Artist paints picture of career

“Sometimes artists aren’t born with natural talent.” At least, that’s what Carel Brest van Kempen told an Introduction to Graphic Design’s class Monday morning. Brest van Kempen is a painter who specializes in animals and nature.

“When I was your age, my art wasn’t very good,” he said.

Brest van Kempen said it wasn’t until he was in his late 20s that his art really started to be of quality. That’s when the art took the step up to be considered professional. Even then, he says his art doesn’t come naturally. He has to work at his art and redo it over and over.

Carel Brest van Kempen, master animal artist, speaks about his paintings Monday during his presentation. —Photo by Teri Robinson

Carel Brest van Kempen, master animal artist, speaks about his paintings Monday during his presentation. —Photo by Teri Robinson

After studying biology at the University of Utah, the Salt Lake City native decided painting is what he wanted to do.

Brest van Kempen said his art is a process. He can’t just sit down like some artists and whip out a masterpiece.

Step one of his process is getting an idea and drawing a series of thumbnails. He showed the class a picture of some thumbnails and said, “Any one of you in this room could do this.”

His second step is to gather reference material and use it to make sure his sketches are realistic. His reference materials could be photographs he’s taken, photographs online, live animals to look at, or even just part of the animal. He said he once had a shell of a turtle to look at while drawing his own picture of a turtle. He also said he always has rocks, sticks, and leaves on his desk to use as references.

The next step is to take his drawing and blow it up to the size he needs. He then uses watercolor brushes and techniques to bring his pictures to life. Brest van Kempen slowly brings values and colors to this subject, one thing at a time.

He said his paintings usually take a month to two months to complete.

Brest van Kempen also had some advice for young artists. He said to avoid uniformity as much as possible. In the real world, nothing is uniform so avoid that as much as you can in your art. He also said it’s important for artists to talk to people and find out who the important people are and get to know them. You have to prove to those people that you have drive, motivation, and “stick-to-it-ness.”

“It’s a pretty good life,” Brest van Kempen said. “The downside though, you have big paychecks, but you don’t know when the next one is coming. You go from spending like a drunken sailor, you know drinks on me, to living like a monk.”

Brest van Kempen also presented Monday night in the Sandoz Center where he had a book signing, and talked more in-depth about his artwork, and the animals in his paintings.

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