Kenneth Bischoff Baxter was born in San Diego, California in 1944. He is known as a plein-air landscape painter and as a painter-teacher who instructed many art students and painters. He lives in Salt Lake City.
Baxter earned a BFA from the University of Utah where Alvin Gittins, a portraitist, and Frank Ericson, a landscapist, were his mentors. He later earned an MFA from Utah State University. Baxter began his professional career as a traditional-realist known for his paintings of the historical reconstructions of downtown Salt Lake City. His works reveal his talent for composition and brushwork. After being influenced by LeConte Stewart, he began to paint his immediate outdoor environment.
As founder of the plein-air school in Utah, Baxter influencted the aesthetic lives of many Utah artists. Baxter's paintings Sheds Near Herriman (1991), Gloxinia No. 2(1981), Truck Farm (1970), and Mecham's Boots (1973), his first attempt at realism, are featured in the Springville Museum of Art permanent collection.
Biographical information on this page was adapted from the Springville Museum of Art
Ken Baxter began painting at the age of 12 and has not been distracted from painting since! Although he was born in 1944 in San Diego during WWII, he grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he began studying art in the seventh grade. By the ninth grade, he was winning first place in state-wide competitions. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. While teaching high school he also attended the Utah State University where he earned his Master of Fine Arts. Even though teaching had its compensations, his love of painting and his unshakable determination to make art his career prompted him to leave teaching and become a full-time artist.
Throughout his career, Ken has continually experimented with new approaches to his painting. Successfully mastering a style and, as a result, successfully selling his works have not stopped him from trying new methods or changing his techniques. As a matter of fact, whenever he finds himself comfortable in a style or technique, he plunges himself again into exploring new and challenging concepts. He thrives on testing and playing with unique color combinations and compositions, refining his work but keeping it vibrant and fresh.
Currently, his favorite approach to painting is the "plein-air" mode. Without knowing this term, Ken was already practicing this technique as a 14-year-old art student, painting outdoors in below-zero temperatures and huddling in blankets to keep warm. The technique requires facing challenging weather conditions, responding perceptively to the imitate environment, and maintaining intense concentration.
The plein-air (open air) technique was started about 1870 by the Barbazon School in France and was carried on and perfected by the French Impressionists. Today, very few painters actually work plein-air. Unlike studio painting, which affords plenty of time to compose and paint scenes, the goal of plein-air artists is to record quickly the essentials of the scene and to represent the effects of atmosphere and light that cannot be observed in the studio. As he stated in an introductory letter to Vern Swanson at the Springville Museum of Art, "today, very few painters actually work in the plein-air for several reasons. The environmental conditions are complex, and unpredictable weather creates challenges such as fly-away canvases, frozen fingers, heatstroke, dust, rain, etc. Also, the goal is to capture the essence of a place as it presents itself during a given time frame. The constant movement of sunlight requires the artist to quickly record this impression, while continually keeping in mind design, surface quality, spontaneous brushwork, effects of the atmosphere, and the quality of light. Quite a challenge!"
Ken's approach is done with spontaneous and vigorous brushwork. With crisp strokes and painterly assurance, he effectively captures his favorite genre subjects in an impressionistic and airy manner. His expertise, keen sense of mood, and sensitivity to the atmosphere enables him to "pin down" the season, the time of day, and even the temperature of his work. Of painting outdoors, Ken says, "although weather conditions do cause difficulties, they also present the unexpected opportunities which create the distinct qualities achieved only by plein-air. A good painter should provide the viewer with a feeling that makes the invisible visible; a feeling that elevates the common place to the poetic."
His desire to understand people and his love of different cultures has inspired him to travel throughout the U.S., much of Europe, Canada, Mexico, and parts of Indonesia. Scenes of familiar and intimate aspects of everyday life, at home as well as abroad, interest him and intimate scenes are the ones that he most often captures on canvas. Mecham's Boots is one of these private glimpses-a pair of old boots, a leather suitcase, and an old trunk in a seemingly casual heap, but making a composition as careful as any still life. The triangular shapes, warm brown tones, and accurately rendered textures create a strongly unified work, kept from passivity by the many diagonal lines and the varied shapes of the hinges, locks, and other details.
The popularity of Ken Baxter's work is attested to in that he has won numerous prestigious regional and national awards and that his art has appeared in many national publications. He has exhibited throughout the West and in Europe and has placed over 1500 paintings in private, corporate, and permanent museum collections.
Biography Courtesy Springville Museum of Art
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