Thursday, May 9, 2013

Creativity Blog # 3, Artist Ken Christensen

 Welcome to creativity blog #3, this one featuring California based painter Ken Christensen.  I have always been a great fan of Ken's work, and I even have one of his paintings hanging on the wall of our family room - alongside the best works of my artist friends.  Ken has an extensive body of work and throughout his paintings I have always felt that he was one of the best at striking a near perfect 'tension of details', as I like to call it.  By that I mean he adds just enough detail to preserve the visual scene, but his works still show traces of the joyful spontenaiety of a sketch.  Ken was integral in the creation of the "New Fauves" group of artists - which I might add is the only group of artists that I have formally affilliated myself with in my entire art career.  This is a group of painters who all feel their roots in Fauvism and Expressionism - who sense, as I do, the great debt that we owe to artists like Van Gogh and the Fauvist painters that followed him.  I was also delighted to find that Ken knew of and appreciated the work of my mentor and friend, the artist Jean-Claude Quilici.

Here is the Q and A with Ken, enjoy!

Ken Christensen
Artist - Writer

1) What personal habits do you have that you feel make you more creative?

One of the things that keeps me creative is going for long walks. Everything you need to know is in nature. Nature reveals its secrets slowly so you have to be patient. You can pass by the same scene many times but at one special moment a new vision of the same thing can be revealed. It's impossible to find a subject to paint by driving around in a car. I have to see things on foot, one step at a time. And in art light is always the real subject. So at every time of day, when the light is different there is always a different subject. There can be nothing at one time of day to paint and at another time when the sun is in a different position something remarkable may reveal itself.
We are always standing on the shoulder of giants and most good ideas spring out of something earlier by someone else.
Another habit that feeds my creativity is sketching. Sketching is art in its purest form. When I sketch I'm not thinking of sales or finished work; I'm just having fun. When you're having fun, good things happen. When I sketch I am being more personal in what I choose to portray. It is the personal in art that really sets the greats apart. One must have a unique vision and art succeeds as much as you are being yourself. Sketching whatever catches your eye allows this personal vision to flourish.

2) Who are the creative artists, in any field, that inspire you the most?

I'm a huge Neil Young fan. In literature Henry Miller has had a huge influence on me. In art, Van Gogh has been my hero since childhood, not only for his art but for his life and convictions. His letters are one of the great works of world literature and very inspiring. The artist I've known personally that has influenced me the most is my friend Manuel Gil in Paris. Manuel is Spanish but has lived in Paris thirty years or more. He showed me what a true artist is. He has an energy and enthusiasm for art that I have rarely encountered. It reminds me of what I know of Picasso who could create art out of anything, by picking up whatever was at hand. Manuel turned me on to other techniques like woodblock printing, pastel portraits, monotypes, and other things. Like Picasso, Manuel is also an original thinker with surprising opinions on a wide range of subjects. He is a wild bohemian but also a true nobleman who has a sensitivity and insight beyond the majority.

3)  What do you do when you are not feeling creative?  Or - how to you get yourself back to a point where you are feeling creative?

As I was saying, the first step in trying to find the urge to paint or some creativity is to go for a long walk. A very long walk will always sort things out. The other thing I do is to switch techniques. If I'm getting burned out or bored with oil painting I will switch to watercolor for a week or weeks. I also go back to sketching , the source for all further creative endeavors. Lastly, if I'm still stuck I will force myself to do something. Just working will release my creative juices. Without fail I always feel better by doing something, anything. Just doing something will snap you out of your lethargy and get the juices flowing.

4)  What are some creative outlets that you enjoy outside your own respective creative field?

I write. I've written five books. I just finished another one, "Between the Covers: Reading, Writing, and Romance" which is a memoir told through my connection to books, reading, collecting, running a bookstore, and writing.

5)  For someone who has talent in a creative field, how would you suggest they go about converting that talent into something original - something that stands out from the crowd?

As I said, great art is always personal. It sounds too simple but the ultimate advice is to be yourself. Trust yourself that your idle thoughts are worthy of developing. There is room at the top for any style in any field if it is original. It depends if your goal is to create art or to make money. They are often very different. In terms of creativity and quality art then one must trust oneself and do whatever you damn please.


Official website:

New Fauves website: