Metal artist Bill Keen makes one-of-a-kind sculp­tures

Moose Jaw Express.com - - News - Bill and Lau­rette Keen. Sasha-Gay Lob­ban

Over 40 years, metal sculp­ture artist Bill Keen has been cre­at­ing one-of-a-kind, hand crafted sculp­tures that have not only cap­tured the at­ten­tion of lo­cals and peo­ple across the prov­ince but has also gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion.

His work can­not be du­pli­cated as th­ese uniquely, hand-sculpted pieces are made from the ground up, us­ing steel as the main medium, “welded, forged and bent into orig­i­nal de­signs” with in­tri­cate de­tails.

Bill Keen started sculp­ture in York­ton where he lived for two years. He and his fam­ily sub­se­quently moved to Moose Jaw where Bill fell more in love with metal art. Start­ing out as an in­dus­trial arts teacher at A.E. Pea­cock Col­le­giate, he lit up with ex­cite­ment while cre­at­ing things hand­son and teach­ing stu­dents to do the same. “I’ve been sculpt­ing for 47 years. I taught the in­dus­trial arts at Pea­cock, which was won­der­ful. It was a broad range of dif­fer­ent ar­eas and I loved it be­cause it was cre­at­ing things. The stu­dents loved it too be­cause it was hands-on things that they could do.”

Keen’s love for metal arts blos­somed even more and that’s when he en­tered his first metal artist na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in which he was among some of the best metal artists in Canada. His award-win­ning streak be­gan im­me­di­ately as his work gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion.

“Back then, I was kind of ex­per­i­ment­ing and one day I saw an ad for a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for metal artists. The theme for that com­pe­ti­tion was ‘en­ergy.’ I thought, ‘well I’ll try to make some­thing for this com­pe­ti­tion’ and I did that and won se­cond place.”

It was after this com­pe­ti­tion, his pas­sion con­tin­ued to grow for metal sculp­tures. After that, Keen went on to cre­ate more works of metal art which he says con­tin­ues to be very re­ward­ing and ful­fill­ing to this day.

“After that com­pe­ti­tion I re­al­ized that cre­at­ing metal art gave me a lot of plea­sure, so I de­cided to con­tinue do­ing so and that’s what I did. I’ve been do­ing it ever since and it’s been 47 years now! I’ve done many shows to show­case some of my pieces.”

He con­tin­ued, “Ev­ery piece is unique. It is all sculpted from scratch and no piece of my art can be du­pli­cated be­cause noth­ing is cut out. I’ve al­ways cre­ated th­ese pieces from ba­si­cally ma­te­rial. My work is sculp­ture — started from a few ma­te­ri­als and I make it into a sculp­ture. That’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween my work and that of some other artists. The work I do is one of a kind be­cause it is im­pos­si­ble to du­pli­cate based on the process that goes into ev­ery piece.”

Keen says what makes his work even more ful­fill­ing is hav­ing his wife Lau­rette of 50 years work­ing with him in cre­at­ing his sculp­tures. She is the co-de­signer on all the pieces.

“About 25 years ago, Lau­rette started work­ing with me, which was really good be­cause she would be my critic, and this made my work bet­ter. She worked closely with me. She also does the fi­nal touch to pieces like the paint­ing. She has a great eye for color. We work ex­tremely well to­gether and now she has be­come an in­tri­cate part of our work. Ev­ery­thing I do now, she’s heav­ily in­volved.” Lau­rette says paint­ing brings the sculp­tures to life which makes the pieces stand out more.

“He used to do a va­ri­ety of work with dif­fer­ent me­tals but for the last 15 or 20 years, he’s mostly us­ing steel. He has also been sculpt­ing a lot more trees be­cause trees are more in­ter­est­ing, and peo­ple grav­i­tate to them. Ev­ery sculp­ture is then hand painted which is what I do that would make the sculp­ture look more re­al­is­tic, so that’s where I come in,” Lau­rette said.

“Her work com­pli­ments mine so much be­cause she brings it to life,” said a proud Bill. “She breathes a lot of life into it.” Keen also spoke about his in­spi­ra­tion be­hind some of his most no­table pieces. “I’m very in­spired by the en­vi­ron­ment. Ev­ery­thing in na­ture in­spires me… Trees help us in our en­vi­ron­ment in many ways and be­cause of this, peo­ple tend to re­late a lot to them.”

The sculp­tures are wall hang­ings or three-di­men­sional forms and vary from re­al­is­tic to very ab­stract.

He said metal sculpt­ing is a great art to learn be­cause it is very ful­fill­ing.

“I would en­cour­age oth­ers to get into this kind of artistry be­cause psy­cho­log­i­cally, it is so re­ward­ing. It is in­vig­o­rat­ing to cre­ate some­thing, and you are very pleased with it and oth­ers love it too. That makes it even more re­ward­ing. I love my work… it’s a deep pas­sion for me. I still en­joy do­ing metal sculp­tures”

To get in touch with the Keens, you can call 306-692- 4912 to make an ap­point­ment. Learn more at http://wck­met­a­lartist.ca.

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