Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Newsletter

Dear family and friends,
Yep, I’m still alive! Sorry that I stepped off the planet for 3 years. So much has gone on in that short period: it’s been a mini life-time! 

So, here’s my brief update:
In May 2016, I retired from full time teaching (finishing that up at College Heights Christian School in Joplin was like going out with a bang...a happy bang!). Then, for some odd reason, I decided to complete my MFA back at Fontbonne University in St. Louis. I stayed at the home of Gordon & Jean Shaw again (just like 30 years prior to that, for Seminary) and grew to love and appreciate them even more.

I also went back to working part time at a Michaels store, but this time in Chesterfield, MO. Hmmm, let’s see, full time enrollment in a Masters program and 16-20 hrs/wk part time framing...that’s not enough! That’s right, prior to that, in April of 2016, I bought 12 acres of land in Western Kentucky to start a hobby farm.
The property search for the hobby farm began a couple of years earlier. I was looking for 10 or more acres, with a Southern facing slope (into which a solar powered earth home could be dug/built), with some natural water source available (or at least the potential for such), in the country and yet with easy access to a building supply center, and somewhere in either central Missouri or Western Kentucky (being that most of my contacts have been around St. Louis, MO or Paducah, KY over the recent years).
Even though the Missouri possibilities outnumbered the Kentucky ones 20:1, I found the right piece of land, for a good price, off a country road, just a 5 minute drive from the Lowes home improvement store in Mayfield, KY. I’ve called the property Dabar: a Hebrew word that means both “promise” and “wilderness”, thus...promised land

With the help of some members from Christ the King church in Joplin, I moved everything to the building site (a gravel pad at the end of a gravel driveway already on the property). Pretty meager accommodation, but only for one weekend/month while living at the Shaw’s. I hired out someone to bush hog the land in my absence (overgrown with hay and prairie grass some 6’ tall). 

The lay of the land is gently rolling with 4 wooded and 8 open acres. The building site is set back from the county road by about a quarter mile. In addition to the gravel access, the property came with an old milking barn and tobacco barn. It has a low lying area that feeds a wet-weather creek, which will be turned into a one acre pond a couple of years from now. 

Finding an all purpose tractor was the next step. Ended up with a 1974 John Deere 68hp with front loader and backhoe (left: dug a 8’ deep hole for a septic tank). I then had a deep water well
installed and hired a Mennonite contractor to build, and drop  off, a 13x32 foot outbuilding. In the Fall of 2016, I planted  20 pecan trees (2 year old pre-grafted saplings of the Kansa
cultivar). Roger, a good friend since my first stay in Paducah, helped with the planting and then later with installing the irrigation system. 

I purchased and erected a 6 panel solar array to operate the well pump and supply power for the future temp cabin. I dug a hole for a 700gal residential cistern and then, in 2017, had the same Mennonite contractor build and drop off another “out building” with doors and windows. This one was a 16x40ft structure that would be converted into the temp cabin. 

At the end of that Summer ’17, I moved everything down from the Grand Haven storage unit (guys from Covenant Life church helping on that end and others from New Geneva church on this end!). Cabin conversion began and, in late October, I planted 10 more pecan trees (Pawnee, a cross pollinating cultivar). The 1st harvest of 5 pecans came about 2 years early, in Oct. 2018! I’ll have to get a bee hive going in a year or two, at this rate, to help with cross pollination. 

In the mean time, I had enrolled at West Kentucky Community and Technical College to get a degree in Residential Electrical. I felt that I was adequate with regard to general construction, carpentry, and plumbing. But, the electrical training would help me in wiring the cabin and other electrical projects. That two semester full-time load earned me the title of an Electrician Trainee Level II...enough to get the job done! 

I wasn’t able to get everything done with the cabin in time for Winter and I got froze out. I mean it was record breaking cold for the area and I didn’t have all of the insulation installed and only a little wood burning stove with which to heat. Water supply froze, water heater froze, toilet froze, faucets froze, and the last straw, my spare water jugs froze! I ended up living at my church in Paducah for the month of January ’18. 

For 2018, I’ve been tweaking the off-grid power supply, bought a portable propane furnace (with thermostat so that I can leave it on for extended periods of deep freeze), and have started making plans for constructing the earth home. But, that project has been put on hold for another year due to the fact that I totaled my Toyota Matrix by hitting a deer and had to use funds to purchase a replacement car. However, I am planning on a couple of smaller construction projects for this coming Summer. 

Teaching, Art, and more
I went back to teaching as an adjunct professor of art at West Kentucky Community and Technical College this past Fall. Two Art Appreciation courses there and another of the same at a community college in Tennessee.
In addition, last year, I returned to teaching art (and CAD) through the Veritas Home School Christian Co- operative. We are currently meeting at my church, New Geneva Community Church, in Paducah. I also serve as an elder in that church. 

I’ve managed to fit a little bit of art tutoring into my schedule as well. What I haven’t made time for is art production. There’s a small studio space in my cabin, but it’s not heated. So, even when I do get around to restarting making art, my painting will have to be limited to the warmer months of the year. 

I’ve not maintained my bicycle touring (or riding, for that matter!), with the
exception of a four state corner loop one Summer while living in Joplin, and
a late Spring ”jaunt” in Nevada and North Dakota (to check those states off
my list). Yes, that’s snow in Northern Nevada. All that remains, of the 48 contiguous, are the five Northern most of the New England states. 

I have continued on as a part time framer with the Paducah Michaels store, in just a token sort of way (a little during Christmas breaks and Summers).

Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!                  Kevin

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Erin's exhibit

Erin, a former home school co-op art student of mine from a few years ago, has some of her watercolor pieces on exhibit at a venue in Paducah, KY. She enjoys recreating small town building front elevations as a favorite inspiration.
Erin is finishing her first year in an art program at SEMO in Cape Girardeau, MO.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Newfresco Website

It's been long overdue, but I finally updated my website. I had built the old one through iWeb, which hasn't existed for a few years (hence, not being able to edit it). Just used the free 5-page Godaddy wedbuilder which comes with my account there. Not very smart phone friendly, but...hey! Check it out, if you like:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Exhibit at Illinois Central College

I had a great opportunity to put up a one artist exhibit at this University; a jewel of an institution, tucked away in the less than appealing city of Peoria. Show is up through the rest of this month.
On site with Stephany, Gallery Director.

My work on the West Kentucky farm and off-grid cabin has taken all of my extra time. No art production at all since graduation from Fontbonne. However, my cabin does have a studio space included in it and I'm hoping to get back to my artistic creativity by this Summer.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Well, I did it! Finally got that MFA...even though it took me 30 years! The intensity of the year has left me exhausted (dealing with stage two of a 2 week long cold). Although I won't be able to maintain the level of production attained over this year, I will keep it up and will share more likely monthly postings on the blog.
It was such a joyous time waiting and waiting... and waiting in the SLU gym in preparation for the graduation ceremony.

Colleagues Rebecca and Jennifer in the background.

There I am in the second row on the left side. Not a huge graduating class, when you consider it includes both under graduate and graduate students.

Here are am with my host "parents" Jean and Gordon. If it weren't for their generous provision and assistance, none of this would have happened.

I was thinking of becoming a Dominican Monk (use the handle "Friar Myer")

I'm going to revisit this piece: cut the right side off and add pencil diagrams of a generic family tree chart in the open space in the lower central section. Got to work quickly on this seeing that I'd like to enter it into a regional competition by tomorrow's deadline!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Final Stretch!

I'll start start a new set of images here. Plus, I'll carry over any further progress on pieces featured in the last post. And I just realized that I've been neglecting my ceramics class. So, here's the first pic:

It shows fellow student Misha under a plaster mold for future
face mask slip castings which I'll use in clay sculptures, as well as being incorporated into one of my paintings.
Scott showed up for moral support.

Here's the immediate extraction-1st casting. When bisque fired, these look spooky real!

DISCLAIMER: do not try this at home! No matter how exciting you think it would be to make a plaster mold/cast of your friend's face. I have disaster  stories of students who tried it on their own (eg., a trip to the ER!).


As promised, here's a set from my ongoing fossil series in ceramics class.

Here's the next step of that other "fun" abstract piece I started a couple of weeks ago. It's all about industrial image of mechanic/speed; sort of retro futurism (now that's an odd pair of words!) within a 1950's design formula.

I did some shade/glazing over it to define forms and clarify the "motorcycle" parts. Low level challenge with simple satisfaction.

 I've done a bit more with that Mayan portrait set against a raised abstract environment. I was somewhat limited by the composition, but it has worked out quite well, none-the-less.
Just needs another glazing or two.
Yep, still working on that ecorche! Leg and arm at this point.

More development on that landscape painting from Castlerock Park.

Other antics in the ceramic classroom: Misha accepted a dare to bite a piece off of Hannah's Gollum figure (to get a reality effect).

Not sure if I'll be able to finish this painting of the little falls at Creve Coeur Park.

There's a better chance of finishing this painting of the Page Overpass at Creve Ceour Park. Just one more week...all critiques, all classes. Everything has to be done!

For the most part, the ecorche male figure is complete. Just need to smooth everything out.
This course was the most beneficial one of the semester!
I'm planning on making a mold/cast of it in latex, later in May.

I used a scrap of lauan, sized it, and put some of my KY clay over it as a support for this little landscape oil painting. I'm going to spread some highlights on the raised texture portions with a roller.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Spring Semester Production

Hopefully, this post will grow like the previous. Except, I will try to limit the step-by-step development of pieces and focus on finished pieces (so much for that attempt!)
I have some old, very large panels that need to be "used up". So, I fell back on my preferred stand-by on this 40x60 inch panel: non-representational abstract imagery. Oh, that's just plain FUN! I think that I will glaze some on this piece, simply to create a sense of depth on the picture plane.
It may be hard to see, but I've altered this piece a bit, adding a steam freighter, then turning it into a refinery, then cutting out sections where ceramic fossil tiles can be attached. Not sure if I should go back to the ship subject.

And another large "fun" abstract piece is underway!  

  I will be adding a few extra steps to the Pisa Portrait and thought that it would be best to re-post the "sealed" stage and show the progress that is made from week to week. I'm trying to glaze with acrylics this time: you have to really move quickly and restore highlights almost immediately. One advantage that I've noticed is that the plaster texture shows through with greater clarity than when glazing with oils.
Finished image for now (awaiting group critique next week). By the way, if you haven't already figured it out, it's "God photo bombing my selfie at the Leaning Tower of Pisa."

Here's an old piece that I revisited, selecting an image suggested in the abstraction and turning it into a ballerina on stage, complete with stage lights.

Here are some pics of early progress on my generic male figure for 3D-Ecorche class.



Here is an example of what I'm doing in landscape painting (a scene from Queeny Park in West County St. Louis). Just the second level of under-painting. Oh, I had to glaze white over almost everything to convey "fog", and darken the pond. The heavy stuff goes on next week (really!).
I may deepen the look of the water, but it's pretty much finished.

And I've started a second landscape, this one from a photo of the bluffs at Castlewood State Park.

Also, I decided that this older painting, in its previous state, had too clear of an edge around the human figure. So, I broke it up and softened the water boarder at the bottom.