This is an original work of art NOT a print
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In gay culture, a bear is a larger and often hairier man who projects an image of rugged masculinity. The bear concept can function as an identity or an affiliation, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear.
I often make drawings for fun but sometimes I use my drawings as studies for watercolors and oil paintings. Drawings allow me to work out things like composition, subject matter and shading. Often I get to experiment when making a drawing with elements like mark making and cross hatching.
Portraits like this are one of my favorite things to paint and draw. This goes all the way back to my childhood when I had a wonderful teacher in junior high school who invited me to stay late after school and he spent an hour and a half going over the proportions of the face and the individual features of the face. This lesson was so inspiring that for years after that I spent a good part of my free time drawing interesting and beautiful faces out of magazines and photo books for years. When I got older, I learned the fundamentals of figure drawing and painting and I was able to grow expand my repertoire but faces are still a favorite subject for me. In this case, sometimes you just have to do a character study of an interesting face.
The paper that this is painted on is called Rives BFK, which is a type of heavy cotton printmaking paper that won't degrade over time and should hold the color really well for at least fifty to one hundred years without fading, especially if this is framed behind glass.
The size is a standard US frame size and can be framed inexpensively. Try buying a frame on the net.
Warning these are the only sites authorized to sell my art:
Here's a bit more about me, Kenney Mencher, the artist,
queer[ish] artist: Kenney Mencher
artist feature painting
Kenney Mencher is quite the prolific artist, churning out posts of new work on a seemingly daily basis. His style is recognizable to most queer painters with an online presence, his technique is obviously well-developed, and his subjects (hairy, masculine, often shirtless men) are seen through a blatantly homoerotic lens.
So, it goes without saying that he’s clearly gay, right? Well not exactly. We got the skinny on why this (somewhat) straight artist spends his energy indulging queer audiences, and how he started down the path to becoming the respected and accepted “queer” artist he is today.
[editor’s note: if you are looking to develop your art practice into a business, Mencher has a free video course that I highly recommend watching- scroll to the bottom for the link.]
[dandy:] You are a heterosexual cis male, but you paint mostly homoerotic portraits of men. Why paint men?
[Kenney Mencher:] Mainly, I paint men because I’m just better at painting them than women, but there are other more complicated reasons, of course. Probably the biggest is that I don’t feel like I’m exploiting the men I choose to paint. When I painted women, especially young women, I felt like I was exploiting them. I don’t want to be seen as painting from what people refer to as “the male gaze.” The reason why I paint men actually goes back to a painting I did in 2008 or so called “Shared Space.” It was picked up by a blogger on Tumblr named "Chubby Jay" who shared the shit out of it. The positive response I got from that was very encouraging.
I also tend toward males as a subject because of a little guidance I got from a friend of mine, who saw a lot of value in the paintings of handsome men I had been doing at the time. My florist, David Braddy, who I buy flowers from every week for my partner, wanted me to paint some beautiful men for him. After he hung them up, his friends were literally trying to swipe them from the walls, so I made more, and started to sell them alongside my pieces of other subject matter, which is mostly film noir and photobooth-related stuff.
The more personal reasons really have to do with my identity as a middle-aged man, the past relationships I had with men when I was much younger, and the fact that I’ve been accused of being “queer” my entire life. In fact, my older brother- who is gay and has been married to the same man for close to 30 years- used to call me “Kenney Queer” when I was in junior high, after he heard a girl call me that when we were on the Hebrew school bus.
I realized a while ago that I look like a lot of the men who collect my art- by which I mean that I look like a bear. After I watched a video on art marketing by Michael Cuffe, in which he talked about a young woman who painted subjects that looked like her, I decided to try painting men who looked more like me. In that process, I began to see myself from a different perspective, and started realizing why my wife- and many of the men I was friends with- found me attractive. Painting older gay men, especially bears, has taught me to appreciate my own beauty.
Do you identify as “straight,” then?
I suppose that when people ask me what my orientation is, I tell them I’m straight because I’m married to a woman, and it simplifies the conversation- but in my head I often identify as being “queer” or on the spectrum. For example, Etsy just sent me a survey asking how I identify, and I clicked the LGBTQ+ box.
