By M. Sebastian Araujo
Plein air painting, is a phrase borrowed from the French meaning “open (in full) air”. It is particularly used to describe painting outdoors, also called peinture sur le motif (“painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees”), where a painter reproduces the actual visual conditions seen at the time of the painting. CapeCod is a movable feast for the eyes of an Artist…Steven Kennedy is such an Artist. Recently I had a chance to find out just what his eye saw when he surveyed the landscape surrounding him !
What in the World around you affects your creativity?
I’m primarily a plein air painter, so one of the most important things for me is sunlight and the way it plays across chosen subjects. I like to paint things people have built, like buildings and boats. I’m also looking for color, drama and mood. Color contrasts may be found in the way a series of buildings stand together, or in someone’s garden, or the way the sky affects a landscape. Drama often has to do with the time of year and weather conditions, like dark skies and brilliant autumn light. Mood doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sun; a night scene or foggy/heavily overcast day may more effectively communicate what I’m looking to say that day. I really like industrial subjects, but haven’t made enough effort last few years to seek them out. I like paintings that use paint well – oils can be applied in so many ways. So I’m trying to be more conscious of the plastic means of painting; surface quality and economy of means are things I’m striving to do better and better.
How do you feel that technology has changed Art?
Cameras are old tech and have been around for a long time, but they absolutely changed the face of representational painting. Digital cameras can be used in more varied conditions easily, which makes them a great advance over film cameras. So one can easily shoot by brilliant light by day, or extremely low light at night, and get good results with both. Sending images online to galleries is far easier than the old method of sending slides of artwork. But the way people view art may be a more difficult thing to talk about; with all the devices and preoccupation with instant communication people are constantly distracted, there’s always an urge to respond instantly. I’m sure all this plays into the way we see and perceive life. Sometimes I miss the days before computers, when things seemed quieter – perhaps one could think more, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia.
Why do people need Art?
Great question. In order to have life in life. Art gives color, it gives meaning and purpose to living. It is impossible to imagine life without art of all kinds. I can’t any more imagine life without art than life without food. People have to create and enjoy art. Life without art would be like having a conversation with a stone, there’s nothing there.
Was there a “Shining Light bulb” moment in life when you knew you were or had to be an Artist?
Yes. I was quite young, I think it was the 1960s. I thought “I’ll either go to Vietnam (which I didn’t want to do) or be an artist.” I remember loving rainy days in elementary school because during recess I could stay in and draw. After high school I went to Paier College of Art in Connecticut, then moved to the Cape to pursue a career in painting. The emphasis in school was on commercial work, but I went into a fine arts program about half way through. I spent time experimenting with different styles, but after a year or so on Cape Cod landed on representational art as the best way to communicate what I saw and felt. Having done that before, it seemed like the best fit.
How do you begin to work on a project?
In multiple ways. Since I usually paint outside, the most frequent way is to think about an area I’ve worked at before, and to go back, looking for a new way to say something about it. Or to find a new area to work in; I call it “mining” when several works come out of the same area. Or I go to a location that’s stood out in my mind, like a place I’ve driven by many times that strikes me because of something about it, perhaps the play of light and shadow. That happened last year. I’d driven by Pleasant Bay Antiques on RT 28 in Orleans many times, and really liked the way late summer sun hit the building. But when the ‘For Sale’ sign went up I knew I had to act. The painting was really challenging because every day we lost about 3 minutes of daylight and eventually leaves were falling off the trees. Nevertheless, I finished the painting – indoors, this past January. The owner came out multiple times to check on the progress, I liked that.
What is it about Provincetown that keeps creative people either living there full time or drawing them to its shores?
Several reasons. One would be the camaraderie and good energy of so many people for so many years arriving to work, so the momentum keeps building. Think of all the thousands who’ve painting here, or been writers, etc. – Ptown has so much history as an art colony. Many art colonies have faded over time, but Provincetown has endured. A lot of creative types still live here, at least part time, and many famous artists worked here over the years, that attracts creative people. There’s the beautiful Cape light that draws plein air artists from all over the country and impressionists like the Cape School. And there are a lot of galleries, way more than there used to be, that’s surely a draw for collectors. And the work being shown in town is extremely eclectic, that’s a really good thing. Though I work representationally, I like that so many other types of art are shown in town, that’s a great thing! And we have PAM, the Provincetown Museum of Art.
Amid the ever changing landscapes of this world of ours how lucky we are to have Artist such as Steven Kennedy who have that ability to capture a moment in time and preserve its essence on canvas for all the world to see In these turbulent times that is truly a great gift to have and to share…
To find out more about Stevens work Click Here: