A ‘self-taught’ painter—but also a student of the old masters

“Loose Grapes” (8×10 inches, oil on panel)

Port Clyde artist Kenneth Schweizer is now a year-round resident of our St. George community who is starting a career as a professional artist. In the artist statement on his website (kennethschweizer.com) he says, “Self-taught, my art education has been built upon years of dedicated practice, observation of nature and people, study of masters, reading and traveling.” As a “self-taught” painter in oils and producer of graphite drawings, Schweizer joins the ranks of other similarly labeled artists such as Grandma Moses, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Horace Pippin. However, the term “self-taught,” which means untrained in the classical sense, seems a misnomer when it comes to Schweizer.

Most of us on the peninsula are familiar with Schweizer’s father, Robert, a retired physician who is now an accomplished oil painter in his own right. The elder Schweizer introduced his son to art museums around the world when Kenneth was a boy. There he was exposed to many of the greatest artworks in history. When asked which of the old masters most influenced his work, Schweizer responds, “I take equally from all of them. I look at the masters, and, if you really study their work and why they were successful, you learn volumes.”

Growing up in West Hartford, Connecticut, Schweizer spent his summers in Port Clyde at the family cottage. His childhood relationship to the village brought him back less than a year ago to live full-time. After he graduated from high school, Schweizer attended George Washington University to study television and radio communication. He eventually transferred to Boston University and graduated in 1993 credentialed and ready to enter the film production industry. An opportunity opened up in Los Angeles in a small company engaged in the post-production of television commercials. While there, Schweizer learned editing and eventually became an assistant editor who was well on his way to the full position. However, only in his 20s at the time, Schweizer didn’t see a future for himself in the industry and left. The next few decades were spent moving between coasts engaged in various odd jobs as the strong lure of making art full-time beckoned him. Schweizer explains that, “Painting is all me, unlike film making,” where others take on various roles that contribute to the final product. Instead, he wanted to create work that was entirely his own.

“Over the years, I’d paint here and there,” Schweizer recalls. “And, every time I got back into it I became more and more interested. It was like a ‘calling.’ ” He completed one painting at age ten, another at twenty, and more when he reached thirty. Now Schweizer paints full-time. The subjects of his creations range from still life and landscapes to imagined female figures. Although he learned traditional techniques from the works of the old masters, Schweizer departs from them through his own unique voice and style. “Art is very cathartic and enriching,” he exclaims. As he says on his website, “I strive to make art that honors emotion, beauty and sensitivity.”

Schweizer’s work will be featured in an exhibition at the Camden National Bank in Rockland during the month of July and also in a joint show with his father at the Granite Gallery in Tenants Harbor from August 1-7.

In the future, he plans to hold exhibitions at his studio in Port Clyde. As one of the newest members of the St. George art community, we welcome him! ­­—Katharine Cartwright

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