Monday, June 11, 2012

Eight Minutes with Northland Painter Aaron Kloss

“By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them...”
~H.W. Longfellow

His paintings of pines and birches show the same affection for nature that once enthralled Longfellow and Thoreau. Northland artist Aaron Kloss, however, works with a paintbrush and not a pen. His paintings evoke mystery and solemnity, and are worth the extra time it takes to find a way to see them in person.

Ennyman: When did you first take an interest in art?

Aaron Kloss: I first took an interest in art as a child. One of my favorite quotes comes from Pablo Picasso: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." During school, art class was something I looked forward to every day. My teachers were so encouraging. I wanted to become a full time artist while in high school. By my senior year I figured I couldn't make much of a living off my art, but I discovered graphic design and the rest was history. I went to North Hennepin Community College in the cities, and later transferred to UMD to finish my Bachelors in Fine Arts. I majored in graphic design, that's where my head told me to go, yet my heart told me to create art. As a graphic designer I worked at several local publications which would feature fine artists in their A&E sections. Designing page layouts for these art editorials got me thinking again of art as a career...

EN: How did you get back into painting?

AK: I picked up where I left off. I love landscapes and geometric style. I wanted to somehow combine those two into painting, but it took a while. I basically just painted in acrylics and explored different styles and ideas. I was drawn to anything graphic in look and feel, anything that featured the color black. I suppose it was the way the black made the colors pop and give them life. Working towards this goal yet not reaching it was frustrating at times and I did give up. Drawing comes naturally to me, but painting was always a huge stumbling block. I worked for years as an airbrush artist and often would grab my airbrush when I was frustrated with my acrylics on canvas. The feel of the airbrush in my hand, the ease I had using the airbrush after years of experience would soothe my creative blocks and give the feeling of accomplishment. I soon noted that I needed a style, something that would be totally unique and unseen before. Something that would give my work a signature, so that people could glance at it and know I had created it. I needed to be different. I needed a style, and once again I began seeking that style through acrylics on canvas and through trial and error my style emerged one Spring day and once I saw it I knew I had found what I was searching for...

EN: Your paintings have a distinctive style. What do you call it and what attracts you to this form of expression?

AK: I love to know what people think about my work. Usually the first thing they mention is the style. Often they ask me how I get the 'squares' on the canvas. Even people who have painted years longer than I have will often ask. I just paint with a square end 'bright' brush. My paintings have several layers, each transparent, showing the layers beneath, giving an incredible depth. In many places, the black gessoed canvas beneath shows through. I would think that my intent to show my process would be the influence behind that. I'm naturally attracted to complementary colored themes in nature. Blue skies and yellow sunsets. Red cardinals and green evergreens. I'm also drawn to vertical themed compositions. That would explain my tall trees in many of my works. The negative space of a blue sky in the background is often the subject matter of my piece. Many times people will comment on what they see in the distance, then realize the huge birch trees in the foreground they completely missed because of the color in the background. The acrylics applied with the black canvas is just intriguing to many people. As far as a name for it ... I've never thought about naming my style, acrylics on black canvas does sound a little boring. Graphic expressionism would be closer to an official name for what I paint.

EN: How does your personal belief system influence your subject matter?

AK: My personal belief system doesn't directly influence my subject matter. Every artist believes something, whether or not that belief emerges in their body of work is up to the artist. I'm a Christian. I'm an artist. More importantly, I don't want to use art to market my faith, and I've never been too comfortable with sacred or religious art. I paint what attracts me, and that would be landscapes. Like my favorite artist Van Gogh, I've had several experiences with Christians that don't approve of artists or artwork. I've almost given up on art after hearing some negative critisism, but I've spurred myself on, knowing I was created to create. Maybe the best thing to say is that I would want everything I say and do and create to be a reflection of the love and grace that God has given to me.

EN: What is creativity to you?

AK: Creativity to me is creating something genuine. To reproduce or copy someone's style would be the opposite of creativity. I don't have a huge interest in taking painting workshops as I don't want to learn how to paint like someone else. I want to be original, one-of-a-kind. Creativity comes from the heart.

EN: Do you have any upcoming shows lined up?

AK: My website,, has a list of my upcoming shows in the right hand column. I've been very ambitious this year, scheduling shows back to back, but you only live once, and I love what I do, and want others to see my work.

June 2012 
"Urban Oasis" at Jitter's Coffee 102 West Superior St, Duluth, MN

July 24-August 20 2012 
"Intimate Landscapes" at The Vanilla Bean 812 7th Ave (Hwy 61) Two Harbors, MN

September 2012 
"Awesome Autumn" at Beaner's Central Coffeehouse 324 N. Central Ave, Duluth, MN

EN: Where can people see more of your work?

AK: My work can be seen online anytime on my website, or my blog which features all my paintings and often includes my thoughts for my work too In person, you can find my work at:

Blue Lake Gallery (Canal Park)
Lizzard's Art Gallery and Framing (Superior Street, Downtown)
Sivertson Gallery - Art of the North (in Grand Marais)

 EN: Thank you.

Portions of this interview originally appeared in The Reader

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