Surrealist Painting with Texture
By Jean Cunningham
Ken Avick is a surrealist painter creating with acrylic and collage on canvas and paper.
When his oldest daughter moved out, Avick took over her second story area of the house and created an at-home art studio, and today he is also retired and can spend his time working at home doing what he loves the most, creating through painting. His studio is available during the day when it has good light. He also is often up-and-down to the studio during the evenings “…to do one more thing.”
His art has a narrative subject matter that he tells in a surreal manner. It is visual art with emotional content. It is not the usual paint on canvas style. Avick’s finished work is heavily textured with a strong three-dimensional appearance. He also creates custom frames for his paintings using a hand saw and nails. The frames have straight sides but are not rectangles. The irregular sides are a meaningful component of the painting compositions.
To begin his creative process, Avick develops a concept for a series of paintings, and then designs and paints them one by one. The most recent series, Pieta For Earth, features one image holding another image which can appear “lifeless”. Pieta For Earth has many distinct paintings with various elements of a single theme. Strong, intense color compliments the subject matter of this series.
Initially Avick creates pencil sketches of forms and how they will fit together. Then he creates a trial study on paper with color and spacing to validate the concept. At a recent Space 900 Gallery show, one of these trial studies was displayed along with the finished work. The trial might also be sold.
Next, the stretcher frame and canvas are assembled. Avick uses the non-rectangular canvases to help tell his message that “…things do not always have to be as they have been.” They also create additional tension for the images, which, in turn, often reflect his concerns about the state of the world in many realms like political, climate, health, justice, etc.
With a canvas prepared, Avick sketches his images in pencil, and then draws dark outlines of the forms.
To create texture, a strong component of his style, he cuts numerous small canvas pieces, and then glues them to the main canvas creating “…hills and valleys.” This step is technically easy and gives him creative momentum beginning the piece. Cutting and drying of the glued pieces takes 2-3 days.
Then he starts applying color. Painting from the darks in the backgrounds to the lights in the foreground. The paint itself is also a source of texture as he applies it, gouging and layering it as he goes. He uses a brush and a slender stick applying very delicate lines in some areas and large swatches of color in others. The last elements he paints are white figures in the foreground that he shapes using color—white, blue and grey—creating visual depth.
Like many artists at this point, Avick steps back and reflects on the painting for several days, tweaking as needed, until it shows itself to be complete.
If you would like to learn more about Ken Avick and his work, you can go to his website https://kenavick.com or to his Evanston Made bio at https://evanstonmade.org/projects/ken-avick/ . Seeing the work in person is valuable to really appreciate his dramatic texture. Avick often shows at Space 900 https://space900.org/home.html where he is a member, so you may want to sign up for their emails to see when his work will be presented. Or contact Ken directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to see some of the work in real life.
Jean Cunningham is retired after a career in business management and finance. She has written three books and authored many articles in her field, was a speaker at conferences, and taught at the university level. While traveling for business she began painting and drawing for relaxation and collecting art. She and her husband have lived in Evanston for 11 years and are avid walkers of the town and lakeside. She has a BS from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University.