By AUDREY JENKINS – STAFF WRITER
When he’s not busy mentoring 60 student leaders as the Director of the Bonner Program, facilitating campus community service initiatives in his role as the Campus Director of Community Service, teaching biology as an Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, or chasing after his one-year-old daughter Evy, Dr. Matthew Klooster likes to paint.
“I took one art class in high school, so I’ve definitely never had any formal training. Folks like [H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art and Chair of Art History & Studio Art Programs] Sheldon Tapley would probably look at my work and say ‘Hmm, that’s pretty good amateur work,’ and I certainly feel like I’m an amateur,” Klooster said. “But I really enjoy it.”
Unlike many members of the artistic community, Klooster did not begin his artistic ventures until rather late in life. Although his current medium of choice is oil paint, Klooster actually got his start with pastels.
“I vaguely knew how to use pastels from my one high school art class, so at age 23 I started doing landscape portraits with pastels. My love for art has always existed, but it wasn’t until I was in grad school I decided I wanted to start exploring my own artistic side as a sort of counterbalance to my science-minded side,” Klooster said.
In 2010, during his first year as a Centre professor, Klooster began experimenting with oil painting.
“I draw my inspiration from the natural world — the Bluegrass is beautiful. I like to drive around the countryside and look for something that inspires me, something that I find visually intriguing,” Klooster said. “I’ll take a picture of that particular scene and then express it in oil paint. Oftentimes I’ll modify the picture — dropping things out, adding things in, but it’s always a scene from a picture I took myse
In a creative use of social media, Klooster has taken to using Facebook as both a platform and a sounding board for his work.
“I had a couple of completed pieces that I posted [on Facebook] a while ago, and now I’m just getting back into it again. I guess people either think it’s funny or interesting, but either way it’s been helpful to me,” Klooster said. “For example, I posted two pictures on Facebook and asked people which scene I should paint. They chose one, and then I posted pictures that showed the progression of the piece until I finally posted the completed work.”
Although Klooster made the “progression” of painting sound easy, the process of creating oil paintings is oftentimes very time-consuming and laborious.
“I will usually do a rough, ten-to-fifteen-minute sketch on the canvas to get an understanding of the layout, and then I’ll start painting from there. The paintings usually take a while — the woodshed that I did took around 25 hours, and the sycamore tree took seven or eight hours,” Klooster said. “Because I have no formal training, I’m still playing with techniques. I’ll play with different methods to try and get the right texture or the right composition that I’m seeking. Sometimes I’ll paint something and I’ll hate it, so I’ll scrape it off and start again. It’s a process.”
Given his many other responsibilities, Klooster has had to work hard in order to set aside time that is purely dedicated to enjoying his hobby. However, as time-consuming as the process may be, Klooster is adamant that it is worth it.
“There are busy times of the year and there are slow times,” he said, “but I need the creative release of art to feel healthy, so I make time.”
Indeed, while it may seem unusual that a biology professor and community service director has such a strong passion for art, Klooster finds that all of his passions are one and the same.
“Quite honestly, the thing that made me fall in love with biology is the thing that makes me love service: it’s an appreciation and respect for life. In biology I get to study the details of how life works. As a community service and Bonner coordinator I get to help my students find opportunities to improve the quality of life for others,” he said. “And art is just another extension of this — through art, I can creatively express my deep love for life.”
Though Klooster usually prefers to paint landscapes, he has also painted a single portrait: a stunning oil of his young daughter, Evy.
“I think what I’d like to do is paint a portrait of my daughter every six to nine months. As she gets older, it might be more like every year, but I want to capture her as she is now. I want to do these pieces for her so when she gets older she will have a symbol of her father’s love for her through art,” Klooster said.
As a father and husband, Klooster could not be more thankful for the support system he has at home. His wife is a voice of reason that balances out his personal criticism of his work.
“My wife is very supportive. I am highly critical of myself and I always ask her opinion on my work. She is a wonderful guide. She tells me when I need to stop and leave a painting alone,” Klooster said. “But she’s also very honest with me when something needs to be modified.”
Klooster cited Andrew Wyeth, Vincent van Gogh, and Winslow Homer as some of his artistic influences. He also greatly admires Centre’s own Tapley for his specialty in photo-realistic work.
“I think Tapley’s work is extraordinary because it looks like a photograph. Of all types of art, I admire that the most,” he admitted. “I’ve never been able to achieve it myself, but I think it’s wonderful.”
When asked if he has ever considered selling his work, Klooster humbly responded that he’s never really entertained the idea.
“Most of my pieces just end up hanging in my house, or I will put them in the basement. Truthfully, I’ve never thought of them as being worthy of sale, nor have I pursued any avenues through which to sell them,” Klooster explained. “Besides, I develop a passion for each of the pieces that I produce, so it would be difficult to part with them.”
In his short time here at Centre, Klooster has already made a huge mark on our campus community. Whether it is through his compassionate and exciting teaching style, his driven commitment to community service and the success of the Bonner program, or his fabulous art, Dr. Klooster is one of the
reasons why Centre is wonderful.