Do people respond differently to your work when they find out that you are not into having sex with men?
I don’t think they respond that differently because of it, but they sometimes act as if they don’t believe me. I think it’s because I paint men so well, and I probably confuse people because of how I behave and the things I talk about. In fact, many of my friends were incredulous the first time I told them I’m straight. I think it’s because in terms of my attitude and my belief system, I don’t really fit into that definition.
What would you say to someone who might accuse you of pandering to the LGBTQ+ community?
Well, I don’t believe I’m pandering. I think I’m fulfilling the needs of an audience and group of people that appreciate the point of view I’m promoting. I also paint non-binary people, black people, and other people of color. I paint for these audiences because they are under-represented as subjects, and I feel like it’s a supportive thing to do, and also can be a politically powerful gesture. I actually think I was pandering more to straight men back when I was painting pin-up style women. I was really uncomfortable doing that, because it felt like I was perpetuating a system that degraded women.
If I really needed a justification for painting LGBTQ+ subjects, I would just point out that I have had some skin in the game. When I was young man, I had multiple same-sex partners, and today I’m still attacked by homophobes for being gay, even though they don’t know anything about me, or the complexities of my experience. On top of that, most of my friends, family, and social acquaintances are part of the LGBTQ+ community. In a way, I guess I’m painting more for those friends and family members than anyone else.
When did you start exploring male portraits and figures from a more erotic perspective and why?
I’ve always painted and drawn subjects that have strong homoerotic content. Even as far back as high school. The majority of my focus didn’t shift to homoerotic content until around 2008, when I decided to stop working with art galleries. I made that decision in large part because when I would paint homoeroticism, galleries would not show the work. That really pissed me off.
Where do you find the models you work with?
In the beginning when I first started painting homoerotic subjects, I did some photo shoots with my friends and family. As my thoughts and subject matter evolved, it was hard for me to get the erotic reference material I wanted using the people I knew, so I started collecting images from various photo-sharing platforms, and other places on the internet.
Lately, my reference material comes from soliciting my collectors, some self-portraits, and I’m working with several photographers. For example, I have a friend named Benjamine Lester who also specializes in painting bears, and he sent me a photograph of himself so I could paint him.
The photographer I’ve worked with most is a wonderful artist in France named Vincent Keith who specializes in photographing bears. I have a fantasy of collaborating with him on a show where his photographs are juxtaposed against the paintings that I made from them. You really need to check out his work! The lighting and the subject matter are exactly the kinds of things that I really like to paint. [mascularstudio.com]
Do you have a favorite painting you’ve done?
I actually don’t have a single favorite painting or image that’s my favorite. I always feel like it’s the next painting I do that is going to be my breakthrough painting that’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Can you tell us a bit about your process?
I have a pretty predictable cycle of how I work. I just completed a series of twenty or so works on paper- drawings and watercolors- that are the preliminary works I use to visualize whether or not they will become oils. The oils I make from those are usually between 9x12 and 18x24 inches in size. Once these oils are completed then I often take the most successful ones and repaint them once again as large 36x48 inch paintings.
What's your personal crayon color?
Black is beautiful!
I actually work with a brand of lithographic crayon called “William Korns’ Litho Crayon.” It only comes in black but it’s a pretty incredible crayon. It’s slightly water soluble and is the first thing I put down on paper. I rarely use pencils, but when I do, I use Ebony pencils which also have a beautiful velvety black too.
What projects are you working on now and what will you be exploring coming up next?
Lately, I’ve been collaborating with my collectors and photographers to get more complex and interesting reference material. I’m also planning a photoshoot in San Francisco, where I’ll invite my collectors and friends to let me photograph them to use as reference for paintings as well. I recently renovated my studio, so I have room to store more large-scale, ambitious paintings. I'm also turning 57 in February, and all of the health scares of the last year and a half (triple bypass surgery and kidney stones) have made me acutely aware that I won’t be around forever.
