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As a young boy, I was intently painting at the kitchen table in my family’s small home in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, when my mom rushed in, asking: “Didn’t you see all the smoke?” I was so engrossed in my work that I never noticed that the sneakers my mother had placed in the oven to dry were beginning to smoke.
That persistent dedication to my art has never left me, and it is why I now spend hundreds of hours perfecting each painting until it conforms to my vision.
It was never a given that I would become an artist. My dad worked as a grocery store clerk and my mom as a school cafeteria worker when I was growing up in the small Midwestern community an hour south of St. Louis. Neither of my parents was interested in art and never took me to visit an art museum.
In high school, I created a wide variety of commissioned works, ranging from portraits and landscapes to campaign signs and car decorations. One of the murals I assisted with in downtown Ste. Genevieve still exists today. It has faded, but shows that I had promise as a figurative artist from an early age.
After becoming valedictorian of Ste. Genevieve High School, I began my formal art education at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. I started as an architecture student, but my obsession with painting was so strong that I changed my major at the beginning of the second semester of my sophomore year. I received my undergraduate degree in drawing and painting in 1990 from Washington University on a full academic scholarship.
At the University of Georgia, I met my future wife, Michaela Oberlaender, in a Northern Renaissance art class. That course had an extensive impact on my life because it also introduced me to the allegorical realism and the meticulous techniques of the Flemish masters that influence my work today. In my studio classes, I was encouraged to paint loosely and use oil paint, neither of which felt right to me, but it was an important stage in earning my masters of fine art degree.
Upon graduation, I spent a few months painting replicas of famous artworks onto furniture for Habersham Plantation in Toccoa, Georgia. During this period, I came home energized to paint my own works at night.
The fall after receiving my graduate degree, I began teaching art full-time at Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia. In addition to teaching, I pursued corporate art commissions, regional juried shows, and had my first solo museum exhibition. While teaching was new and exciting, it was always a means for me to be able to paint.
In August 1997, while my wife was expecting our son, I moved my family to the Tampa Bay region to accept a teaching post at St. Petersburg College in Florida. I still teach full-time as an Associate Professor of Art on the Clearwater campus.
I made the switch back to painting in acrylics when our son Nicholas was born because I did not want the toxic fumes in our home. The other reason was because some of the oil pieces showed slight cracks in them after they were varnished, making them look as if they were already as old as the pieces by the Renaissance Masters.
It took a while for me to be as skilled in acrylics as in oils, but now if you look at works in both media side by side, it is difficult to distinguish between them based on the medium alone.
Prior to September 11th, 2001, I sold several landscape paintings to the State of Florida and other percent for art programs, but those kinds of commissions seemed to dry up as the country was gripped in fear after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Figurative pieces that comment upon social issues of American society captured more and more of my interest. I put my paintbrush to use to comment upon issues that caught my imagination. I consider some of the themes I address as a mirror of contemporary American society.
Some artworks have a personal connection, such as my Inheritance piece, which expresses my rejection of my family history of alcoholism, or Sugar Baby, where I deal with my own soft drink cravings. Other artworks are prompted by my role as a father: Expedition and Revolution encourage kids to go outside to play instead of watching electronic screens, and Final Post : ( deals with the serious problems of cyberbullying.
To realize my dream of painting full time instead of teaching, I have been showing my work in solo booths at art fairs like Red Dot and SPECTRUM in Miami during Art Basel/Miami, SPECTRUM/Indian Wells, and Artexpo 2017. The personal connections I make with collectors at these events is invaluable. The feedback about my work at these shows, which may top 30,000 visitors, comes back to the studio and influences themes for future artworks.
In 2018, I hope to have a large submission in the Art Prize competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after seeing how receptive the people there were to all kinds of art. You can read about my impressions of my first visit to Art Prize in my blog here.
My paintings have been purchased for museum, corporate, public, and private collections throughout the United States and in Europe. I am also happy to paint commissioned pieces.
This website shows that I have a wide variety of interests and abilities and am willing to work with you to meet your art needs! Please use the contact form or call my studio directly at (727) 942-9020 between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The following video explains what I try to do as an artist. Enjoy!
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Original paintings by Kevin Grass are created by using the finest art materials commercially available. Best practices are used to make acrylic paintings that will outlast this century with proper care. Drawings are made using acid-free fine art papers.
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