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Artist attends to the details
Kemp takes visitors on outdoor adventure
Jay Kemp is one of the featured artists at Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville. His exhibit is called “Into the Wild” and spotlights outdoor life and animals. - photo by J.K. Devine

‘Into the Wild’

What: Collection of wildlife art by Jay Kemp

When: now-June 7

Where: Quinlan Visual Arts Center, 514 Green St. NE, Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info: or 770-536-2575

Gainesville artist Jay Kemp entered college playing baseball and finished his time at the University of North Georgia drawing with graphite.

Now, Kemp has turned a casual drawing class from college into a passion and a profession with his wildlife paintings and other works.

“In college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Kemp said. “I took a drawing class at North Georgia, and they told us that every 1 in 200 might make a living doing this, but I just kept trying.”

Some of Kemp’s early paintings sold for a mere $55 or more, but his incredible life-like works of elk, birds and other animals and landscapes sell for thousands.

Several of his pieces are on display at Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville. He is also giving field trip tours to area students such as homeschoolers and groups such as the Georgia Art League.

One thing making Kemp’s art so unique is his idea of the focal point being the animal or the background, not both.

“If an animal is dominant, then the background should be submissive, or vice versa,” Kemp said.

Many of his ideas and subjects come from northern Hall County, but Kemp also travels all over the continent to find inspiration for his pieces, such as bison in the Dakotas.

Kemp works off of photographs and sometimes uses a combination of pictures, his imagination and artistic knowledge to get the piece and subject exactly as he wants it.

“You can’t be a slave to the photograph,” he said. “Some things don’t show up as well, or the paint has to bring the light back into it, but there’s no shame in using photographs.”

To get the right picture, Kemp takes thousands of photographs on outings so he can combine them for his ideal scene. He also refuses to focus on the details and envisions the big picture so it looks most life-like.

“There is no message in the details,” Kemp said. “I’m looking at shapes to let nature dictate the picture so it doesn’t appear ‘cooked up.’ I’m basically an abstract painter.”

Kemp primarily focuses on his subjects and their environment to capture a specific amount of depth and perspective. He uses lighter colors to make the works more peaceful and adds mist and fog to achieve perspective and distance.

“I don’t like a lot of color,” Kemp said. “I like to soften the detail in the background because that also helps achieve depth.”

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