Ewan Keenan is an artist from Grantham, graduated from Camberwell College of Arts and now based in Leeds. Using a range of materials including acrylic, gouache, salt and sand, he “endeavours to capture emotions of everyday people”. In this interview, Ewan tells me about his creative process, why he rejects what he was taught at art school and why he would love to have a pint with Francis Bacon.
What is your creative process like?
My process is quite a natural one. There doesn’t tend to be much thought originally. Most of the time, a quick idea pops into my head and I just get stuck in. I rarely work with preparatory sketches and ideas unless it is a commission.
Which artist would you most like to meet?
Wow… now that is a tough one. I would find it fascinating to speak to Artemisia Gentileschi. She is one of my favourite artists from the 17th century and I would love to hear from her how it must have been as a woman in the art world during the Baroque period, and how she managed to overcome those obstacles.
With regards to understanding someone’s work, Peter Paul Reubens would be good to listen to. An artist way ahead of his time and the scenes he creates are sensational, I never get bored of his works. Someone I’d love to have a pint with is Francis Bacon, I know he was a boozer so he’d be able to recommend some cracking pubs in London.
You write that you “endeavour to capture the emotions of everyday people”. What influences took you to that subject in particular?
I believe it is so important for me to just be able to capture ordinary, everyday people. I am fascinated by people and faces so it is just my go-to for my art practice.
Is there an experience in your life that has altered the way you look at art, or perhaps the way you view yourself as an artist?
No particular experience. For a long time I disregarded old masters as they could be quite intimidating. Art school was awful at making us understand the old masters and I feel they completely ignored the greats and only taught us about conceptual nonsense.
I worked for an art dealer for a small period of time just helping him with auctions, research and other small jobs and he dealt in Old Masters, Ancient Jewellery etc. Being surrounded by these historical pieces made me appreciate and respect artworks from previous history a lot more. It’s a major part of my learning now.
Do you have an essential philosophy that guides you in your creative expression?
The audience is a huge part of my work. There’s a real sense of exclusivity in the art world with conceptual art distancing itself from the masses. I hate this bubble. I want everyone, not just those in the art bubble, to appreciate my paintings.
It’s written that you “pay particular attention to looking at the state of Britain within the wider scope of the world be it good or bad”. If you were to design a new artwork to depict the state of Britain today, what might it include?
A painting of all the smiles on people’s faces on June 21st, 2021 when all pubs reopen haha…