Art student starts at the root

If ever there were an exceptional artist sowing the seeds for a career, Kevin Temple would be it. What sets him apart from the mainstream art student is his talent and desire to take the time to create a foundation, learning from the bottom up. To fulfill this desire, Temple decided to take art classes and pursue a BFA degree at UAA.

After spending years drifting across America, picking up odd jobs and waiting tables, 39-year-old Temple became interested in painting after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks. The attacks especially affected Temple because, having grown up in New Jersey, he remembers watching the twin towers being built.

“I realized after the attacks that I needed to stop wasting my time with jobs that go nowhere,” Temple said. “Life is too short. We cannot afford to put off our dreams and aspirations.”

Temple recognized that painting is a way he could contribute to society and live a more fulfilling life. He had been doodling all his life but decided that he would switch gears and take some classes at UAA.

“Pursuing painting gives me a sense of completion,” Temple said. “I have always been artistically inclined and many people have told me that I should seek out a career in art. For the past 15 years of my life I feel I have been dormant, always thinking one day that I might become a serious artist.”

Since starting school two years ago, Temple’s work quickly reached high levels. His paintings immediately captivate the viewer because of their large size and clarity. Each painting is enhanced with detail at the finest level and has a timeless quality. His work stands out because of his traditionalist approach.

“Before you start to paint, it is important to first learn fundamentals such as how colors work or how shadows exist and learn to draw very well,” Temple said. “Because if you don’t know how the fundamentals work then you won’t know how to properly paint and your art work is going to be mediocre.”

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When Temple started Beginning Painting at UAA he was puzzled that the teacher was advising students to paint using their emotion and break new molds making political or offensive messages. Temple’s philosophy is that one needs to first become a skilled painter before trying to break any new molds.

“I want to learn how to paint perfectly, paint like da Vinci and only then will I think about breaking the boundaries,” Temple said. “I don’t need to create artwork that offends, there is already enough offensive stuff in the world.”

Not that Temple isn’t capable of creating a painting with a controversial message. For one of his assignments, Temple created a painting of a Muslim tearing out pages of the Koran.

“I actually bought a Koran, made paper airplanes from the pages of the Koran and glued them to my painting,” Temple said. “The teacher wouldn’t hang it in the Arts Building hall because she said it was too offensive.”

Temple mostly stays clear of offensive painting believing that first one must become a successful painter and have a career.

“The people who are truly famous for their art work, they don’t offend at first,” he said. “They work on perfecting painting before trying to break molds. Look at Picasso who broke the mold but didn’t originally set out to offend.”

For now, Temple is busy concentrating more on trying to learn how to paint like a master and develop a professional body of work. Temple has become enamored with creating large watercolors using 300-pound paper. His paintings have a photorealism quality and resonate with purity.

Temple spends hours working out sketches for precision paying special attention to the most minute details and placement. Temple’s paintings are so precise you do not even realize that they are watercolors. To demonstrate his attention to detail, Kevin pulled from his portfolio a watercolor of weeds entangled with driftwood from Cook Inlet. Each vein and crack in the soft grey wood had been drawn out and the painting looked as if it were a real photograph.

Much of Temple’s work involves aspects of nature.

“I am attracted to scenes involving strong clear light, that will cast strong shadows for subject matter,” he said. “My work is drawn from the realism of nature, but the overall pattern sometimes creates a sort of abstraction.”

Temple’s work catches the eye with its lucid accuracy and then draws the viewer in to notice the detail. The feeling you get when on a summer hike in the mountains that everything is beautiful and perfect is the same feeling you get when walking away from a painting done by Temple.

Each piece of work has a detailed story behind it. In one painting of a bright yellow sunflower with dark shadows, a story of threat unfolds.

“The colors yellow and black are warning colors in nature, for example hornets,” he said.

Floating across the sunflower are bubbles in which death, cloaked in black, poses threateningly with a reaper to cut down the sunflower and make a once colorful field into a drab brown.

One of Temple’s chief inspirations has come from UAA art professor Gary Mealor.

“Mealor is one of the best teachers and one of the hardest but I’ve learned the most from him,” Temple said.

Mealor is also one of the few people who paints watercolors on a large scale.

Temple continues to focus on the big picture and is in no rush to graduate.

“I don’t want my work to get lost in the masses,” he said. “And of course I want to be able to sell my paintings at high prices.”

Temple’s ultimate goal is to break into the New York City scene and have a gallery shown. Temple has already recently made a trip to the Big Apple to check out different galleries.

“If you want to be a professional and get six figures you have to get a gallery in New York,” said Temple. “It’s a close knit group and I found out that they don’t take Alaskans very seriously. One guy even mentioned that I had a lot of balls even approaching his gallery with no experience to ask him questions. Unless you live in NYC they won’t take your show.”

Meanwhile, Temple is continuing to develop his professional body of work while attending school part time and working full time.

“I feel proud of my work so far but I also know that I am nowhere near where I want to be in my level of painting,” said Temple. “Maybe in five years I will have a portfolio ready for a gallery,” laughed Temple. “And in ten years I’ll graduate!”


For more information you can logon to Kevin Temple’s Web site at