By RENEE FITE
An artist paints what he or she feels inside – as a musician performs and a writer puts pen to paper – because there is something to be expressed creatively.
For Kenny Henson, inspiration can be found in nature, in encounters with people and by the childhood stories of his family.
“I am inspired by stories my grandfather and my father told me when I was a child, about myths and legends as well as supernatural happenings during their time,” Henson said. “You will see a lot of unexplained things in my paintings, as well as brilliant colors that may not seem normal, but to me, that is what art is about, telling a story from the artist’s perspective.”
He’s been creating art and painting since he could hold a pencil and a brush.
“Even as a small child, I can remember looking at books with pictures of works of art from the masters, as well as our local artists, and thinking, ‘I want to paint like that someday,’” he said. “I would draw and color on every sheet of paper around our house,” he said.
His father noticed his son’s talent at an early age and bought watercolors and tablets for birthday presents.
“When I was about 4, and as I got older, I started painting with acrylic, because I like the effects I can achieve when the paint is layered and the effect of the deep brilliant colors, because, to me, it is all about colors.”
As a student in Tahlequah Public Schools, he learned a lot about artistic creativity, he said. At Tahlequah Junior High and High School he honed a lot of his artistic skills. Junior high art teacher Mike Daniels taught him how to prepare for art show competitions.
“He knew my skills as an artist and showed me how to create works of art that the judges would key on, because I learned what you like is not always what the judges are looking for,” Henson said. “I won awards every year at the student art shows with Mr. Daniels guidance.”
His high school art teacher realized his talents and would let him paint pictures and do designs for school activities for extra credit, while the rest of the class did the scheduled art projects, he said.
“I was always known as the kid who could draw all through school,” he said.
Sports dominated his college days in Lawrence, Kan. He planned to become an art teacher, but sports became his priority at that time, so he stopped painting and played football and baseball instead.
“Finally, my career path took me to where I am today, but as I went through life, the urge to create and paint never left me,” he said. “I started a home studio where I could go design and create works of art as I was inspired.”
Henson, a computer-assisted design engineer for the Aerospace and Defense Division for 15 years, said his passion is being an artist, whether he’s painting or designing.
With a full-time job, travel is limited, so he attends four or five regional art shows and events a year including the Trail of Tears Art Show, Five Civilized Tribes Art Show, Indian Summer in Bartlesville, Red Earth, Cherokee Holiday Art Show and Arts on the Avenue.
He’s competed for about 25 years, winning many awards, but has never received “Best In Show.”
“I feel someday I will achieve this goal if I keep at it,” Henson said.
Recently, he entered a poster contest at the University of Washington in Seattle, promoting environmental health and won first place for the Southeastern region. He’s waiting to find out if he also won the overall winner designation.
“With limited creative time, my goal at this point is to paint one original painting a month,” he said. “I have been keeping up with this goal pretty well, even sometimes painting two pieces in a month, and my eventual goal is to be a full-time artist.”
Along with wife Carla, Henson lives on a small farm on the banks of Baron Fork Creek.
“I get a lot of my wildlife and nature inspiration there,” he said.
He has three children, the eldest is an engineer for IBM in Colorado, the middle child is a student at Missouri State and his youngest is a student at Northeastern State University.
“With my children all out of the home now I find I have a lot more time to paint and be creative,” Henson said.
Henson hopes youth will be inspired by the art and artists today.
“Our future generations can look back at our creativity and see our thought process and take from it to create their own masterpieces, because we will inspire them to not hold back on their creativity,” Henson said, “Because the love of art is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.”