In a delicate dance between interior design, graphic design, and art, kenT youngstrom fell into the arms of art, self-taught and led by its organic motivations and gravitational pull. With his no pretense approach, he continues to astound and amaze with his impeccable talent and his inspiring, non-conforming delivery. Renowned with the hottest names from TV to print and around the world, this North Carolina resident embodies living – and painting – in the moment.
written by nicole camack / photographs by joshua galloway
Tell us about your very first day painting. Laughable. Unprepared. Intoxicating – minus the morning Gatorade.
Why is it important to do what you love every day? Have a drink with the guy who hates what he does every day. That sounds fun huh.
What about fear? Being an artist can have its ups and downs and unpredictability. Tell us about it. I’m ‘crawl in a ball and hide under the desk’ afraid every time I show something new. I am my work. It’s called exposure for a reason.
Tell us about your where you create. Small garage + 1,200 paintings in 5 years = need for new space. I have a warehouse facility in Matthews which contains an office, a gallery and a working studio with rolling working spaces, large walls to stretch canvas, room for 20 people at painting classes, gallery openings, and holiday and corporate event parties.
Any special details you gravitate towards? Details – no. Details are not my thing. Circles – yes. I started painting circles about five years ago and they seem to have stuck around. I’m sure someday they will leave me just like pleated pants.
Who did you look up to when you started? Great question. No answer. I had no idea what I was doing or what direction I was headed – not exactly sure when I started to be honest. I think it was and continues to be a blessing that I fumble around like a new dad in the grocery store.
Talk about your compulsion to fuse poignant words in some of your pieces. Much like peanut butter + chocolate, gin + tonic (or bacon + anything), I’m inclined to believe words and art are better together. What other art forms captivate you? Short films. And I’m jealous of rock stars.
Last experience you felt most alive? California. Winter. Surfing. I felt alive but couldn’t feel much else in the cold water.
What is your strongest childhood memory? Chutes and ladders, short shorts, tall tube socks, zips, wiffle ball, chores, baseball cards, the backwards seat in the station wagon, grandma’s jello molds, a terrible hair cut, 588-2300 empire, sesame street and Sunday night grilled cheese.
Favorite artist? Jackson Pollock. He was the first.
Everyone has these little quirks or unique characteristics about them that help set them apart. What’s yours? I’m…opinionated to a fault. Quick tempered. A checklist writer. A U-turn hater. Not a general people person. A big picture thinker.
A minivan driver. Willing to do just about anything for a friend. Self-sufficient and believe others should be as well. Easily prone to tear up at bad children’s movies. A clean and healthy eater. A stomach sleeper. A soccer player. A whale, crocodile, horse and polo player hater.
What’s in the future? I have no idea – and that’s the way I like it.
This interview was conducted early 2014.