Ken Christensen is a classic, on-site landscape painter with influences filtered down from the French Impressionists and Fauves. He paints with the vision, color, and verve of such painters as Van Gogh, Vlaminck, Marquet and Derain and with the American perspective of Hopper and Benton.
He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1951 and raised in Flint, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University where he graduated with a B.A. in History in 1974. He was also part of an overseas study program at Bedford College, London and attended the University of Manchester in England for a full year. After college Mr. Christensen settled in Traverse City, Michigan, where he pursued a career as a freelance artist while also writing for the local newspaper.
His early projects included post cards of historic sites in the area, Christmas cards of people's homes, advertising illustrations, art fairs, and the occasional group exhibits. At the same time he attended art classes at Northern Michigan College in Traverse City. Frustrated by Michigan's long winters and missing Europe, he moved back to London in 1980. He remained in Europe for the following nine years. In his early years in Europe he supported himself largely by sketching shops and restaurants in the street. In the summer of 1981 he launched himself on a long bicycle trip, crossing Holland, Belgium and France and teaching himself French along the way. He then settled in Sollies-Pont on the Cote d' Azur. The following year he moved to Paris where he remained for the next five years. During this period he attended life drawing classes at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and was also an official copyist at the Louvre Museum, but his greatest education came from associating and working with the marvelous artists of Paris. Mr. Christensen had two one-man shows in Paris as well as St. Tropez where a book of his watercolors, "St. Tropez, Notes et Croquis de Voyages" was published in 1984. He also had two one-man shows in Ivrea, Italy. Originally a watercolor painter, he shifted over to oils during his European years. He also experimented in other techniques, primarily monoprints and blockprints. In 1986 he moved to San Sebastian, Spain, where he continued to paint and also taught English part time at a private academy. The following year he met his future wife, Maria Francisca, in her hometown of Granada, Spain. He then lived in Hyeres, France the next two years where he continued to paint and exhibit.
In the summer of 1988 he moved back to the U.S. with his wife to Petoskey, Michigan, a beautiful resort town on Lake Michigan. The following five years the Christensens alternated their time between summers in Petoskey and winters in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he exhibited at the Linda McAdoo Gallery among others. During this period he opened The Christensen Gallery in Oden, Michigan, which gave Mr. Christensen a place to exhibit his own work and other artists as well as a large studio in which to work during the Michigan winters. In an adjacent building he began a used bookstore which prospered and grew. During this period he also created "The Christensen Puppet Theater" performing in both New Mexico and Michigan. Mr. Christensen built the theater and all the puppet's heads; Mrs. Christensen contributing the costumes.
With the arrival of two daughters, Claudia and Laura, the migration between Santa Fe and Petoskey became impractical. Staying put in Michigan, Mr. Christensen taught watercolor and printmaking at North Central Michigan College. He also taught drawing and oil painting at the McCune Art Center, and many private workshops in the summer.
Once again the Michigan winters became too limiting for a landscape painter and the Christensens moved to San Luis Obispo, California in 1998. The Central Coast area of California offers a wide variety of subject matter for Mr. Christensen and the climate permits painting on location almost daily year round. He and his work were warmly received in California where he soon found galleries to exhibit his work. He was rewarded with a large, prestigious exhibit at the San Luis Obispo Art Center in June 2002, entitled "From Where I Stand". Christensen became a regular participant in local exhibits, winning awards in both watercolor and oil painting exhibits in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, as well as teaching workshops in the area. He also became a regular participant in the burgeoning plein air scene, gaining accolades in plein air festivals in San Luis Obispo, La Quinta, and Carmel. In March 2004, he was the artist in residence at the beautiful Inn at Morro Bay where a large exhibit followed, "Bigger, Bolder, Brighter". His paintings have been featured on the cover of the Daniel Smith catalogue and written about in Artist's Sketchbook Magazine, as well as in local newspapers. He is the founder of a bold group of painters, The New Fauves, committed to propagating the style of the great French Fauve painters.
Ken is also an author. He has published a collection of letters from his years in Europe in a limited edition. He is also the author of three novels, "The Blue Cabin," written in France in 1981, "Up North With Uncle Bob" written in 1986, and "Joey Appleshoe," published in 2010. His books contain numerous illustrations exectued in pen and ink. All three novels are available at Lulu.com.
Ken Christensen paints with an intensity and bravura that reveals the glory and beauty of even the most mundane scenes. Rather than the standard post card views, Mr. Christensen seeks out the particular that his personal vision can raise to the universal.