Art Kenyon is a 71-year-old artist from Red Wing. Thirteen years ago, Kenyon retired early from Red Wing Shoe Company and rented a studio at the Anderson Center. Due to his impatience, he said, he likes to work on several projects of varying mediums at one time. He said his biggest fear in life “is to be bored.” Kenyon specializes in drawing, painting and print-making.
Did you always plan on creating art after your retirement?
I always told myself that If I could ever retire early and get a little studio on the edge of town, then I would just play around, and that’s what I did.
Why do you engage in so many art mediums — drawing, painting, printmaking?
I enjoy staying active in various art mediums because, while each discipline requires a
separate set of skills and delivers its own distinctive images, there’s a sound continuity
of thought and interdependence of each technique that helps you see things from a
broader perspective. Ideas from one transfer to the other. For that reason, I like to be working
on several projects at a time. It allows you a wider range of thought and creative activity.
What appeals to you about drawing portraits?
For some reason, portraits really intrigue me. I think it’s because of the personal attachment you get. You draw the eyes, and all of a sudden, it becomes a friend, something quite personal. … At least once a year, and more so if I have time, I like to go in and expand the size, really get in there and work on some larger portraits. More than anything as a discipline. I want to see if I can hold the detail when it’s really up close. When you work on a portrait for six to eight weeks, you can see where you would have quite the relationship when you finish up.
You said after 35 years in the business world, it took you a couple of years to regain your skills. When did you start selling your work?
When did I start making money? Oh! It took a couple of years, but I was doing what I wanted to do. I spent my whole career at Red Wing Shoes in marketing looking at the customer’s wants and needs. How do you get the customers? How do you maintain good customer service, please the customer, get repeat business? In painting, I started out doing that, what I was trained to do, but it got messy. People kept telling me to be true to yourself, do what you want. I then realized I was retired. I wasn’t trying to make a million bucks. I was painting for self-gratification and to have a good time, so I started painting the stuff I wanted to paint.