Art Outside The Classroom: CB’s Faculty Artists

Art class — the set everyone wants to have next. Art gives students a break from the chaos of school and helps a lot of kids cope with their stress levels. Sadly, for most high schoolers, art is something that ends at graduation. Yet for a select few, it is a craft that develops into […]

Art class — the set everyone wants to have next. Art gives students a break from the chaos of school and helps a lot of kids cope with their stress levels.

Sadly, for most high schoolers, art is something that ends at graduation. Yet for a select few, it is a craft that develops into a career. You may know some of CB’s talented student artists, but what about the faculty and staff members who pursue art? Is it possible to teach and be a striving artist?

Mrs. Christine Kerr has red hair, a mad passion for art, and a love for “Funky Fridays.” Mrs. Kerr teaches classes like Advanced Painting and Honors Painting and Drawing here at Christian Brothers. Having earned a Master’s degree in fine arts from Slade School of Fine Arts in London, Mrs. Kerr is able to use her knowledge of all things art to help her students succeed. But how does she stay dedicated to her artistic career as a busy teacher?

“On the one hand, I wish I had more time to paint, but on the other hand, being around all of my students who paint and do so many awesome things, inspires me,” she says.

This past January, Mrs. Kerr joined Rancho Cordova Arts Group, an association that puts on several shows for its artists each year. This organization’s most recent exhibit was the “Reflections Art Show” at Rancho Cordova’s City Hall; Mrs. Kerr had three of her originals displayed in the show.

Mrs. Kerr in front of her painting “Lembert Dome”.

Mrs. Kerr also recently joined Sacramento Open Studios’ artist society. Sac Open Studios allows local artists to share their work in their own creative spaces. Some people work out of their homes for this event, while others, like Mrs. Kerr, use a shared studio to showcase their art and work on new pieces. 

“Eight of us got together and rented a space,” says Mrs. Kerr. “It’s kind of a gallery space, but I’ll have my easel and painting out, as well as finished paintings that people can buy.”

Mrs. Kerr’s distinct artistic style combines her love of bright colors with landscapes that are special to her. She tries to paint from her own photos as often as possible in order to keep her art unique and original.

“Most of my paintings are based off of significant places in my life — ones that have special meanings or stories behind them,” says Mrs. Kerr.

As a professional artist, Mrs. Kerr doesn’t just love to paint — she needs to paint.

“If I’m not doing art, I’m kind of grumpy,” she says. “It’s something I have to do… a necessary part of my life.”

Although Mrs. Kerr has been a fan of art her entire life, she was not interested in being an artist until college. With hopes to show kids the beauty of art while they’re still in high school, Mrs. Kerr has become very involved in CB’s Four Year Arts Program.

“It’s probably one of the most awesome programs on the planet,” she says, adding that the program “gives a foundation of skills but enough flexibility for you to find your own style within that.”

Unlike Mrs. Kerr, Mr. Polo Lopez ‘08 took an interest in art when he was still in high school. CB’s Four Year Arts Program taught him the fundamental principles of art, such as shading, balance, and color theory. Although these classes sparked his interest in becoming an artist, Mr. Lopez knew he needed to go to art school in order to pursue career in this field.

“I firmly believe that you have to be well versed in whatever it is that your doing,” he says. “You wouldn’t trust a doctor that didn’t go to medical school. If he’s just interested in anatomy that’s great, but he has to go through all the tests and learn all the rules.”

After immersing himself in hundreds of art rules and techniques, Mr. Lopez earned his Masters in Painting and Drawing from Sac State. Having just received this Master’s degree last year, he remembers the rigorous curriculum clearly. 

“It was super structured, very stressful, and kind of crazy,” he says.

In his grad program, Mr. Lopez was always challenged to convey clear messages in his artwork. His teachers would often ask him the question “why?” Why did you use that type of paint, that color, and that size canvas? Why did you use certain techniques and not others to emphasize your idea? In order to clearly communicate his messages, Mr. Lopez created a set of iconography to use in each of his paintings.

“I always have a slingshot. I always have lots of hands, lots of paths or roadways, lots of fences, lots of figures,” the artist says. “Halos are really important to me too. Once I have my little group of iconography, I can explore that little dimension that I have going on.”

Mr. Lopez’s 6×8.5 ft painting titled “Go Seek”.

Mr. Lopez recently had one of his paintings displayed at a friend’s charity event. The charity sponsored legal fees for people at the Mexican border battling immigration laws. Creating this large-scale 4x8ft piece gave Mr. Lopez motivation to keep improving his work. He has now officially transitioned from his grad program’s rigid structure to a more flexible post-grad schedule.

“Outside of school, it’s hard to create that structure on your own, so I keep things very visible in front of me. When you open the door at my house, there’s paint on the ground,” he says. “I need to see it to be reminded to get back into things. If it’s present in my living space, then I can’t ignore it.”

Mr. Lopez’s charity event painting titled “Mind Your Manners”.

Artists are always in need of inspiration for their work, and this creative process can only start when they step away from their paintings, drawings, or sculptures. Mr. Lopez made sure he always had “inspiration breaks” in his college schedule.

“Every semester in college I would take something completely unrelated to my art studies… like Shakespeare or dance,” he says.

When Mr. Lopez was in his second semester of grad school, CB men’s volleyball helped him structure these break times. He had two hours of coaching practice every afternoon, which forced him to take daily breaks from painting.

“You need those breaks from your studio. When you go to your studio or your living room or your classroom, you’re thinking about your painting, but all those other experiences you’ve had are filtering through you whether you know it or not,” he says. “You come back to your studio fresh and ready to go… It’s hard to balance in terms of time management, but it’s totally necessary.”

Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Lopez are just two of CB’s artistically talented staff members. Although these two discovered their passion for art differently, they both eventually found a love for painting and pursued the art form professionally. Mrs. Kerr and Mr. Lopez’s art advice and experience is available to all Christian Brothers students. Look at their skill, mirror their dedication, and be inspired by their pieces.

“Don’t get comfortable,” says Mr. Lopez. “There’s always room to grow in art. You always want to push yourself.”

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