The Artist: Mike Keepness

Michael “Mike” John Keepness

APRIL 30, 1981 – FEBRUARY 12, 2021

Mike Keepness Interview:

As soon as she (Judith) mentioned “honoring the buffalo.” It already had my heart involved and I probably sold more bison paintings than anything. So it was already something I would love to do anyway.

My process is I have a portable easel and it’s very lightweight. It almost looks like a laptop and it has my palette in there. And when you flip it open, it can hold a canvas board like one of these behind me. I’ll hike out into a coulee or along the river, which is something I love just to hear water running while I’m painting. And so I’ll nature firsthand is my inspiration. I’ll paint a study outdoors, bring that study in indoors into my studio. Combine that with imagination and a little bit of photography. And that’s how I came up with a final piece. I really enjoyed working with Judith. She’s a great writer, and what she did with Elder Ray’s stories is I’m really grateful to be a part of this.

I’d have to say the one with the grandfather and the silhouettes of the grandfather sitting on a hillside is probably my favorite one. And it’s a very sentimental piece. It’s probably one of the final moments I had with my own grandfather before his passing when I was about 11 years old. So, I mean, like that that was like my world leaving me at that time. It was very vital. And so that’s the whole process. An artist puts his heart into his work and I’m glad that this work is published now. And it’s a book.

Mike Keepness Video Interview on Illustrating the Book

Biography of Mike Keepness

According to his dad, Michael Keepness grew up on Muscowpetung First Nation.  “His mother was from Pasqua First Nation but Michael never stayed there; he grew up and attended school on Muscowpetung First Nation. Michael was a normal boy who loved to laugh and make people laugh through his art.

During Michael’s younger years, around the age of 5-6, he started to be more involved in drawing scenery.  He loved to draw characters from comic books, and used his imagination a lot well into his teens. He always carried pencils, paper and crayons with him in his backpack.

Recess time most of friends his age were playing games, sports and cops and robbers, etc. Michael would be doing his own thing he loved the most, drawing and using paints creating different colours. 

During the Muscowpetung school years at the ages 6 and up he had teacher who allowed him to do his art first for half hour, before he would do his school work, because he was stubborn and he made a deal with his teacher. After his art of 30 mins was up, he did what the teachers wanted him to do.” His dad Darwin Keepness laughs, “my stubborn son.  Already he began to show his compassion for art and showed more imagination.

During his teens he began to experiment with charcoal, different types of coloring that were available to him. He started with oils on cardboard, later he entered canvas and oils. This where he found his true calling and began to experiment and to show more of his hidden talent.

Michael was married around the age of 25 years, he had two daughters and one son and lived in Regina, Saskatchewan where he graduated and worked ( I can’t recall the name of the school then and from what year he started. )

After his children were a lot older, he began to travel to around Canada. He loved the wilderness, and would paint each season of a place he had a lot of interest in. He loved the USA scenery of the wildness raw tough lands desert and mountains. Michael and I were very close, always talking about life, happiness and the challenges of life.

Mike had many talents, one being a gifted painter, who had art showings in the U.S. and was planning a show in Germany post covid. Mike’s current paintings can be found in the McKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. Mike gifted many of his paintings to family and friends.

%d bloggers like this: