Interview with Kevin Peterson for “Wild”

We’re excited to be showing new work by Houston-based artist Kevin Peterson in our main room for his solo exhibition Wild opening Saturday, March 2nd.  Peterson’s hyper-realistic compositions create a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity.

In anticipation of Wild our interview with Kevin Peterson discusses the inspiration behind the exhibition, his dream collaboration, and what kind of ice cream his body of work would inspire.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Were you exploring a specific theme or pushing yourself artistically in a certain way?

KP: Just growing up, what its like to be a kid and what its like to think about being a kid. How things change over time and how we change. 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.
The settings of these 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.

 SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.  

KP: I swear, every time I paint the portrait part of a painting (especially a kids face) its a technical challenge. It always looks like shit in the beginning and for a long time after. I just keep working it and working it and eventually I get it where I want it. It’s always a battle. I used my son as a model for a couple of these paintings and that added a whole other level of difficulty. It being my kid, I found it extra challenging to capture him perfectly. 


SH: How do you approach starting a new piece? Walk us through the process of a piece from conception to completion.

KP: Sometimes I start with a background image I like and sometimes I start with a picture of a model I want to use, it doesn’t always come about the same way. I work pretty closely with my reference photos, but the final scenes are composites of my images. I have tons of images of urban blight or abandoned places that I’ve taken over the years and I also have tons of pictures of models that I’ve taken down at my studio. I use Photoshop to lay out a composition that I will use to paint from. My pieces are pretty well planned out, but the Photoshop composites are never perfect though, they are a framework. The challenge comes in working out all the details during the actual painting process.  My goal is to create a scene that is both implausible or fantastic, but at the same time totally believable to the viewer.  Just technically speaking, my work takes many, many hours. I paint in pretty thin layers, just building up and refining over time. It takes a lot of passes to get everything how I like it. 

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?

KP: My paintings are well planned out before I ever start painting. I love every bit of the painting part, but the excitement comes in the planning stage. When I add that element to a certain background or setting that I want to paint, whether it be one of my references of a model or maybe an animal. I can tell the second I put it in there, it fits, its like “bingo!” that’s it.  It sometimes takes hundreds of different attempts to find the right fit, sometimes I never find it, but when I do, its really thrilling and I cant wait to start painting at that point. 


SH: What frustrates you about your work / the creative process?

KP: I put a lot of time into ideas and concepts for paintings that never actually make it to the canvas. I sometimes feel like I’m so close to something good, but I just can’t make it work in the end and I have to abandon it. It’s like having this sort of vague idea in your head and not being able to translate it to reality. That can be frustrating and it can feel like a waste of time, but its all part of the process.

SH: Is there a piece of knowledge or advice around being a working artist that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

KP: Don’t compare yourself to other artists. It’s a hard thing to do. Also, don’t just art all the time, you gotta actually live your life so you will have the stuff to paint about. 

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

KP: You would take a cone with some pure and perfect flavor and dip it in a vat of dirt and grime and shit. Sounds delicious!

SH: If you could collaborate with any other artist (dead or alive) in any art form, such as music, film, dance etc… what would be your dream collab and what would you create?

KP: I don’t really enjoy collaborating. It goes back to hating group work in school. I love film though. I guess I’d pick a director like Scorsese or Terrance Malick or Spike Lee maybe. I wouldn’t do anything though, I’d just want to watch them work. 

SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

KP: I think different artists can play a lot of different roles in life. All I know is that when I find something that an artist created that expresses a feeling that I could never have put into words but nails exactly how I feel or have felt, that is a really comforting feeling. Knowing you’re not alone. It’s powerful, it’s rare, but its why I love art.

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work?

KP: I worked really hard on this last show, a lot of long days and late nights.  I’m actually taking it a little bit easy since I shipped the pieces off. Decompressing a little. I’m doing yard work. I actually discovered a few years back that I love gardening, even though Im crap at it and most of my plants die. I really love spring,  just looking around town at peoples yards and at the nurseries to see what different plants I can get to replace the ones I killed over the previous year. 

Join us for the opening reception of Wild, Saturday March 2nd from 6 to pm.


Kevin Peterson Featured in the September Issue of Juxtapoz

Juxtapoz Kevin Peterson

Kevin Peterson is featured in the September issue of Juxtapoz magazine. Visit Juxtapoz.com for a preview of the issue, and an interview with Kevin Peterson discussing his upcoming exhibition with Thinkspace Gallery opening this Saturday, August 20th.

The new work looks, dare I say, a lot more post-apocalyptic? Not in the “end of the world” sort of way, but also not subtle, as in The Leftovers sort of way. What ideas and themes were you channeling?
I don’t believe in an end of the world, apocalypse-type situation.The earth will persist, but the only question is what stage it will be in. Time and how things change over time are always themes in my work. 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.

Interview with Kevin Peterson for ‘Sovereign’

Kevin Peterson Interview Banner

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.

Billboard Interview with Kevin Peterson for Red Hot Chili Peppers Album Cover

Billboard Red Hot Chilli Peppers

Kevin Peterson’s ‘Coalition II’ that was featured in our ’20 Years Under The Influence of Juxtapoz’ exhibition has found a new place on the Red Hot Chili Peppers Album ‘The Getaway’. Billboard music interviewed Kevin Peterson on how he ended up on the new album cover, sobriety, and the inspiration behind the piece.

View the full interview on Billboard.com.

Peterson was told frontman Anthony Kiedis wanted the image of “Coalition II,” an oil painting from a series depicting “the strength that it takes growing up in the world today, those traumas that it takes to get through it, and to survive and thrive.” – Billboard Interview

Kevin Peterson Coalition II

We currently have a timed release sale of “Coalition II” occurring on www.thinkspacegallery.com/shop. This special print will be available for purchase from Friday, June 17 at 10AM until Saturday, June 18 at 10PM. A 36-hour purchase window for you to pick one of these beauties up before the sale will close. We’ll then print off the edition, followed by shipping them to Peterson to be signed and numbered in the amount sold during this special timed-release. This is Peterson’s first timed release and a way for him to give back to his fans and allow them all the chance to own a copy of this iconic image. For more information on the print visit our previous post on the edition.