Owensboro’s Aaron Kizer turns painting into performance art with his astonishing speed painting skill. He tells Kentucky Life that each five-minute painting on stage is the result of hours of preparation beforehand.
“When I’m performing live I do a painting in four to five minutes,” says Kizer. “The process to get to that point Is hours and hours maybe even weeks to get to know a face [well enough] to feel comfortable to get on stage and do that within five minutes.”
Kizer’s subjects are most often portraits of famous people, including iconic faces such as Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe. He also paints characters from pop culture, like Superman, or even faces he sees on TV that inspire him.
“Before I start painting, I’ll sit down with a sketch pad and I’ll sketch faces out,” explains Kizer. “I have to find the negative space. I have to find shadows and sometimes create shadows that aren’t there. I may do 50 sketches before I ever start to paint.”
Kizer starts out sketching slowly and aims to increase his speed with each progressive sketch, without losing the appearance of his subject.
“I think he really enjoys pushing himself to see what he’s capable of,” says Holly Stewart, a fan and collector of Kizer’s work. “I’ve seen him push himself endlessly to try to figure out what he wants to paint, and then spend hours and days making sure that the second he does it it’s executed perfectly. I think part of it is just a desire to see what he can do within himself.”
The first steps of Kizer’s art career came from a bit of goofing around during his youth when he worked for his father.
“I first got into painting through my dad’s construction company,” Kizer says. “He would have me go to homes he was remodeling or building and have me do the painting. Before I would paint the walls, I would paint faces.”
At first he painted simple smiley faces, but with each progressive wall, he’d start to add more detail. Kizer’s father encouraged his son’s creative outlet.
“I had developed panic attacks and agoraphobia, and I’d stayed in the house for nearly two years straight,” Kizer says. “And during that time I taught myself to paint. My dad always encouraged me to paint.”
Kizer started painting more and selling his artwork after his father was diagnosed with cancer. His work helped pay for the medical bills. His father passed away just a day before his first art show. The money earned from that show went to pay funeral expenses.
“Every painting that I do now and every show that I do I kind of do in my dad’s memory,” he says. “That’s the main reason I began painting the way that I do.”
As he’s become more well-known, Kizer continues to use the proceeds from his art for good.
“He’s raised endless amounts of money for charities,” says Stewart. “He will paint something that I know could easily sell for $10 thousand and give it away to a charity and let them auction it off for whatever they can for someone who is in need.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2013, which originally aired on April 4, 2015. Watch the full episode.