Interview with Kevin Peterson for ‘Sovereign’

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Kevin Peterson has had an exciting year. Between prepping for ‘Sovereign’ and his piece Coalition II being the album art for the Red Hot Chili Peppers new album “The Getaway”, to say he’s been busy is an understatement. Next weekend, his much-anticipated solo exhibition ‘Sovereign’ opens Saturday, August 20th from 6-9pm. In our interview with Kevin Peterson, we discuss the album cover, his creative process, and an art day in Houston.

SH: What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work? What themes or ideas were you exploring during its development?
KP: Time is always a theme in my work. How things change over time. I like thinking about our world in different stages. Seeing how the things we make crumble and decay. Seeing nature take over when it’s allowed to, but even nature is cyclical. A forest burns down, but it grows back stronger, it’s just a matter of time.

My settings always have an end of the world look to them. I don’t really believe in an apocalypse type situation, but it is a different world than what we are living in currently. A new phase I would say.  Things are crumbling, but it’s not a reason for fear. It’s a new beginning, a clean slate. It’s important to remember that change can lead to good. It can make you adjust your trajectory, reevaluate your priorities. I suppose the kids in my paintings are a reflection of a hope that I have that people will learn from past mistakes and face the future with a sense of calm reason. Part of that is re-prioritizing what we value. The work is a vision of a new generation of kids that will not rule the world like tyrants but will respect  nature and the world we have.

Kevin Peterson Polar Bear

SH: Walk us through a day in the studio and what your creative process looks like. How does an idea turn into one of your paintings?
KP: I spend a lot of time with my reference photos. Working out different combinations, putting my models in different environments. Trial and error. I do a lot of preliminary work in Photoshop. I try to make a little time for this most days, but staring at a computer screen is not my favorite. If I’m really into a painting, then I’m just going to be sitting at the easel all day. There’s nothing worse than finishing up one painting though and realizing that I’ve got nothing ready for the next one. I try to keep those new ideas lined up and forming so I’m never too far from getting paint on the panel.

SH: Your work has received a tidal wave of attention since becoming the album artists of Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Getaway.  What was your reaction when you received the request to use your painting as the album art? What’s it been like for you since the album release?
KP: I was surprised and excited. My wife pointed out that it was April fool’s day when I got the call from their manager, but I never seriously thought it was a prank. Then I was just curious as to how they saw my work. Later I learned they saw it online somewhere. The internet is a beautiful thing, opens up such a huge audience. People will see your work that you could have never reached before. I know I discover great work nearly every day.

Kevin Peterson Black Bear

SH: Also, what was the first Red Hot Chili Peppers song you remember hearing or do you have a good memory attached to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song?
KP: The first song was Give it Away I think which was the first single after they were signed to Warner Bros. I was 12 when it came out. I remember the video more than anything, pretty much thought these dudes were the coolest, weirdest guys ever.

SH: You’ve shared that painting help keeps you sober, has your sobriety shaped your artistic voice in anyway?
KP: Yeah, no doubt. I mean I always loved drawing and painting growing up, but my true voice as an artist didn’t really start to develop until after I got sober. When you go through a treatment program, there is a ton of reflection on your past and growing up and all those things that shape you as an adult.  All that reflection is a big reason why so much of my work includes kids and addresses growing up.

SH: How do you select an animal for a piece? Do the animals represent a characteristic of the child or are they more guardians?
KP: Well, I have my favorites like Bears and Foxes, so they’re always making appearances. I really love all animals. When it comes to the work, I get a bit partial to those guys because they can be found here in North America. I’m not strict about that though. I mean, these paintings are not actual situations so there’s no reason to be tethered to reality in any way.

Sometimes they are the kids’ guardians, sometimes they are representations of the child’s inner strength, sometimes they are just companions.  Sometimes they are all of those things. I feel like a have a different narrative in my head for each piece.

Kevin Peterson Details

SH: How do you work through self-doubt or a difficult day in the studio?
KP: Get away for a while; spend time with my kid, live life. I let things percolate more than I did at one time. I never regret doing that. It helps with approaching things from a different perspective. Sometimes I get attached to an idea and struggle and struggle trying to make it work, but it’s just not quite right. I set it aside for a while, and when I come back in a different state of mind I can usually sort it out. Sometimes that means scrapping the idea all together, which is a totally ok solution to some problems.

SH: You recently joined the Parental Club, how has being a father affected your artistic process?
KP: Well it’s changed my schedule. I work 8-5 now and then again after the little guy goes to sleep when necessary. It is harder to find time to work sometimes, but like I said earlier, it is also nice to have something else to focus on, to take an art break. I need to get out of my own head sometimes, and there’s nothing like a new little life form that you are responsible for to do that

Kevin Peterson Fox

SH: If you were to give us an art tour of Houston, where would we go? Don’t forget to feed us!
KP: You would want to check out the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel and Cy Twombly Gallery.  Maybe the Art Car Museum and the Beer Can House too. For food, Tex-Mex is always my first choice, El Tiempo or Chuys.

SH: When looking at other artists work, what elements excite you?
KP: I always have a penchant for figurative work. I like seeing how others apply paint. My work tends to be pretty tight so I love seeing art that is similar in content, but very different in style than my own.

Kevin Peterson Details 2

SH: Where were you ten years ago in your art career, and where do you want to be in the next ten years?
KP: 10 years ago is just about when I started getting serious about my art career. I was just showing locally and really focusing on improving my technical skills. That’s just about the time of the first graffiti/ kid combo.  In ten years I hope I’m still doing what I’m doing right now. Painting whatever I want, doing shows. That’s all I ever really hoped for. I’m excited to see where the work goes, hopefully, it keeps evolving in interesting ways.

SH: Best advice given to you about life? Best advice you’d give to a new artists who looks up to you?
KP: Be so good they can’t ignore you. No one actually told me that, it’s a Steve Martin quote, but I always liked it especially when it comes to the art world. I would tell a young artist to put your studio time in. Marketing yourself, PR, all that stuff is important, but in my opinion, making the best work you possibly can and always developing your skills should be the priority.  Challenge yourself to make work that really stands out.

For more information on the exhibition and Kevin Peterson please visit the Thinkspace Gallery website.

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