Ryan Kohler Artist Statement/Bio
I am a painter in Skowhegan, ME where I live with my wife, two Australian Shepherds, a few studio cats and a handful of chickens. I paint every day in my home studio, usually while tripping over the Aussies at my heels. I received a BA in Art from the University of Maine at Augusta in 2011, with a concentration in drawing. I was briefly enrolled in the new Media program at Orono and the Architecture program at Augusta before I realized I was most comfortable getting messy in my art classes and ultimately made the switch to the fine art program.
My subject matter can range pretty greatly, but it’s usually color and shape that attract me to a scene. My compositions are usually arranged in the most dynamic way possible, with dominant foregrounds and strong leading lines. I work from photographs mostly, but occasionally paint from life in the field.
Representational painting is still the root of what I’m trying to achieve, but to me, the fun lies in trying to find ways to describe my subjects through expressive gesture and varied mark making. There comes a point where too much detail and obvious overstatement becomes detrimental to the power of a painting. Letting edges blur and being ambiguous with implicit brushwork usually leads to more interesting results. This is something I am constantly thinking about while painting and I try to walk away from them when they are at an evocative and unpredictable state. Some would argue that a painting, just by being a painting, is automatically abstracted to a small degree, no matter how hyper realistic it is. My goal is to embrace this inevitability and skillfully exploit the abstraction in a way that only my hand can.
All of my paintings start the same way, with a light wash of Raw Sienna, or some other warm, neutral color to completely eliminate the white of the canvas. Bits of this color can sometimes show through in the final painting, but not much. Then I start drawing on the canvas with a small paint brush, establishing the major components of the composition. Once I feel comfortable with the drawing, I immediately start painting in color. I try to be as accurate as I can at this stage, while still just trying to get a sense of the overall mood and feeling of the painting. Things are refined a good amount, but I don’t worry about details or fine nuances. I try not to overthink anything. I simply just try to paint the scene as accurately as I can. Once the canvas is completely covered, I walk away. This is only the first pass, and I find it very helpful to come back after a day or so with a fresh set of eyes. The second session with the painting is where the magic happens. It’s sort of like a deconstruction phase. Paint is thinned a lot with a translucent gloss medium, and I paint rather wildly and with limited control, using various rubber paint shapers and large brushes, and rags etc. Things are very abstract and loose in this phase, but I try not to worry about. Traces of my original painting are still visible and if I make any mistakes, they can be corrected later. Because I’m working with acrylics, I can either wipe any paint off that I don’t like if I am fast enough, or pretty easily paint right over it. Once I feel like I have let the painting run wild long enough, I start to pull in the reigns, and begin to refine things slowly. I continue to define edges and pull the image together, using large brushes still, until I feel like the painting has been resolved enough to my taste. Final details and crisp, definitive lines are added with small round brushes and palette knives. After some drying time, all paintings are signed and finished with a high gloss varnish.