Peek through the window of Kevin Short’s studio on a weekday afternoon, and you will find the artist covered in paint, probably sandy, likely singing, maybe dancing, and possibly trying to wrap up early for the day in anticipation of an evening beach trip with his wife and three boys. His family, his art, and the ocean are this artist’s full-life essentials, and he has created an existence that allows those things to come together in a very cohesive way. On a daily basis, Short is never far from any of his loves – he built his art studio on the second floor of his San Juan Capistrano home.
The quintessential “creative type” Short’s early interest in art caused a few eyebrow raises from his dad (a rocket scientist) and his mom (a nurse). But “after a year of parental head shaking, I found myself on the strong, positive side of their encouragement,” the artist recounts.
Short spent much of his early life on the California coast, before his family traded the beach for ranch life in New Mexico. Though this move was met with much teenage angst at the time, it is largely what influenced the coastal pieces for which the artist is now known.
“Painting started for me as a serious endeavor at the University of New Mexico, in some respects, as a way to express my feelings of being separated from the ocean; the sailing and surfing life that now seemed far away.”
Eventually, Short moved back to the Golden State to study art at Pepperdine University, before transferring one final time to the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. With an art degree, his aspiration was always to make a living by his own works, not to teach but to paint; a career often sought, and almost as often abandoned, by many an art student.
“I started by painting for advertisers and magazines. This was how I developed. Suddenly in one week, many oil paintings that I had been creating for myself, started to outsell the ad work I was doing. I was ready to move more in that direction.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Over the years, Short has made a name for himself as, among other things, a prominent artist of surf culture, respected for being part of that world he captures on canvas. His talent, coupled with a down-to-earth demeanor and easy intelligence, make him an ideal partner for gallery owners and dealers, and a friend to collectors and admirers all along the California coast and beyond.
“I am now at a very good place creatively. I feel a greater sense of freedom in my work. There is a freedom that comes from having won awards, exhibited in museums, having a retrospective. All of those moments were very wonderful, and important, but I am now free to not have to wonder about such things. My work has become even more confident. I have more interest in exploring further, obsessing more. And now I have the time to recognize the shared qualities I have with collectors who respond to my work.”
Recognizable by his thick brushstrokes and layers of paint, Short’s paintings have a three-dimensional quality, a feeling of subtle movement. He has cultivated this technique over the years, experimenting with different elements of it for varying effects:
“I have always painted with an emphasis on the shape of the brushstrokes. I started painting with acrylics, in bold brushstrokes, and then sanding down the paint until the surface was glass-smooth. Brushstrokes with no depth, almost like an optical illusion. Over time, I switched to oil paints to more accurately control the color. The intent was always to be deliberate with the paint, to be deliberate with the color choices. Thick brushstrokes force your choice; not to smoosh (sic) it around, no guessing at what the color should be. Over time this has served me well. Pick the color, mix the color, go.”
Short’s most recent pieces focus on the diffusion of sunlight on water. Entitled Glare, the collection, which will exhibit in Santa Monica in June, has a slightly different quality than a traditional Kevin Short painting, familiar yet abstract, recognizable yet indefinable. In his words:
“I am now focusing on a smaller moment in time, and expanding the universality of that moment. The way that artists and influences really end up working can be ironic. For example, I have never liked Seurat’s pointillist paintings. They have never moved me. Surprisingly, now, in my process of capturing the multi-color effects of light on the water, I keep seeing in some of my paintings hints of the path of experimentation he explored. Right there in my work! So now, I think I have to go and review his work and his writings, because now I understand what he was doing.
“There is magnetism in looking at glare and the effects of sunlight. We all know it. There is something magical and calming in the glare. People, myself included, will drive hours to sit and watch that dance of light. Somehow our troubles seem smaller, our thinking becomes clearer. I am recording those moments, those feelings.
“The idea is really giving myself the freedom to obsess. Society gives me as an artist permission to obsess, and it is a great tool to have.”
Glare will run from June 5th through June 18th at Hamilton Galleries.
Artist Reception will be held on Saturday, June 6th, at 6pm. All are welcome.
1431 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, 90401
Learn more about Kevin Short at www.kevinashort.com.