Artist and Figure Model, Keith Cole, Wilmington, NC, 2018.

Keith is a true-born artist. He began drawing, painting, and sculpting at a very young age. As a child, he only took a few art classes, aside from those he got in public school. He did however, absorb just about everything that interested him and interpreted it into an artistic creation he could call his own. He was a natural and excelled in his art. It didn’t bother him at all that he got very little recognition from his family for his labor. He just continued to do his own little thing in his own little world.

Oil (from a paint-by-number) on repurposed wood (from the family’s white picket fence), 1970.

After graduating in 1985 with an Associate’s Degree in Communication  Arts from Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, he stayed in town and worked briefly as a Scitex Operator in the textile industry. He soon noticed that the majority of the small, hand-painted designs that came into the department to be converted into digital files for the engraving of printing cylinders, came from art studios in New York City. With a definite plan in his mind, he began to take note of the studios and addresses; and when available he even got phone numbers and contact names as well. Finally, with all his notes and leads secured and about $1,500 saved, he made the announcement that he was moving to New York!

    Eye on New York, Acrylic on Canvas,

Following his dream and on a spiritual quest, he moved to the City in 1987, where he lived and worked for nearly the next decade. He probably lived in at least six different apartments, before finally settling in the East Village where he spent the last seven of his ten-year stay in the city.

Self-Portrait, on apartment rooftop in the East Village, 1994.

Ironically, although he interviewed quite a bit for textile jobs, he never worked in the garment district. It was a struggle at first to arrange these interviews and to get to them as scheduled either on foot or by public transportation. He had just arrived in a city that was new to him and although it was the adventure of a lifetime, it seemed somewhat overwhelming and consuming. He actually showed up to one of his meetings with torn and bloody slacks from falling in the middle of 42nd St.

He soon caught up with the pace of the city and got plenty of work in the graphics industry. He paid the rent by working at publishers, ad agencies and design firms including Details and Spy magazines. During the same time he worked on his fine art and managed to get his work into ten different shops and galleries throughout Manhattan, from Greenwich Village to the Upper West Side. It was during this same time that he took advantage of the open drawing sessions and workshops at The School of Visual Arts, The Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design.

After leaving New York,  Keith made a move to the West Coast, first stop was San Diego. The first week he was there he applied for an art director’s job at a brand new magazine and landed the position, but soon realized that it was not exactly what he had anticipated and decided to leave soon after the first issue hit the newsstands.

Copper and alloy wire. Mystical Mermaid, 1998.

While working at the magazine, he did make a connection with the director of advertising. She was the contact which got him noticed in San Diego as a fine artist by helping him to get his wire work into a gallery downtown where he sold several pieces. The gallery exposure also led to other sales and captured the interest among a few collectors.

Keeping one foot in San Diego, while the other began to explore LA was another one of those very taxing times Keith experienced, without really realizing it at the time. 

You can follow Keith in social media too!