Mixing It Up 

Artist Kevin Bass explores the space outside the lines

BY Amanda Lisk

Untitled acrylic on canvas work from the Farm Cow series, 30 x 40 inches.
Untitled acrylic on canvas work from the Farm Cow series, 30 x 40 inches.

One intriguing thing about the work of artist Kevin Bass is that he never sticks to one thing.

Each of Bass’s collections couldn’t be more different than the next. In his series of textured abstract landscapes entitled Primal, he uses a mix of beach sand, mica, pumice and bright colors. In his series called Obscure, he waters down paint so thin it becomes a stain that he soaks into a stretched canvas layered with pale hues using a pouring-paint method. His Journal series is loose and interpretive on top of old notebook pages shimmering with a diamond dust overlay. His new series is small paintings of pastures featuring black Angus cattle inspired by a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

Artist Kevin Bass experiments with different media and techniques in his varied collections. Courtesy of Kevin Bass

“My friends are like, ‘OK, so you’re painting cows now, what’s this?’” laughs Bass. “I just loved everything about Wyoming. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with this.’ I use acrylic paint mixed with a molding paste so it makes it thick when I apply it, very tactile, and then I rake it through so all the colors bleed together. It’s a very different look, a pretty interesting texture.” 

Bass once did a series using recycled aluminum cans and wants to try something metaphorical with reclaimed wooden doors. That would take place after he finishes a current series of Matisse-style drawings. 

“Basic drawings in a sketch book. I’m trying to do something completely different while I’m still working on the cow thing,” Bass says.

Bass has more than half a dozen collections ranging from mixed media using a multitude of materials to simple paintings using only three colors. 

“I really don’t like to work within parameters,” he says.

Bass, who lives in Raleigh, grew up just outside Pinehurst. Art teachers throughout his elementary and middle school years noticed potential. 

Untitled work from the Western Wyoming series, 24 x 24 inches, paint on aluminum cans.
Untitled work from the Western Wyoming series, 24 x 18 inches, paint on torn paper.

“By the time I was in high school people started asking me to draw them things and make them stuff,” says Bass.

A trip he took with his high school art class to Italy over spring break changed his perspective. 

“That changed everything for me. I saw this is what it could be,” he says.

Bass majored in graphic design and fine art at Appalachian State University. Post college, he aligned himself with professional artists to gather insight.

“From there I started experimenting and trying different things that no one told me, I just figured it out. A lot of trial and error, seeing what works what doesn’t work, I don’t know, maybe 80 percent failure, 20 percent success,” laughs Bass.

Today, his art is exhibited across North Carolina and beyond, including galleries in Atlanta, Bev’s Fine Art, The Centerpiece in Raleigh, and New Elements in Wilmington. Bass’s one consistent element is modernism, and the reason pieces sell well at shows.

“The piece we sold was from his Journal series. They wanted a contemporary abstract and the colors worked really well in their space. They have it as the focal piece over their mantel. I’m particularly fond of that piece because it was one of the ones he used diamond dust in so it gives it a little sparkle,” says Stacey Chapman of Bev’s Fine Art, The Centerpiece.

Primal 12, 36 x 36 inches, acrylic and sand on canvas.

What Bass does not like is to paint people — and so that is exactly what he did.

“I forced myself to do what I don’t like to do,” he says.

He asked family and friends for their picture. He used a handmade brush with a 6-foot-long handle and only three colors to paint their portrait. 

“Everything is very loose, you’re standing six feet away from what you’re doing. Some of them are timed to see how quickly I can do it,” he says. “Some turned out really good. Others are like, I don’t even know what this is.”

Journal 02.21.20, 48 x 48 inches, mixed media on canvas.

The abstract he did of his daughter, 3 at the time, turned out so good it’s now Bass’s favorite piece.

“I stood back and said, ‘That’s it!’” he says. 

The unique abstract portraits are now generating commissioned work. 

As befitting someone with such a varied portfolio, his advice to aspiring artists is don’t be afraid to try something new.

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