Inspiration in Key West | Art Q&A with Jim Klein

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” ~Dr. Seuss

On occasion, inspiration will strike. Some say it can come from anywhere. Others say inspiration will arrive at the very same time you sit down to work. In this instance, it could be said inspiration all started with a sandwich.

Abstract painter Jim Klein relayed the original inspiration and story behind the four paintings he calls The Key West Series: Cuban Sandwich Delivery, Interloop, Blur, and 5 Brothers.

What is the story behind this series?
Jim: The inspiration for the first painting – Cuban Sandwich Delivery – has evolved over some time through communication with my dear friend, Bob, who lives in Key West, Florida.

During our many talks, he’s shared with me how he enjoys riding his bike to a favorite sandwich shop in town. I asked him the next time he visits his shop to take a moment and snap a photograph of his bike next to the deli, which he did.

The photograph is very representative of Key West; lots of teal and light, bright colors. I really noticed in the photo Bob’s wonderful, blue beach cruiser, complete with a basket. You can even see inside the basket was a white paper bag holding his sandwich.

From there, this photo had become a fixture in my mind. Bob’s bike really spoke to me. As I prepared the first painting, I used a teal wash to start with my intention to create a texture. From memory I studied the canvas; that’s when the geometry of the bicycle stuck out to me. From there I started with the pallet knife, a deep ultramarine paint and Cuban Sandwich Delivery emerged.

From this same paint pool, I carried on the Key West theme in which several other paintings arrived. The next was Interloop. I started with a soft wash that turned out quite well, but the painting felt empty with just the background; I knew this wasn’t going to work alone. The painting sat for quite a while and I had to take a moment away.

Later in the evening on that day I could envision some movement. Immediately, I grabbed my brushes and the loops appeared. The second painting in the Key West Series was complete.

After completing Cuban Sandwich Delivery and Interloop, I had quite a lot of paint left over. I struggled initially with this next painting on the first go-round; there was just too much green. While completing my peripheral art from the same paint pool, I was able to mix other paints in and Blur became complete. This painting in particular quite interesting; it looks actually blurry. Almost like you have to focus your eyes on it or you need to grab your glasses. I’m looking forward to the comments visitors will have on it.

The last painting in this series is 5 Brothers. As you can see, I carried on the tropical Key West theme with cool teal and light yellow tones. Bob’s photograph of the little sandwich shop was just so captivating; what better way to pay homage than in an abstract painting? If you go to Key West and find yourself in front of 5 Brothers, you should stop in. It’s a small family-owned business and Bob highly recommends their sandwiches.

What does it mean that these paintings “came from the same paint pool?”
Jim: This is just referring to my paint palette used. This works in tandem with my peripheral art process; I really do not like to waste paint, so in order to minimize waste I will set up multiple canvases in my work area. These canvases will share a paint pool, meaning paint used on one canvas and having leftovers, I’ll carry on to another canvas.

Did you intend to create a Key West theme?
Jim: No, this was a happy spontaneous event arising from the shared paint pool. Bob’s photograph was truly inspirational and now anyone can have a little piece of Key West in their home.

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