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Daily Inspiration: Meet Jonathan Keeton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jonathan Keeton.

Hi Jonathan, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I studied watercolor painting in London while in college and theater in Paris, and worked as a schoolteacher, a waiter, and an actor. I then stumbled into the beginning of computer graphics in California on one of the very first Quantel Paintbox systems. That lead to thirty years as a pioneer in digital visual effects for television, commercials, and film.

I left and returned to painting landscapes and night scenes, moving eventually to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I lived for ten years working as a full-time artist. As a result of a large (4′ x 6′) commission, I started painting in oils instead of just watercolors, and mostly paint in oils now. Recently my wife, the artist Melinda Tidwell, and I moved to Portugal. We are enjoying our life in the country in Portugal and look forward to being able to more easily travel in Europe, and to finding new sources of inspiration.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Oh, lordy. When I became a full-time artist my focus was on refining my technique, and had no idea of the challenges involved in selling my work! So that has been a years-long process. I joined the Santa Fe Society of Artists and sold my work every weekend in a big booth that was set up at 5:30 Saturday morning, taken down Sunday night, and also traveled to various art festivals. I learned a lot from that, but it was very demanding, and not particularly lucrative.

The switch from watercolors to oils turned out to be a good idea in many ways. Oils are considerably easier and are also more sellable as it turns out. And it was much easier to acquire gallery representation as an oil painter than as a watercolor artist. I had won several national awards for my watercolors and haven’t even entered my oils in any, but works under glass are not particularly easy to sell I discovered.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I make paintings of the wilderness and in cities and little towns before dawn that brings to life that awe-filled mystery of being alive on this planet. I tend to paint either forest landscapes or nocturns. I am inspired by the beauty in nature; that everything is just so. I also feel that at night our influence wanes and the natural beauty of things takes over again.

I work from photographs that I take while out on rambles, as the paintings take me a while, and the light changes too much while working Plein air, although I do studies on location from time to time. I use the work as a meditation on what I am seeing and on the impulse to honor the natural world.

I find my subject matter by going out either at dawn or towards sunset, or occasionally in the middle of the night. I try to find places that move me. and choose the next painting by which image calls to me the most, I sort of fall in love with the scene, and then, when I discover how demanding it is to paint, it’s too late!

What does success mean to you?
Well as an artist we are at some level always comparing ourselves to the greats. So we stay humble but ambitious. Meanwhile, it is a deep pleasure to sell one’s work!

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