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PASSION AND PRECISION

 

Artist Brian Keith (b. 1971) has earned nationwide recognition for his bronze works of art.  Characterized by careful attention to accurate form and a passion for storytelling, Keith’s work brings classical technique to a wide range of contemporary subjects, where joy and wonder join skillful execution.  

 

For Keith, fine art has been a lifelong pursuit. Born and raised in the East Bay of Northern California, he began training at the age of 7 with his first mentor, his grandmother. His efforts as a young artist were rewarded with a full 4-year scholarship to attend the Academy of Art in San Francisco—but Keith’s complementary passion for faith led him to study the Bible academically while pursuing fine art through personal instruction. Studies with accomplished painters Daniel Greene, Ken Auster, and Carolyn Anderson built the technical foundation for his art.

 

In 2001, Keith found himself seeking instruction that would take him to a still higher level of proficiency. Captivated by the passion and vision present in the work of Morgan Weistling, Keith reached out to the artist and began what would be a transformational mentorship. Three-dimensional clay sculpture emerged as Keith’s forte: a multi-faceted art form combining elements of artistic vision and design and the physical workings of the artist’s hand. In sculpture, Keith found a perfect match for his artistic strengths and a powerful new vocabulary.

 

In 2005, Keith received the first important commission of his career: a bronze portrait bust of former President Reagan (an exclusive limited edition of 200 sculptures) that has made its way into the private collections of Governor Mitt Romney (Massachusetts), Governor Rick Perry (Texas), Governor Mike Huckabee (Arkansas), Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakasvhill, and also features in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.  

 

Not long after that first major achievement, Keith earned a commission from Centercal Properties, who charged him with developing a sculptural program for a plaza in Danville, California. For this project, Keith produced Imagine, a narrative about an older man who sits down to read to his granddaughter, when the story they share together miraculously comes to life in front of them. Keith’s whimsical figures won him more supporters and led to many other large commissions.

 

Today, Keiths ever-expanding body of work includes gallery bronzes, commissioned life-size and monument-sized works of art. Keith is an elected member of the prestigious National Sculpture Society and has shown in its annual awards exhibition.  His bronze sculptures and oil paintings can be found in public and private collections throughout the United States. 

 

Brian Keith and his wife Lanisa, an award-winning Christian singer and songwriter, continue to make their home in the East Bay of California. They have three children: Malia, Jordan, and Teah. 

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 Brian Keith: Sculpting Gratitude   Jeffrey Carlson Reporting Editor, Fine Art Today   Inspired by the narrative storytelling of Norman Rockwell and the emotive content of religious imagery, Brian Keith creates figurative sculptures with humble confidence and visible skill.   Fifteen years ago Brian Keith (b. 1971) never knew that becoming a professional sculptor was even something he wanted to do.  Now, he overflows with gratitude when speaking about a passion that also happens to be his job.  “I feel quite blessed to be able to do what I have the privilege to do,” says Keith.   As a figurative sculptor, Keith produces works on commission and for himself.  Whether beginning work on a private piece or a public monument, Keith keeps his process largely the same.  The initial stages are about seeking inspiration and insight and allowing the composition of the sculpture to emerge naturally.  Keith draws out ideas in multiple initial sketches, teasing out a range of poses and expressions for his figures.  The great visual storyteller Norman Rockwell provides inspiration for Keith in this stage, when he is still searching for the most effective and affecting composition.   Only after settling on a pose and completing a satisfactory final sketch does Keith move on to creating a three-dimensional maquette, with which he addresses how the figure will occupy space.  At this stage, through photos and video, Keith invites the opinions of those he trusts most to help direct the work before he takes it to life-size (or monument-size).  The artist’s trusted confidants include his wife and his ongoing mentor, artist Morgan Weistling.  “He will always tell me the truth and will have something that will help it to go the extra mile and become something that it would not have without his direction,” says Keith of Weistling.  A mentorship with Weistling that began in 2001 initially turned Keith onto sculpture, and Weistling continues to be a hugely important voice in Keith’s artistic development.   As for bringing his works to completion, Keith somewhat paradoxically relies on his experiences with two-dimensional art forms: “I was taught to always be drawing while I am sculpting and therefore like to look at the piece as a painting from every angle.  I am constantly working on the flow and anatomy, pushing and pulling the clay to get the values I want.  And this always lead into (never starts with) the details and final touches to the surface of the piece.”   Much of Keith’s private, non-commissioned work draws on biblical themes and traditional religious imagery.  In these characters and stories, Keith finds extremes of human emotion – visualizations of overwhelming joy, exasperation, and love.   One of Keith’s biblical works, “The Prodigal Son”, is currently features in the National Sculpture Society’s 81st Annual Awards Exhibition.  For the sculpture, Keith decided to home in on the emotional experience of the son returning to his father, whom he has left, dishonored, and forsaken.  “What grabbed my heart in this story was how the father viewed his son in a completely different way than the son expected.” Says Keith.  “The son received acceptance when he was expecting rejection.  He was given grace when he was ready for punishment.  And he was probably surprised with an overwhelming joy after having experienced depression, isolation, and guilt.  So I chose to emphasize the son’s reaction to his father’s love.”  The son’s touching visage and lean figure, rendered with anatomical precision by Keith, make for a deeply emotional work.   Keith has trained his skills to suit public monuments as well as personal expression.  Most recently, the artist introduced the public to “I Wonder (Mastodon and Boy),” a sculptural group that reflects on history, imagination, and their overlap.  Also featured in his portfolio are public sculpture installations in Danville, California; Famington, Utah; Meridian, Idaho; and Nacogdoches, Texas.  Keith will unveil his next public monument in Brentwood, California, this fall.   Brian Keith is an elected member of the National Sculpture Society and the California Art Club.  His work is represented in numerous public and private collections across the U.S.   

