I first met Richard Keen about three years ago while visiting one of our favorite hangout places, Frontier. My husband had met him at a gallery they both had work at years prior and introduced us. Richard's studio is in the same old mill building as Frontier and we casually talked about me coming to visit and shoot it. Three years later we finally made it happen!
The high ceilings and large windows give these studio spaces such a grand feeling. It was nice to see Richard's work displayed throughout the space (all of that wall space is handy!!) and hang out with him and his two dogs for a morning recently. We then ventured over to his larger space where he has some installations going up. I love his use of geometric forms and color!
Please read Richard's Q&A below to find out more!
Describe your work in three words.
Simplification. Saturated. Layers.
How long have you been in this studio space?
I’ve been renting studio space at Ft. Andross / Cabot Mill for 7 years.
How has your studio space influenced your work?
My studio space has given my artwork room to expand in multiple ways. Since it is in an old mill, it has also given me a connection to a broader community of artists and business owners.
When I was visiting your studio, I noticed you have a variety of works all very different from the other: the more geometric pieces, the tree series, and the sculptural pieces. Can you tell me a little bit about how these all came to be and what your primary focus is?
I work on several series simultaneously and create multiple series at the same time, so some of the work your referring to gets shown publicly and some may never be seen. Some are only created for my own development. The geometric pieces all relate to an ongoing body of paintings called “SEA GEOMETRY” and the most minimalist geometric pieces, including the sculptures, all come from those. Most shapes are buried in the layers of earlier work. The “TREE” paintings you saw are part of a body of work that I started last winter when I was living in Seattle for about 7 weeks. I was offered a house /dog sitting gig by a friend who had a “shop” that I was able to set up as a painting studio. On my daily walks with Lewis (the dog), I was inspired by the moss-covered trees in Fauntleroy and Lincoln Park…. Those tree paintings informed my recent solo painting exhibition, “ISLAND GEOMETRY”, at Elizabeth Moss Galleries in Falmouth, Maine. The tree paintings gave me ideas for how I wanted to apply the paint; they opened up my color palate and helped me apply my vision to inland subjects as well as dealing with the sea. No matter how abstract my work is, it is all driven by my interactions with the environment combined with reactions to man-made objects. Many of the shapes I use come from boat designs: keels, rudders, sails etc., and get superimposed or woven into seascapes and landscapes. My primary focus is to keep making art, pay attention to whatever series is speaking to me and make it to the best of my capabilities.
Did you grow up in an artistic family? Were you always creative?
I grew up in a supportive family and my sister was a vocalist, but I wouldn’t say I grew up in an artistic family. I did always make art and play musical instruments in the public school system. I was very lucky to have a robust art program in middle school and high school with exposure to painting, drawing, ceramics and photography. By the time I was a junior in high school, I was able to manage my academic schedule and spend half of my days in the art studios. As aside note, my mother has taken up painting in the past 6 or 7 years and is quite a natural at it.
What has been the best thing you have done for your artistic career?
I listened to my instincts to follow the path of an artist. I have always taken risks and followed my internal compass for allowing my work to evolve --- And I moved to Maine.
What has been your biggest challenge?
This is a tricky question…It’s not an easy path. Being an artist and balancing other things like jobs, relationships and life in general has many challenges. It is difficult to express to people who are not artists how the urge to create often dictates my thinking process. I was taught to be an artist first… so my biggest challenge is juggling the “other” things in life.
What does a typical day in the studio look like?
I’m not sure that there is a “typical” day in the studio, but the “perfect” day in the studio involves pure creation and production with no distractions from the outside world, no phone, no people, no internet / social media…..just music and disappearing into the flow of making art.
How does working in an environment that is filled with other artists benefit you? Is there a pretty tight community at the mill?
It’s a blast! I mean, everyone that I know in Ft. Andross works very hard and is super dedicated. It creates healthy competition and while we often have our doors closed to focus and create, most of us know that if we need something we can ask, if it’s a critique, a tool or a lift if your car is in the shop. And then, there is poker!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I plan to have a larger studio in Ft. Andross / Cabot Mill , continually make amazing work, exhibit internationally, apply for and receive grants, be a visiting artist regularly, produce public art and explore the world. I also plan to have developed representation by galleries across the country and establish a way to be living bi-coastally. Whew!! GOTTA KEEP WORKING!!
Thank you Richard for letting me visit your studio!
Find Richard here: