Kevin Grass grew up in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, a small river town about an hour southeast of St. Louis. Since there were no art supply stores nearby, Grass’s father, who worked as a grocery clerk, brought brown paper bags home for him to use as drawing paper. Using #2 pencils and ball-point pens, Grass worked obsessively without instruction to master representational drawing skills. Early subjects ranged widely, including narrative fantasy, landscapes, and traditional portraits.
At the age of 10 Grass was introduced to painting on canvas by his elementary school art teacher. After experimenting with oil and acrylic paints, Grass decided that he preferred the latter because acrylics dried quickly and did not required toxic thinners. It was not unusual to see him outdoors working on paintings with his typical array of supplies – Liquitex acrylics, canvas panels, cheap hobby brushes, and paper plate palettes.
In high school, Grass created a wide variety of commissioned works, ranging from portraits and landscapes to lettering for campaign signs and car decorations. One of the murals he assisted with in downtown Ste. Genevieve still exists today. It has faded, but shows that Grass had promise as a representational painter from an early age.
After becoming valedictorian of Ste. Genevieve High School, Grass began his formal art education at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He started as an architecture student, but his obsession with painting was so strong that he changed his major at the beginning of the second semester of his sophomore year. He received his undergraduate degree in drawing and painting in 1990 from Washington University on a full academic scholarship.
At the University of Georgia, he met his future wife, Michaela Oberlaender, in a Northern Renaissance art class. That course had an extensive impact on his life because it also introduced him to the narrative symbolism and the meticulous techniques of the Flemish masters that influence his work today. In his studio classes, Grass was encouraged to paint loosely and use oil paint, neither of which felt right to him, but it was an important stage in earning his masters of fine art degree.
The fall after receiving his graduate degree, Grass began teaching art full-time at Gordon College in Barnesville, Georgia. In addition to teaching, he pursued corporate art commissions, regional juried shows, and had his first
solo museum exhibition. While teaching was new and exciting, it was always a means for him to be able to paint.
In August 1997, while his wife was expecting their son, Grass moved his family to the Tampa Bay region to accept a teaching post at St. Petersburg College in Florida. He still teaches full-time as an Associate Professor of Art on the Clearwater campus.
Kevin Grass made the switch back to painting in acrylics in 2001, a few years after his son Nicholas was born, because he did not want the toxic fumes in his home. The other reason was because some of the oil pieces showed slight cracks in them after they were varnished, making them look as if they were already as old as the pieces by the Renaissance Masters. It took a while for Grass to be as skilled in acrylics as in oils, but now if you look at works in both media side by side, it is difficult to distinguish betweenthem based on the medium alone.
Corporate and Percent for Art sales began to dry up in 2001 after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, so Grass began to focus his attention on figurative pieces that comment upon social issues of the day. These complex, thought-provoking images were well represented in juried and invitational regional and national exhibitions, galleries, and prestigious art publications. Crowds at international art fairs, such as SPECTRUM Miami and Artexpo in New York, were especially receptive to the work. The feedback about his work at these shows, with over 30,000 visitors, influenced themes for future art works.
Late in 2019, as painting sales almost completely ceased and storage space began to run out in his studio, Grass decided that something needed to change. Lame Ducks is series of smaller, less complex images that retain the humor, narrative, and technical approach of the more involved figure paintings, using rubber ducks as the common thematic element. These visual puns are colorful, fun, and lend themselves more easily to marketing and commercial applications. The paintings are accompanied by a whole series of products available at the website www.lameducks.net.