Salina’s Wayne Keeler, 71, was recently awarded “Best in Show” in the amateur division of Presbyterian Manor’s Art is Ageless® competition for his painting, “Wait for It.”
Inspired by the monkeys at Rolling Hills Zoo, “Wait for It” immortalizes the animals’ mischievous personalities and reputations as natural-born performers.
“If you notice, he has a slight smile,” said Keeler. “It just looks like he’s waiting to toss a little gift out to the crowd … if you know what I’m talking about.”
While not new to local art competitions, this year marked the first time Keeler had submitted a piece to the Art is Ageless competition and—while he is proud of the piece—bringing home the competition’s top prize came as a shock.
“Quite honestly, it’s a little overwhelming to me,” said Keeler. “I felt very good about that painting when I finished, but it certainly doesn’t have mass appeal—not too many people want to hang it on their wall.”
Keeler’s interest in art began as a child, however, growing up, he never received much in the way of formal training.
“The training I’ve had has come through absorption,” said Keeler. “I really didn’t have any art classes throughout high school, they just weren’t available. However, I worked for several architectural and construction firms over the years, where I got to do some design work. I also went through a couple art courses taught by Bill Hottman at the Salina Rec in the late ’70s—he was the first to emphasize keeping my pieces ‘painterly’—but then I got busy with work and really didn’t do much.”
It wasn’t until retirement that Keeler began to pick up the paintbrushes again thanks to a few painting shows on TV.
“I saw how (the artists) approached art and worked with acrylics—it looked so simple and easy to clean up, that I decided to just work at it until I got it to look like I wanted it to look. I have also benefited greatly in my artistic growth with the helpful hints and critiques since joining the Kansas Figure Artists Group who meet each week for drawing exercises and discussions.”
Despite his success, Keeler still feels uncomfortable calling himself an artist.
“I still feel like I’m more of a technician than an artist,” said Keeler. “I’m trying to figure out how to make the brushes and paints work and get it done … I guess that’s pretty common for any artist, we’re always the hardest on ourselves.”
PHOTO: Wayne Keeler receives his local award from Desi Flerlage, executive director at Salina Presbyterian Manor, at Salina’s Art is Ageless reception in April.