About Kenn Backhaus
Kenn was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and spent much of his childhood on the family farm near Burnett, Wisconsin. His fondness for nature became the catalyst for his art. Kenn’s parents encouraged his artistic education and following High School, he attended Layton School of Art in Milwaukee,Wisconsin. After graduation from Layton in 1973, he embarked on his professional career in Design and Illustration. As a commercial designer and illustrator Kenn received many awards at both local and national levels, which included acceptance in the Annual Society of Illustrators Show in New York. Although Kenn took pride in his commercial successes, his heart always belonged to the fine art of outdoor painting.
With developing interest in the historic Plein Air style of painting, Kenn decided in 1984, to devote more time to his passion for painting and the love of the outdoors. He found that capturing true color, value and the mood of a subject was best done on location or through direct observation. His passion for painting has broadened his subject matter to include not only landscape, but also figurative, portrait, still life and wildlife.
Kenn’s works have been juried into many shows across the country, including the Oil Painters of America National Shows. His works have received many awards including the Collector’s Choice Award at the Seventh Annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational 2005, Artist’s Choice Award at the First Annual Telluride Plein Air Exhibit and Sale, 2004, Fredix Artist Canvas Best Landscape award at the 2004 Oil Painters of America National Show, Kirkland, Washington, Tara Best Landscape award at the 2003 Oil Painters of America National Show, Taos, New Mexico, Second Place Award in the Crystal Cove Invitational Exhibition 2003, 1999 Finalist winner The Artist Magazine, a Best of Show in the 1999 Invitational American Plains Artist Show, Midland, Texas, Award of Excellence in the 1998 Regional Oil Painters of America Show, Arlington Heights, IL.
Kenn is a Master Signature member of the Oil Painters of America and a Signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America. He also served as President of the Plein-Air Painters of America from the year 2000 through 2001.
Kenn is one of fifty artists selected from across the country to participate in a traveling museum show titled “FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA”. The exhibit will open at the Haggin Museum, Stockton, CA in the Spring of 2004 and will travel across the country to various museums through 2006. The traveling exhibit is scheduled to conclude in 2006 at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Scottsdale, AZ.
Landscape Painting Demonstration in Oils – “Shaw Cove”
This painting was completed in July during the Sixth Annual Laguna Plein Air event in Laguna Beach, CA. I used a digital camera on-location to capture the painting during its various stages. I have various starts to my paintings. Depending upon the intricacy of the scene I may start with a more refined sketch or in this case I started with a loose oil paint/mineral spirits wash to define the masses. This beginning stage sets the pace as to the view point of the scene, the light and shadow masses and the positive and negative areas of the scene. The artist also needs to develop the focal point very soon or at least know where this will happen in the composition.
This second stage is very important; I have to develop the areas that are in shadow in relation to the areas that are in light. This area will be the secondary focal area of the painting. I already know where the main focal point will be, I just do not have time at this point to put it in. The plein air painter has to concern him or herself with the constant moving light. What is in shadow now may in ten minutes or less become filled with light so the artist needs to develop the painting with this in mind. Here I start to place paint in a more opaque fashion over the initial wash areas of light and shadow to establish the correct value and color temperature. The water area surrounding the rocks, are also given attention.
From the very beginning one of the things that caught my interest in this scene was the occasional wave action against the far rocks. This will be my main focal point, so in this stage I observe the waves for awhile to determine at what stage of the wave hitting the rocks, I want to portray. This is placed in along with developing the foundation of the ocean with the horizon line and placing in some of the sky value and color.
This is a refinement stage; my eyes continually scan the scene to see the harmony in the scene and to be sure of retaining that harmony in the painting. The sky is developed further with not value changes but subtle color temperature changes. More delicate attention to the subtle ocean colors with the suggestion of movement of waves. I also make understated additions to the rock area. Observing my tide chart I notice that the tide is going out so I will be aware of more rocks that will start to be exposed, this may be helpful in the finished composition.
This stage I continue to develop the subtleties of the ocean with additional light and dark values placed in certain areas to give the suggestion of waves and waves breaking on the rocks. I start to develop the shadowed foreground area in the lower left hand corner.
Here I give final attention to edges, softening some like the wave splash, giving the suggestion of wind and spray of the water. I review other areas to determine the edge quality and contrast of value, especial at the focal point. I develop more definition of rocks further out in the ocean as that tide recedes and a few indications of waves further out. The shadow area of the foreground is finished in the lower right hand corner. The very last stage is getting away from the painting for a while and looking at it with a fresh eye the next morning. Observing the painting in the studio away from the source allows me to see the painting for what it is. At this point I should have all the visceral response from the scene I need. Any refinements now are more design decisions, either simplifying or stating more boldly various areas of the painting. Sign it! and you’re off to start another.
Media: Oil/linen (Claessens oil, single primed no. 15)
Palette: Winsor Newton brand oil paint
Permanent Alizarin Crimson