Kevin Peterson’s award-winning painting titled “Fire,” with almost photographic details, makes you lean in a little to understand what’s going on—lean in and feel the tension of a child, arms wide, on a backdrop of destruction. “My work is about the varied journeys we take through life,” Kevin said. “It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken.”
The painting was awarded the prestigious 2015 Hunting Art Prize, an annual competition sponsored by Hunting PLC, an international oil services company, and open to Texas artists. The prize awards $50,000 to bring recognition and support to the career of a distinguished artist. Peterson has been a finalist for the Hunting Prize four other times. As a 2001 Austin College graduate, he learned his technical skills while majoring in art and psychology.
“Honestly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life after I graduated high school, and I don’t think that is uncommon,” Kevin said. “I feel like a liberal arts education is perfect for a student in that situation. You’re going to be exposed to a bunch of different subjects, and you will have an opportunity to find what interests you the most.”
“I was interested in working in the psychology or social work fields,” Kevin said. “I also majored in art mainly because I always had a love for creating art. I was not sure at the time it was a viable career path, but I wasn’t worried about that; I just did it because I loved it.” Initially, Kevin did pursue social work as a probation officer in Austin for three years. Then life handed him some perspective, and he determined his passion was worth pursuing.
Exploring and learning through the liberal arts teaches students self-awareness. That, plus confidence and a good dose of courage brought Kevin back to his paint brushes. “As a working artist, I would say ‘success’ is when you have a large enough audience that’s sufficiently interested in your work to allow you to create whatever you want whenever you want.”
Now, with a large following in his home city of Houston, he also exhibits in Germany, California, New York, and Florida. He works out of Winter Street Studios near downtown Houston in a renovated furniture factory.
“The nice thing about a liberal arts education is that you are exposed to tons of different disciplines,” Kevin said. “Just being technically proficient in painting or sculpture is not enough to be a successful artist. You have to bring something new conceptually to the work. Of course, I did get technical training with an art major, but I also learned about psychology, sociology, philosophy, and history. I have no doubt that being exposed to all those different areas of study had a positive theoretical effect on my work.”
Read more about Kevin in the Austin College Magazine.