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Meet the Artist

Keith Carter's punny, pop culture-inspired paintings



Keith Carter is a well-educated and experienced artist. He has attended Western Washington University studying fine art, been a member of the BFA program at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, and worked for the Ames Bros, a comical T-shirt company out of Seattle. I found Carter's art at last year's Stumptown Comic Festival and ended up purchasing several of his pieces including a pencil sketch of an asteroid rocketing toward a field full of dinosaurs, all of whom are drinking beer (sidebar, dinosaurs and beer happen to be two of my favorite things). With a style inspired heavily by film, sci-fi and saturated color, Carter now helps run a co-op gallery in Oldtown Portland called the Pony Club and is the Source Weekly's artist of the month. See more of his work at Bishops Barbershop downtown during the month of July, and year round, to see more of Keith's artwork please visit:

Source Weekly: How would you describe your work?

KC: I like to think that my artwork is somewhere in between fine art and illustration. I draw inspiration from both fields, but feel that in the art world they are often separated when they should be able to work together. There's hopefully a sense of storytelling in my work that relates to illustration, but I try to use classic techniques that relate more to painters from previous centuries.

SW: What is your medium?

KC: At this point I do almost all my work in acrylic, either on panel or on paper. I start with a really detailed pencil drawing and paint lots of layers on top of it for color.

SW: The content of your pieces are so do you choose what you draw, what inspires you?

KC: I draw inspiration from all over. There's a lot of nature in my work, as well as animals. I'm also hugely influenced by artists from the "Golden Age" of illustration like Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth.

SW: Does all of your work have a sense of humor?

KC: There's definitely a sense of humor that runs through most of my work. I enjoy creating fun art, but hopefully am able to have darker imagery as well without it feeling out of place. Some of my favorite artists, whether they're visual artists or filmmakers or musicians, they're all able to pull off the whole spectrum of emotions and have it still feel like their voice.

SW: We do movie series every year for the paper and have shown both Fantastic Mr. Fox and Gremlins so we thought it was hilarious that you have illustrations based on both of those movies. What inspires you about those films?

KC: Gremlins was one of my all time favorite films growing up, and probably a little piece of what inspired me to draw. I have a very vivid memory of ripping the ad for Gremlins out of the newspaper and working all night trying to draw a copy of it. As far as Fantastic Mr. Fox, it's gotta be one of the best family films in the last 10 years, and I love Wes Anderson.

SW: There's a sort of sci-fi element to a lot of your work. Where does that inspiration come from and what are some of your favorite sci-fi books, TV shows, artists etc?

KC: I've always been a fan of movies, I helped run an independent cinema in Bellingham right out of school, so there's definitely a cinematic frame of mind when I'm creating a painting. One of my favorite authors is Ray Bradbury, who is a huge influence. Favorite sci-fi movies would be a long list, but Gattaca, Alien and 12 Monkeys come to mind off the top of my head.

SW: I really like the animals with technology series. Can you tell me a little more about those paintings?

KC: I just feel like technology is so ingrained in our culture right now that it's hard not to get a little overwhelmed by it. I've had multiple times I'll be walking down the street and notice that every single person around me has their head down, staring into their phone. I guess my animals with technology is a comment on how saturated the world is with these devices, while also injecting a bit of humor in there as well.

SW: Can you tell me a bit more about the piece we are using on the cover, "Extended Family?"

KC: That piece is one of the stranger ones I've created. I started with a vague image in my head that I wanted to have an art nouveau style. Then it evolved to be more about our connection with nature, and the sense of history that we have with the earth.

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