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Creation Story

Duane Keiser, Painter

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The ritual of daily painting: In December 2004, Keiser started a blog called "A Painting a Day" (www.duane keiser.blogspot.com). He admits that creating a new piece daily is no easy task. But he has come to crave what he calls the "ritual." "It's like a daily meditation. I find I notice all these beautiful passages that we walk right by every day." And within days of starting this "ritual," boingboing, a site that calls itself "A Directory of Wonderful Things," listed his blog. After that, he was inundated with hits and e-mails from all over the world — Nigeria, India, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, even Iran.

In early February, Yahoo listed his blog as one of the "picks of the week." That only served to increase the traffic and e-mail. "[People worldwide] all have the same sensibilities about these paintings. When you see a painting you like, you feel connected to the artist," says Keiser. But people aren't simply visiting or e-mailing. They're also buying — everything. "I'm not sure how I'm going to do a show. Every [postcard] painting I put up [on the Web] sells." People ask to "reserve" them before Keiser has even picked out a subject, let alone picked up a paintbrush.

His take on all the commotion: "The fact that it's all over the world instantly … the very egg you had for breakfast ... it's like a little miracle." A miracle that Keiser never imagined. "You don't think someone else will be as interested in an egg yolk as you are. But there are people all over the world sharing a slice of lemon or something equally simple. And to have them moved, well, there's just something wonderful about that." Even better than that, "This is a gallery the whole world can fit into."

Why he also teaches: Although Keiser has found enviable success selling his work, he continues to teach painting and drawing at the University of Richmond and at Randolph-Macon College. "I like teaching. I like to see students surprise themselves." It informs his own work as well. "If you're asking yourself how to teach it, you're asking yourself how to do it."

On painting as performance: Keiser has made and posted two short films of himself painting, "Garlic" and "Paint." They are extreme close-ups, showing only canvas, brush and, occasionally, his fingers manipulating the paint. Keiser said he made these films in order to be a "passive spectator" of his own work. "Painting is a performance, like jazz. There's a sense of play. A search for the right notes, right time, right feeling. It's not an intellectual exercise. Technique has to be in the background, like breathing." This sensibility is apparent in his films, in his paintings, and on his blog. For Keiser, it's all about the work. "This is what I do. I paint. How I present it is the only thing that changes." — Jenny Block



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