Boundary Waters Canoe Area
Boundary Waters Canoe Area

Stephen Kennedy
Hiking with artist Stephen Kennedy

Stephen Nesser
Stephen painting on the Appalachian Trail

"Look, Mom, look!" said the boy watching me paint the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone amid a bustling crowd.

"Shh," said his mother.

Art inspires wonder because it is true magic. Take a white piece of paper, wave a magic wand--be it pencil or brush--and a world appears. Magic requires long effort to master, and this effort earns quieting respect.

My first mentor, art director Harold Wood, taught the importance of craft. "Everyting must be done well," he repeated. For, if an artist paints a waterfall with a line of slapped-on-color the viewer says, "My four-year-old could have done better."

While I have a BA in photography and a MFA in conceptual art (The Ohio State University, 1975 & 1981), I didn't find my medium until 1982 when I first painted in watercolor.

While living in Japan studying Japanese art and learning to Sumi-e paint, I was introduced to the aesthetic of Wabi Sabi. Wabi Sabi embraces imperfection, simplicity, and impermanence. I found a home in this idea.

I have canoed deep into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for weeks at a time, painting; dangled my feet over a thousand-foot cliff facing the Grand Tetons. and painted; and hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail with my magic wands.

I paint the people I love,the places I've traveled, and in the end my paintings are my autobiography.

I began soaring in 1986. I have flown side-by-side with bald eagles, red tail hawks and sandhill cranes. Once, I dropped last in line behind a vee of pelicans. The world is perfect 3,000 feet in the air, and so I painted the gliders I flew and the friends I shared the sky with.

My beloved wife, Teddie (see Growing Old: A Love Story on the portraits page), took me to art museums around the world: Musee Louvre, the Hermitage, Museo Nacional del Prado, Tate Britain, the National Art Museum of China, and the Vactican Museums, to name a few. While staring at masterworks, sometimes a single work for an hour (much to the bemused consternation of Teddie) I discovered duende. Duende roughly means to touch the viewer's heart by imbuing the artwork with soul. I strive for this in every painting. The best of what I do is because I stand on the shoulders of the masters of art.

I have illustrated books and magazines. My paintings are in museum collections in Europe, Australia and America--most notably the Smithsonian Institution.