Artist's work expresses straightforward appreciation for the simple and authentic

KaeLynn Winn is the Artist of the Month at the Powell Museum.

Her subject may be a cow in a field, an old tractor in a barn or a cottonwood tree in front of a mountain. Her medium is acrylic on canvas and she prefers using a specific type of acrylic paint that has a slower drying time. Her inspiration is everyday life, the more authentic, the better.

“The properties of this paint appeal to me because of the flexibility, vibrant color and it stays wet longer and I’m able to blend and work with them in methods similar to oil paint,” said Winn. “I feel like these paints give me the best of both worlds: the blending and consistency of oil.”

Winn grew up in Cleveland, Utah, a rural town in central Utah. She still lives in rural Utah and that exposure has influenced her art, which is described as stylized realism.

“I am drawn to subjects that reflect a love for a rural, hardworking, self-reliant way of life,” said Winn.  “My style and approach is a mixture of many influences, but I fancy myself a regional artist with agrarian roots.  I work in a contemporary realist style with an impressionist bent and unapologetic use of bright color.  I am constantly tweaking my approach and methods to grow and improve my art.

Winn graduated from the College of Eastern Utah as an art major. She then attended Utah State University where she studied visual art and art history, after which she spent ten years designing premium clip art for a Utah company.

Winn says she’s always been “a lifelong student of art.”

Winn said she had a happy-go-lucky childhood, and discovered her passion for creating art – which later became her purpose in life – at a very early age. She remembers the day the spark was ignited.

“One of my earliest childhood memories turned out to be very formative for me,” said Winn. “I was just a tiny tot, waiting in a laundromat with my dad.  We had crayons and a Woody Woodpecker coloring book. I sat on his lap, and together we colored those scratchy, off-white pages.”

It was what she now calls her “aha” moment, when she discovered she had the ability to wield a pencil or crayon and make a mark.

“Every child’s ability to learn, communicate and create opens up at this crucial turning point,” said Winn.

Her father noticed that she had taken an interest in art and he began gradually teaching her more art principles. He didn’t lay down rules and he kept it fun, said Winn.

“With tender care, he taught me that I could hold my crayon a certain way, make the strokes from the crayons go all the same direction. Or not!  I could choose any color in the box for Woody’s crazy hair, (or feathers). That day I learned I had the power to create something that didn’t exist in the world before.  As a very small child, this experience was defining and powerful.”

She had another “spark” moment in Kindergarten when her teacher introduced her to finger painting

“We would get to take turns finger painting at a giant easel with red and blue paint!” she said. “White paper, plus red and blue, plus chubby fingers, equals a glorious purple mess! I was hooked! Mixing red and blue and getting a new color was like magic to me at five years old and at 48, it still delights me.”

As a child, she searched out books on how to draw horses, or how to paint snow scenes.

Winn said she paid attention to colors and had a very visual learning style in school and she was fortunate to have teachers who noticed her interest and abilities in art and they would often encourage her and give her special attention in her artistic development.

And when something particularly interesting caught her eye she didn’t let anything stop her from learning more about it.

“At the age of nine, my elementary school hosted a few guest artists from the local area during a special art week.,” said Winn. “The artists displayed and demonstrated their individual artistic fields. My fourth-grade self was transfixed in front of Mrs. Cooper’s oil painting demo and her display of completed paintings.  I could barely contain myself!  Never a shy person, at the end of her presentation I marched up to this stranger and promptly asked her to teach me how to paint like that.”

Winn’s scenes of agrarian, rural and southwestern life have attracted a large fan base. People are drawn to her paintings’ authenticity and attention to detail.

“KaeLynn Winn genuinely connects her real life in a rural ranching community with her art in a beautifully unique, and stylistic way,” said Susette Gertsche, a critic with the Midway Artist. “She is keenly sensitive to the play of light on objects, animals and people in her environment and she is willing to take on the most daunting subjects, such as the “Red Tractor”, with its myriad of precise details.   Her attention to detail and her strong contrasting values create powerful and sculptural quality to her work.”

Winn says she hasn’t stopped learning and continues to learn more about art, and creating it.

“I will continue to push myself and strive to refine and expand my artistic skills,” she said. “I will never graduate from any school of art save only when I die and hit the Pearly Gates.”

In 2011 after a decade of creating art for other people, Winn returned to her first love: painting on canvas, for herself.

I began painting in earnest as much as I could,” she said. “After decades of knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but not having the time, space or resources to do it, I am finally happy and content to create art that comes from a well of authentic life experience.

“I used to put off creativity until all my ‘real’ duties were completed and those occasions were too rare.  Now I treat my creative urge as my most important duty and work. It is now a priority.”

Winn has loved drawing and painting since that first time she colored a Woody Woodpecker coloring book on her dad’s lap and her love and appreciation for it has grown only stronger the more she has studied and practiced it.

“As I create paintings now, I feel the same satisfaction, wonder and sense of possibility I felt all those years ago.  The challenge and excitement of creating art that communicates to other people, and makes them smile, keeps me pushing forward.

“Whether it’s the way the sunlight hits giant sunflower leaves, the rusty metal of an old truck, the rough texture of a cottonwood tree trunk, distant mountains, or the silhouettes of grazing horses and cows, I hope my art communicates a simple and straightforward appreciation for authentic places and things,” said Winn.  “My mission is to celebrate the beauty we can find all around us.  I strive to distill sights, feelings, and uplifting experiences through an artistic lens uniquely my own.  The moment a viewer reacts to one of my paintings with a knowing smile, my work becomes meaningful and important.”

Winn’s work can be seen at the Powell Museum until the end of October. The museum will hold a reception in her honor this Friday evening at 5 p.m.


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