Two Charleston Impressionists hit their mark
By Amy Stockwell Mercer
Rick Reinert and Kevin LePrince are prolific artists, working seven days a week in their shared studio and gallery. They are often so busy painting, they don’t notice when customers walk in the door.
“I’ve backed into people more than once,” LePrince jokes. Both live within walking distance of their King Street gallery and frequently stop by to paint after the shop is closed. LePrince says, “One night, several people were knocking on the door, wanting to come in because I was here after hours.”
After showing their work at Wells Gallery on Meeting Street for several years, these two artists decided to go out on their own. The amicable painting was based on a desire to create a “working studio” where they could paint and show off their work. Both agree that the move has paid off. “Working here has given us the ability to be more creative and to go in new directions.” Reinert says. It’s also brought them closer to their clients, who often discover the artists hard at work at opposite corners of the gallery.
Although the men paint different subjects, they share a love of color and texture. Reinert calls himself a Contemporary Impressionist. His large-scale images of downtown streets, rainy afternoons and landscapes are done with thick, bold brushstrokes. His oil paintings have a sense of drama. “I like to create images that grab viewer’s attention,” he says. He frequently walks through Charleston’s alleyways and streets, taking photos for inspiration. “I elaborate on the basic structure of the photograph, adding layers of color to create a feeling of movement,” he says. In a recent painting, View From John Street, the streets pop with vivid oranges, creating a signature “Reinert vibe” of organized chaos.
After studying for two years in college, Reinert dropped out, joined the army and eventually managed a successful cosmetics company. He believes his business career has given him an advantage as a full time artist. Reinert says he continues to learn. His work has evolved over the years and his brushstrokes have become looser. “I’m saying more with fewer brushstrokes,” he says.
Like Reinert, LePrince has a business background. He worked as a Vice President for Wachovia Securities until 2004. “My heart for that business was gone,” he says. “I would come home at night and paint with the TV on and become completely absorbed. I’d look up and the sun would be rising.” In his early 30s, LePrince knew that if he was ever going to make a career change, that was the time.
Following his heart, LePrince began painting everything that inspired him, from birds to chefs to fish and landscapes-and he did it seven days a week. The zealous artist confesses that, while it may sound corny, “I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and I know that, eventually, everything will come together.”
LePrince’s style is impressionistic. He captures emotion with bold brushstrokes and vivid colors. His style has evolved over the years and, more recently, the focus is on the movement of his subject in the foreground. Applying wet-on-wet paint allows for continued manipulation. LePrince says he likes to capture a little personality in his animal paintings, evident in works such as Third Wheel, which includes three charming birds and in the aptly titled, Killing Time, Sandpiper Study.
Both men agree that they are doing exactly what they are meant to do. LePrince says, “If I’m lucky, I’ll continue to do what I love for the rest of my life.”