Gallery 25 is a co-op gallery where several artists take turns working the gallery. Keith Dabb is one of those artists. I met him at the gallery and was surrounding by his paintings. The landscapes, sunsets, animals and beautiful Tuscan buildings were an escape. I was comfortable talking to the man, though, a little intimidated. I hoped I didn't insult his talent; he taught art for many years, and with more than 30 years of experience painting, he knows what he's doing.
Because the paintings were so realistic I wondered if he had been to all the places he had painted. He said he had been to most of them.
Do you paint from photos, memory, or just sit outside with a brush for several hours?
â€œI work a lot from photos. I might start out with, like some of the Italian ones, I'll start out with just some buildings that I have a photo of and kind of make up a lot of the rest.
â€œI paint a lot of stuff from memory from Montana. I was there for a year in Montana, but also we have a cabin in Island Park, which is not very far from Montana, you know the Yellowstone area. In fact, I'm up in Yellowstone three or four times a year. I love it up there. I get a lot of pictures. I paint quite a few animals, too.â€
Have you encountered a bear there?
â€œOh yeah. In fact, this last year I was in the park about four times and every time I saw bears. I've been going up there for probably forty years. I know where to go where I'm probably gonna see them. I take my camera and kind of go hunting with my camera, and then I'll paint when I come back.â€
Why do you like to paint animals?
â€œI've always just kind of enjoyed animals. Lately I've painted a lot of bears. Over the years, I've taken pictures of bears up in Yellowstone and I just decided to start painting them. When I started to paint 'em I noticed they have kind of a personality to them. I try to kind of catch that in the paintings. They have interesting lips, and they have interesting eyes. I try to catch the little bit of personality in 'em.â€
In general, Keith says, â€œI just see something that really kind of catches my eye the way the light comes through the trees or something like that,â€ and then he is inspired to paint.
I noticed several paintings dedicated to Tuscany. Have you been to Tuscany?
â€œI was over in Europe about 4 Â½ years ago and we traveled around a lot. And I didn't get to spend much time in Tuscany at all.â€
In the time you did spend there, what inspired you about Tuscany?
â€œThe old buildings. The old buildings were just fascinating. It's like the building grew with the family. As the family got bigger, they'd add another section of the building. When we build we have it kind of all symmetrical, but they would build a funny little room over here and then a big tower, put windows in places you wouldn't normally see a window on a building. It just makes it more interesting. And then the cypress trees too I liked. Yeah, the tall cypress trees because you know all your other trees are round and then all the sudden you have a couple of those. So, it's pretty unique that way.
â€œI also do a lot of skies, and I do a lot with sunsets. And kind of skies that are more dynamic rather than just boring. I'm always taking pictures of sunsets. Sometimes you know they might work in a painting, they might not. So, I may put two or three photographs together. I'll just take a sky from one and landscape from another and then stick an animal or something in it (haha).â€
Mixing and matching details from one photo and imputing it into the painting sounded tough to me. Keith assured me that after painting for more than 30 years, it is not that difficult. But, the way he keeps the light and shadows just right in the painting seemed pretty impressive to me. That must be why he is known for his light and shadow.
Peaceful comes to mind when I look at your paintings?
â€œYeah. That's another thing. I've always liked to paint something that people will say that they would like to be there or like to live there or somethingâ€”a place where you want to be, not some place that would agitate you to be. And, I don't like to be in big crowds of people, so you notice I don't have paintings of cities. And even when I was over in Europe, I really didn't want to go to the big cities that much. I just wanted to be out in the country, you know the old farm houses and villas and things like that.â€
For someone who doesn't like big crowds, do you find it hard to paint in front of people?
â€œI taught for 30 years, so I had to demonstrate quite a bit. Now for the last six years, I've gone to Scottsdale and do an art show down there that lasts for three months. It's in a big huge tent and we have a kind of a studio there and we just sit and paint and customers come in and some of them watch you. You answer a lot of questions and hopefully sell some of your work. Once I get started painting, it doesn't bother me. The only thing that might bother me is if I really get intense into it and somebody starts asking a lot of questions, but it's not that big of a deal anymore.â€
What gets you in the mood to paint?
â€œSometimes it's hard to get in the mood to paint because a lot of other things get in your way and you almost just have to force yourself to sit down and start. And once you start, there's no problem. Once you pick up that brush and start putting some paint on it, then it's not a big deal. But sometimes it's hard, especially here. Down in Scottsdale for eight hours a day that's what I'm supposed to be doing. It's not hard at all there, but up here, at home, you got the yard work, you've got the kids that need help and things like that, it's tough. You kind of have to set aside some time. But like I say, once you pick up the brush and start putting the paint on, it doesn't take long to get in the mood.â€
Do you have more time to paint now with the kids grown up and no homework to correct?
â€œI was lucky to paint three or four paintings a year when I was teaching and had a family at home. Now, I'll probably do 40 to 50 a year depending on the size. Those were not that big of paintings, now I do paintings 30s, 40s. 36X48's, you know, big paintings. It's a lot easier, yeah.â€
Do you remember the first painting you ever sold?
â€œI think it was a painting of a little old house down in Kanab. No, maybe not. It might have been a house up the canyon, Ogden Canyon. One of those two. It was a long time ago.
â€œEven now, I've sold a few paintings, but still even now it kind of reinforces ya and makes you feel like wow, maybe I can really do this. Sometimes you can go for quite a while without selling. You start second guessing yourself and you wonder am I really doing any good? So, you can kind of second guess yourself and it kind of boosts ya, and it's not so much the money, as it is to know that someone likes your work enough to lay out some money for it.â€
What's the best compliment you've ever gotten?
â€œI had some people tell me that I painted like LeConte Stewart, which was a compliment to me. And to have somebody come and pay $6,000 to $7,000 for your painting is a big compliment, I think.â€
Does LeConte Stewart inspire you? Who inspires you?
â€œA lot of different artists. LeConte Stewart, I've always admired his painting. I don't think I really pattern myself after him or anything. And over the years as I've painted and gotten a little better, people I wanted to paint like have changed. People I used to want to paint like, I think well maybe they weren't as good as I thought they were. Actually, people I want to paint like now are some pretty big name artists like Howard Terpning. My favorite artist that I'd really like to paint like is a guy named Mian Situ. He can really paint. He paints landscapes and a lot of people. He paints kind of historical stuff. He's good.â€
What would you say to your art students to keep them painting?
â€œWell, just keep practicing. I used to have students that would say 'I can't paint or I can't draw, I'm no good,' and I would say 'if you were going to play the piano and it was the first time you ever played it, would you expect to play like Bach or one of those?' and they would say 'no' and I'd say, 'well same thing drawing and painting, a lot of its learned, a lot of it's just practice.' The more you paint, the better you get. That's all there is to it. You've just got to put in the time.â€
During May, Keith Dabb will have his art featured at Gallery 25, 268 Historic 25th St., Ogden. May 6th, 6 to 9p.m. the gallery will hold an opening reception for Dabb's work.
He will also have his art at the Eccles in June. He has been painting steadily since his return from Scottsdale, Arizona's Fine Art Expo and has plenty of work to show you!