BY JEREMY SHERE
Among Bloomington’s many talented artists, painter Keith Kline is one of the most successful, but also one of the most discreet.
“I’m not very interested in marketing myself or showing my work in galleries,” says Kline, 56, who for the past 32 years has worked at Cook Medical as an illustrator and manager of illustration and photography. “I’ve always been a bit of a loner, which is how I see painting. You can do your thing in private and then put it out there and let someone else enjoy it after the fact.”
Despite his reticence toward publicity, over the past few decades Kline has established himself as one of the region’s most talented painters of portraits and local landscapes, such as the scene from Jack’s Defeat Creek in Ellettsville, pictured below. His work has been purchased by the Ford Motor Company, Bristol-Myers Squibb, OshKosh B’gosh, American United Life, Cook, and Arvin Industries. In 2009 he won a commission to paint portraits of chief judges for the United States District Court in Indianapolis. Kline has won dozens of awards for his painting, including Best of Show at the Indiana Heritage Arts competition, and has prints of his original paintings on permanent exhibit at French Lick Springs Hotel.
Self-trained, Kline works in the realist tradition of John Sargent, Andrew and Jamie Wyeth, and the late-19th- and early-20th-century Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida.
“Being from the Midwest, I have old-fashioned notions about painting,” says Kline, who grew up in Spencer. “I like to paint people and places I know, and I love the challenge of creating the illusion of reality.”
To capture a true likeness in his portraits, Kline works from dozens of photographs he takes of his subjects, including long shots and close-ups of the face, hands, and other parts of the body. “Sometimes I’ll get some shots when the subject doesn’t even know I’m taking them, and those end up being the most natural and useful for the painting,” he says.
When he’s not at Cook or working on a commission, Kline devotes himself to music; both he and his wife, retired graphic designer and photographer Martha Kline, play banjo and guitar.
“At the end of the day,” Kline says, “unless I’m working on a commission, there’s nothing better I like to do than to play music.”