 Brian Keith: Sculpting Gratitude

 

Jeffrey Carlson Reporting

Editor, Fine Art Today

 

Inspired by the narrative storytelling of Norman Rockwell and the emotive content of religious imagery, Brian Keith creates figurative sculptures with humble confidence and visible skill.

 

Fifteen years ago Brian Keith (b. 1971) never knew that becoming a professional sculptor was even something he wanted to do.  Now, he overflows with gratitude when speaking about a passion that also happens to be his job.  “I feel quite blessed to be able to do what I have the privilege to do,” says Keith.

 

As a figurative sculptor, Keith produces works on commission and for himself.  Whether beginning work on a private piece or a public monument, Keith keeps his process largely the same.  The initial stages are about seeking inspiration and insight and allowing the composition of the sculpture to emerge naturally.  Keith draws out ideas in multiple initial sketches, teasing out a range of poses and expressions for his figures.  The great visual storyteller Norman Rockwell provides inspiration for Keith in this stage, when he is still searching for the most effective and affecting composition.

 

Only after settling on a pose and completing a satisfactory final sketch does Keith move on to creating a three-dimensional maquette, with which he addresses how the figure will occupy space.  At this stage, through photos and video, Keith invites the opinions of those he trusts most to help direct the work before he takes it to life-size (or monument-size).  The artist’s trusted confidants include his wife and his ongoing mentor, artist Morgan Weistling.  “He will always tell me the truth and will have something that will help it to go the extra mile and become something that it would not have without his direction,” says Keith of Weistling.  A mentorship with Weistling that began in 2001 initially turned Keith onto sculpture, and Weistling continues to be a hugely important voice in Keith’s artistic development.

 

As for bringing his works to completion, Keith somewhat paradoxically relies on his experiences with two-dimensional art forms: “I was taught to always be drawing while I am sculpting and therefore like to look at the piece as a painting from every angle.  I am constantly working on the flow and anatomy, pushing and pulling the clay to get the values I want.  And this always lead into (never starts with) the details and final touches to the surface of the piece.”

 

Much of Keith’s private, non-commissioned work draws on biblical themes and traditional religious imagery.  In these characters and stories, Keith finds extremes of human emotion – visualizations of overwhelming joy, exasperation, and love.

 

One of Keith’s biblical works, “The Prodigal Son”, is currently features in the National Sculpture Society’s 81st Annual Awards Exhibition.  For the sculpture, Keith decided to home in on the emotional experience of the son returning to his father, whom he has left, dishonored, and forsaken.  “What grabbed my heart in this story was how the father viewed his son in a completely different way than the son expected.” Says Keith.  “The son received acceptance when he was expecting rejection.  He was given grace when he was ready for punishment.  And he was probably surprised with an overwhelming joy after having experienced depression, isolation, and guilt.  So I chose to emphasize the son’s reaction to his father’s love.”  The son’s touching visage and lean figure, rendered with anatomical precision by Keith, make for a deeply emotional work.

 

Keith has trained his skills to suit public monuments as well as personal expression.  Most recently, the artist introduced the public to “I Wonder (Mastodon and Boy),” a sculptural group that reflects on history, imagination, and their overlap.  Also featured in his portfolio are public sculpture installations in Danville, California; Famington, Utah; Meridian, Idaho; and Nacogdoches, Texas.  Keith will unveil his next public monument in Brentwood, California, this fall.

 

Brian Keith is an elected member of the National Sculpture Society and the California Art Club.  His work is represented in numerous public and private collections across the U.S.