TED KELLER - (American b. 1946-)
Ted Keller is a career artist from Midcoast Maine who keeps a home there, but now resides primarily in New Mexico. For the first 30+ years of his professional life, Ted made and sold ceramic pottery and sculpture while teaching college level art classes at Oregon State University, the University of Maine, and the Rockport Photographic Workshops (now Maine Media). At age 53 he gave up ceramics and started to work as a painter.
Ted worked in oil for a couple of years. He made about 100 paintings, and then put them away. After complete immersion in the exploration of oil, Ted switched to watercolor and stuck with it for 14 years. His subject matter ranged from cityscapes to portraits of deceased artists and proportionally playful interiors with people. Ted is enviably competent in all subject matter, and the style is cohesive and easy to recognize. The images are loose, directly painted, colorful, full of life and sometimes a little quirky.
“Twenty years after my original foray into painting, my original works in oil resurfaced while organizing my studio in Maine. I felt that my voice had made its presence in a few of these paintings. The brush strokes seemed confident and the paintings had life. They are mostly plein air works of the landscape around my Maine home, but they were expressive and they inspired me to start painting in oil again. I returned to New Mexico where still life flower paintings, lush landscapes, and gritty paintings of the streets of NYC emerged.”
“As you look at my paintings here are a few thoughts that might help. I work quickly. I trust my hands more than my mind. I do not care what I paint as much as how I paint. This allows me freedom to paint whatever interests me at the time. The paintings proceed without much revision. I have mostly worked in watercolor which does not often reward reworking. I have discovered that my paintings do not get better with more time, endless refinements, and worry. I make paintings spontaneously for better or worse and move on to the next one. I approach the oil paintings in the same way as the watercolors, though the detail work in the urban landscapes is labor intensive. I am more interested in the process of art than the product, and for that reason I believe I can make a good painting when that freedom brings everything together.”
This group of New York City oil paintings is Ted’s latest body of work. These paintings have been created from the hundreds of photos that he took while visiting the city. Some are from a single photo, but most are compilations of several photos. Like the streets, buildings, and people of New York City itself, these paintings are full of life as seen through the undeniable, fantastical eye of Ted Keller.
“ ‘Down Bowery Street, NYC’ is a large and lively compilation of five views and three streets, looking downtown on a fresh summer day full of sunshine, birds, traffic and pedestrians of all ages, colors and stripes. Like all of Keller’s images, whether day or night, it is cheerful, festive, full of joy. A flock of birds flaps into a sky full of little splashes of color that open up space like confetti at a parade. The day feels typically real though, not a holiday, except that you feel like Sinatra singing, 'Start spreading the news — New York, New York!”
Alan Crichton for THE FREE PRESS
Ted began his fascination with New York City when he lived there for several years as a young child. As an adult, his fascination grew during the 30 years that he sold his works in clay at Lincoln Center and at the Park Avenue Armory. After decades as a practicing professor of art, and an artist, Ted became inspired to begin a body of work featuring the streets, buildings and people of New York City. All the images included in this series are of oil paintings completed between 2018 and 2021. Ted is continuing with this series
Ted earned a BFA from Syracuse University in Ceramics and Painting, and then went on to receive an MFA from the University of Montana. In the five decades since receiving his degrees, Ted has taught art classes that were popular, even legendary, among his students in the several universities where he taught. He has made and sold over 100,000 pieces of colorful sculpture and pottery, working in both stoneware and porcelain. And, using oils as well as watercolors, Ted has created thousands of paintings
In 2014, Ted published a book that distills the core of his teachings about painting and watercolor, as well as his ideas and philosophy concerning the process of becoming an artist. These ideas have a depth and simplicity that have inspired, and continue to inspire, students and beginning artists of all ages. The book is called Watercolor: One Person’s Teachings on Watercolor Painting and Becoming an Artist, Along With a Gallery of His Work. The book is available directly from the author as well as on Amazon.
Attracted by the sun, the mountains and the incredible light of Taos, New Mexico, Ted moved there from Maine with his wife, Peggy Hamill, in 2009. In recent years, he has visited New York City regularly to explore and to document the city through his paintings.
Ted’s work can be found on the walls of interesting people worldwide. His mantra, “I hope the Love shows,” is important because for Ted, Art is about Love.