Why One Coastal State's Landscape is Integral to This Artist's Creative Process

Paige Simianer | April 11, 2024

Richard Keen working in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

"As far back as I can remember I have made sense of the world through art," Richard says in his artist statement. 

Artwork Archive's Featured Artist Richard Keen is known for his use of color, line, and geometry influenced by the Maine coast, where he lives and works. 

His commitment to interpreting his surroundings has led the artist to develop a distinctive style that resonates with both the physical beauty and the underlying geometric patterns of the Maine coastline. Through his eyes, viewers are invited to experience the familiar landscapes of Maine in a new light, where natural and man-made structures alike are reimagined. 

The methods Richard uses to paint vary. Through scraping, wiping, brushing, spraying, and the use of palette knives and scrapers, he explores the tactile possibilities of paint.

Richard's work is characterized by a delicate balance between the precision of crisp lines and shapes—often achieved through careful taping—and the expressive qualities of brushwork and other mark-making techniques.

At the heart of the artist's abstractions is the concept of place, a tangible link to the environments that inspire him. Yet, his art leaves ample room for viewers to embark on their own journeys of interpretation and meaning.

Through his work, Richard Keen not only captures the essence of his surroundings but also offers a window into the profound ways in which art can shape our understanding of the world. 

Artwork Archive had the chance to chat with Richard Keen about the significance of the coast of Maine in his artwork, his advice for artists, and how Artwork Archive helps him manage his studio and art career! 

You can see more of his work on Discovery and learn more about his art practice below.

Richard Keen pictured in his studio. Image courtesy of the artist 

Do you have a favorite or most satisfying part of your process? 

There is so much about the act of creating that is satisfying—I really, really love each part, so it’s hard to say which is my favorite.

The beginning, or the unknown; the middle, where my vision starts to become clear yet the finish line seems foggy and unsettled, with potential risk and failure; and…. the final piece which eventually reveals itself and calls you back over and over to stare in amazement that you actually created it.

 

Can you talk more about the significance of the coast of Maine in your identity as an artist?

The coast of Maine literally engulfed me.

From the first time I stood on its jagged shoreline and smelled the density of the fog and rockweed, to the moment I learned how to scuba dive, I realized it held the language necessary for me to build a dialogue with viewers and show them how I see the world.

I’ve been so lucky to live, hike, and work in this great state. I am also entangled in the working waterfront world and generally look for connections between my attraction to abstraction and the parts of Maine that surround me—whether they may be manmade or in my escapes into nature for mental grounding.

Richard Keen, Form Singularity No. 13420 x 16 x 2 in

Your methods include a variety of techniques such as scraping and taping. Is there a particular method you find yourself gravitating towards more in your recent works?

I try to keep a variety of painting tools around me at all times in the studio so I don’t lean too heavily on one method over the other.

For example, between 2000 and 2012, I painted a lot with encaustic, until people started referring to me as an "encaustic painter". So, I put that technique on the back burner (although I still occasionally pull those tools out to add to a painting or sculpture).

‚Äč I am an artist who certainly gravitates toward painting, but I use any medium necessary to project my voice as an artist.

Keeping as many tools and techniques in my toolkit as possible makes creating more of an exploration versus an exercise.

When I use spray paint, for instance, it flashes me back to doing autobody work and presents challenges for how to control the paint when it becomes airborne. When I use acrylics or oils with brushes, scrapers, and rollers, everything keeps me trying to figure out the best and safest way to handle different paints to get the effect I’m after. Variety keeps it exciting!

 

What impact do you hope your work will have on those who view it?

I hope my work inspires people to look deeper at the world around them and into themselves.

If looking deeper into my work brings people a visual sense of enjoyment and helps them see beauty in the way that I see, I hope that it would also unleash a desire within them to spend more time with art.

A look inside Richard Keen's studio. Image courtesy of the artist

What’s something you wish you knew before becoming a professional artist? 

I think that opens up the question of what it means to be a “professional artist” right? 

I think that's a moving target these days. There's more to being an artist than just making art and being in the studio. I would have to say I wish I had known the importance of finding better methods for marketing my art, documentation of images, and finding a system like Artwork Archive sooner in my career.

 

What are you listening to in your studio lately? 

I am definitely a music person versus a podcast person when it comes to being in the studio. When I’m in my studio, I need to forget about what’s happening in the outside world. 

My brain is wired to use music as a way to disconnect from the pressures and distractions of daily life, politics, world events, my day job, and other responsibilities. Music allows me to relax and focus. Sometimes, if I’m just cleaning the studio or looking at works in progress, I can listen to other things…but generally, music is my “go-to”.

Some of the bands I listen to include: Wilco, Andrew Bird, The Ballroom Thieves, Alabama Shakes, Khruangbin, The Walkmen (Hamilton Leithauser), and the Wood Brothers. I also search for related artists on web platforms to help me find new music (also, I grew up on late 70’s into grunge….So the list gets long).

Richard Keen, Island Geometry_Monhegan: Driftwood No. 03, 24 x 30 in
 

Why did you decide to use Artwork Archive to inventory your artwork and manage your art career?

My wife is a teaching librarian and cringed every time I talked about keeping track of my artwork in my studio notebooks.

So, she researched web platforms, and I asked around to see what other artists were using. Artwork Archive has been a total game changer!

 

How do you use Artwork Archive on a daily basis?

I use Artwork Archive daily to check the opportunity postings, enter new artwork, or check details about available artwork to submit to exhibitions, grants or to send to dealers.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Artwork Archive curates artist opportunity guides that you can access for free! Browse through hundreds of international exhibitions, competitions, artist residencies, grants, open calls, and more by clicking here. Plus, be sure to check back often—we're always adding to this list! 

A look inside Richard Keen's studio. Image courtesy of the artist

What advice would you give an artist who’s just starting out in their professional career?

I think the most important piece of advice is to just be true to yourself and don’t quit.

It's also very important to find people who believe in you and support you on your path.

In those times when you're faced with financial adversity, rejections, and personal life struggles, having people who lift you up creatively is so important. I'm grateful to have a super supportive wife, family, and group of artists who provide an amazing amount of love.

It takes extreme dedication and persistence, any way you slice it. But when you have to balance financial woesa day job, or other life events, it can be hard to store the energy and make time to create. This means telling the people who love you and want to spend time with you that you need a little more studio time, or staying up late when everyone else goes to bed (or getting up early if you're one of those morning people). 

I do believe there are times when we all "starve" for our art, with our art, and without our art... so try not to view the path of an artist as a straight line with a beginning, middle, and end—it's full of twists, turns, starts, stops and unexpected whirlwinds. 

Richard Keen, Island Geometry_Acadia: Sand Beach No. 07, 16 x 16 in

Richard Keen uses Artwork Archive to keep track of his artwork, apply for artist opportunities, publicly share his portfolio, and a lot more.

You can make an online portfolio, catalog your artwork, and generate reports like inventory reports, tear sheets, and invoices in seconds with Artwork Archive. Take a look at Artwork Archive's free trial and start growing your art business. 

Purple graphic with screenshots of Artwork Archive's system. White text reads: Artwork Archive: An online portfolio + business management platform for artists. Get the all-in-one platform artists use to manage their artwork and career. Green button that says Try it Free leads to Artwork Archive's main sign up page.

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