Kenn Backhaus

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Kenn BackhausKenn was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin and spent much of his childhood on the family farm near Burnett, Wisconsin.  His fondness for nature became the catalyst for his art.  Kenn’s parents encouraged his artistic education and following High School, he attended Layton School of Art in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  As a commercial designer and illustrator Kenn received many awards at both local and national levels, which included acceptance in the 30th Annual Society of Illustrators Show in New York City.  Although Kenn took pride in his commercial successes, his heart always belonged to the fine art of outdoor painting.

With his developing interest in the historic traditions of plein air painting, Kenn decided in 1984, to devote more time to his passion for painting and the love of the outdoors.  He found that capturing true color, value, atmosphere and the mood of a subject was best done on location or through direct observation.  He has also discovered the importance of his studio time in union with his outdoor experiences and enjoys the challenges of both. His passion for painting has broadened his subject matter to include not only landscape, but also figurative, portrait, still life and nature. When asked, Kenn what do you like to paint? His answer; “anything under the sun and moon is fare [sic] game”.

Kenn has been featured in numerous art publications and books.  His works have been juried into many shows across the country and his paintings have been bestowed with many honors including the prestigious Best of Show, Collectors Choice and Artists Choices awards.  He regularly serves as an Acceptance Juror and Awards Judge for many shows around the country.

In September of 2006 Kenn was filmed, painting up in Alaska as part of a PBS series entitled, Plein Air, Painting the American Landscape” Click for press coverage of Kenn Backhaus


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“Plein-air is not about quickly executing a scene and slinging thick paint just to have it on the canvas. Maintaining control of art principles is an imperative.”

“Establishing the two most extreme values as soon as possible helps me take note of all other values that will fall somewhere between them.”
“Spontaneity and assuredness is what I would like to leave the viewer. I hope that the end illusion is one of surprise that gives the viewer a new look of the world around us.  My approach to the painting process is first to trust my eyes and not my mind.  Through years of media corruption – TV, print media, advertisements, etc.- our minds want to take over and paint the scene with some of those bright gaudy colors that we have become use to seeing in the media but not in nature. We do not see like a camera. We focus on one area of a scene, and that area should have the detail and everything else should become subordinate to that focus. Again, if I go into this process with the thought of trusting my eyes, I will have an honest day of painting.”

Plein-Air Painters of America – Signature Member, Past President 2000-2001, Oil Painters of America – Master Signature Member, En Plein Air Masters, Passport & Palette – Artist and Producer,

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