and I believe in listening to, nurturing and expressing from those passionate places in life. 


SB: How do you choose your subjects? 

KK: I choose subjects that I am naturally drawn to and moved by. I feel a sense of peace and calming near water, a connection to its fluidity and I have a need to be near it so it is often a subject for my work.


SB: There’s a lot of landscape artwork on the market these days, how do you differentiate yours from the rest? In other words, what do you feel makes your work unique and truly your own? 

KK: I feel that my seascapes embody the very emotion I am inspired by and put into them, from a calm and peaceful place that is communicated and shared visually.


SB: What is the most challenging part about being an artist?

KK: Ha, ha...Not to be a starving artist!!  


SB: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

KK: I am surrounded by amazing artists and each time someone comes in and feels a connection to something that I have painted, I feel shocked that they are drawn to something I have created. The responses i receive vary and are always inspiring.


SB: As you know, art is very subjective in nature. What some people like, others do not. I’m sure you’ve received both positive and negative feedback in your career, but what I want to know is how you handle the negative criticism, if received any. 

KK: I need that negative criticism to become a better artist, to grow and expand as an artist and I can learn so much from all the talent that is here.


SB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 

KK: There was an artist that I met in Croatia that told me one night to put down my brush and use my hands so I could feel the canvas.  I was painting a bottle.  She said, "pretend you are wrapping your hands around that bottle on that canvas."  I learned that you just have to get in there and get messy.


SB: What is your creative process like?

KK: I take a lot of photographs of things that speak to me.  


SB: What do you believe is a key element in creating a great piece?

KK: By chance....sometimes you get lucky!


SB: What role does the artist have in society?  

KK: Artists help society to stop and smell the roses.  Life moves so fast, it is nice to have something that can slow down that pace. Something to focus attention and bring awareness to beauty.


SB: What do you dislike about the art world? 

KK: Not everyone feels the need to have art. I am sad when I see places with empty walls, without emotion.


SB: What do you like about the art world? 

KK: I love the people in the art world! I love the diversity and the honesty in self expression.


SB: Who are some of your favorite artists? 

KK: Of course all of the artists that are in the Paint Gallery... Laura Henderson, Stacy Goode, Kathy Jublou, Clayton Singleton, Barrett Pope, Jim Whalen, Daniel Kathalynas, and Rayma Lacks.


SB: What do you look for when reviewing someone else’s art?  

KK: I ask myself, "Would I buy that?"



To check out more of Kim Keene's work and The Paint Gallery, check it out online or on Facebook.