by RENEE PATRICK Cascade A&E Editor
To capture motion in a visual medium, one must embody speed. Skiers know the rush that comes from lines carved down a mountain side, in flying through a silent white expanse - trees disappear in a spray of powder and motion creates the sting of snow flakes on bare cheeks. To Kevin Schwarting, speed is a feeling. Speed is an experience, and speed is at the center of his work as an artist.
“What I paint is how I feel about skiing,” explained Schwarting. “The motion of someone flying through snow is so cool to me because I know how it feels.
“It is so majestic and silent, that is winter: cold and dark and silent. It is humbling to be out there in the cold wilderness, but when you have something literally flying through soft light snow, it is such a beautiful thing. Even if you are not a skier, you have to appreciate that.”
The Midwestern native had always been artistic and active; he spent years traveling to upstate Wisconsin during the winters to ski, and painted throughout high school. However, his love of skiing fueled the outdoor enthusiast in him, and he choose to go to Montana for college, and the snow.
“I was always artistic and started painting in high school…but I was young and athletic and wanted to go skiing,” he commented. “I took art classes [in college], but my work was never my primary focus. I didn’t want to paint it, I wanted to live it.”
The move plunged him even deeper into the skiing lifestyle and he took a break from creating art during most of that time. “I kept up the skill, but didn’t hone it until I moved to Bend…I miss being away from Montana, it’s very inspirational. When I moved to Bend, I put myself out of my own realm, and spent more energy painting and trying to perfect my passion with the sport,” he said.
Schwarting doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a ski artist, but rather an extreme sports artist. “That is where I want to go with my art, adventure sports,” he said. “At some point I will have gone after [and painted] every sort of fast motion sport,” he explained.
“It’s not the sport, it’s the movement. It’s the motion, the motion of the subject in the most interesting way….When other people view my art, they either appreciate art or they are skiers or snowboarders; it is a different reaction. They either know how the painting makes them feel or they have to imagine it. The people who know the feeling are my favorite because they propel my art.”
An opportunity last fall to participate in the Pillars of Art program at the new VisitBend visitor’s center put pieces of chalk in his hand instead of paintbrushes. The new medium was a welcome challenge and he found chalk really took him back to the elements of drawing.
“The realistic side [of painting] is extremely difficult and takes a long time…I’ve kind of gotten away from that and now I am painting how I draw. The Pillars of Art influenced that side of me: to pursue non-traditional colors and to paint how my sketchbook looks like, and you can still tell I’m painting skiers.”
Schwarting was asked to be the featured artist in chalk during the Bend Spring Fest; despite his initial impulse to capture the feeling of Spring skiing, he choose to draw a fish. “I drew a fish, a huge fish, and it pushed me out of my realm into pastels [and the new subject matter of] underwater fish.
When the snow recedes from the mountains, Schwarting spends time on the river, and his drawing at Spring Fest helped to spur his new subject matter. Along with his new hobby of underwater photography, fish and their watery world have become a new inspiration. “I have a fascination with what is under water and with the clarity of water in Central Oregon, you can see quite a ways.”
The Pillars of Art was one of the first opportunities Schwarting has had to display his art, and he currently has a selection of work hanging at Dudley’s Bookstore.
“Living in Bend and showing my work across town has definitely influenced me to keep working at it and perfecting the skill,” he commented. “I have always tried to display art, and it’s always worth the effort. The difference between Montana is astronomical, people appreciate art out here in Bend.”
“It’s really hard to make a living [as an artist], but I am going to keep pursuing it. I went all in and I’m going to pursue something that I neglected for many years.”
Future goals include learning how to airbrush and explore other artistic trades, but for now he plans on riding the wave of ski art.
“I would like to get into more art and chalk competitions, there are some major ones around the world. Stuff like that fuels my interests [because] it’s the people that keep inspiring me. They keep pushing you forward.”
Schwarting creates commissioned art work on request and would like to continue showing his art around Central Oregon. Visitors are welcome to his studio downtown above Tres Jolie, 925 NW Wall St, Suite 201 B. His work can be viewed at www.coldmountainart.com.