I'm all healed up, but I feel like my mortality is reminding me I need to work harder and make better paintings. I’m not sure what a better painting looks like, but I have found I learn so much from the bigger ones that my smaller, easier paintings improve- so that’s the path I’m moving down for now.
Leather, Tattoos and Bears. Oh My!
Von Black Boot - 5. September 201756
San Francisco is where you will find Folsom Street on google maps and this is where the original Folsom Street Fair took place back in 1984, a full five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was 19 years later that the first Folsom Europe was first celebrated in 2003.
The original leather fetish events took most of their cues from the 1950’s motorcycle scene in the USA as well as the historic uniforms of WW2 – “a la Tom of Finland”. This classic leather fetish attire still stands strong today but is infused with many contemporary influences including rubber, sports, fitness and puppy play.
Some will travel to Berlin to enjoy the unique experience of just relaxing in public in their full fetish regalia to drink a big german ‘Bier vom Fass’, smoke a cigar and catch up with old friends. Others arrive with great expectations of what the notorious Berlin party scene has to offer and arrive ready for their mission, diving head first into an agenda filled with fetish, sex, drugs, and circuit/techno music. Many have spent most of the past year preparing for their Folsom EU experience with countless hours at the gym, eating lean, and possibly getting a little help from chemistry to assist them in achieving their built for action bodies – all too eager for some photo ops in their stretched to the limits leather and rubber.
In the spirit of this season, it is with great pleasure that we have the honor of showcasing the artworks of Kenney Mencher to help celebrate this yearly event. He uses his talents to capture intimate moments of some Folsom worthy males in his artworks. His color palettes and pattern choices are softer by design and his portraits are constructed with generous amounts of paint on the canvas – all executed with an acute accuracy, narrating a graphic novel of testosterone filled stories.
This particular group he shares intentionally spotlights the over 40 crowd and for good reason. With the rampant age discrimination that runs within our community, Kenney willfully chooses to focus on very sexy but more mature models. The artist himself is of this age group and recently gave up his university teaching position to paint full time. He felt that he needed dedicate more efforts to his studio work and speak out about this prejudice and other topics via his drawings and paintings.
Through this series he proves that sexiness is not determined by a number, but rather with an attitude. Either you have it or you don’t, and these guys that Kenney paints surely DO have it. His men are presented in a traditional close-up portrait and tell a very manly story with no nudity, no erections, no sex acts, just very sexy portraits. He visualizes the point that there is much more to sexiness than a dick pic.
With another element of contrast, Kenney does not paint the backgrounds of these fetish portraits with the dark and hard scenarios that we might expect. Instead, his use of pastels and wallpaper like patterns gives each portrait a twist that completely contrasts the macho & bad boy image that everyone envisions. This could represent the juxtaposition of their everyday life with their fetishes, the times before or after the party, or their life of fetish in privacy. Further pushing the notion that these are all basically real people just like you and me.
Most of all have fun this September and be ready to answer when someone asks … Who’s your daddy? (bb)
Ratings and Reviews
Rated 5 out of 5
Thank you for the beautiful drawing !!!! You are a great talent and a wonderful man . God bless and many thanks !
Rated 5 out of 5
Absolute amazing piece! I love the art and the artist. I will be definitively purchasing more art pieces.
Rated 5 out of 5
Wow. I've admired Kenney's work for a while, and decided to purchase this work as a gift for a friend. Seeing his work in person is totally different from seeing the photos online... the textures and colors are beautiful. Too bad for my friend, I'm keeping this one for myself! It was packed very very well and arrived in perfect shape. Highly recommended!
Rated 5 out of 5
Another fantastic piece of art from Mr. Mencher. Speedy shipping and well packaged. Thanks!
Rated 5 out of 5
I have admired this artist work for quite some time now and always wanted to acquire one of his pieces. I was lucky enough to find this one available and the seller was extremely helpful throughout the whole transaction. Upon receiving this item I was beyond astonished at the care given to how the item was shipped. Talk about professionalism to a T!!! I looked at this piece through strong light and very strong magnification and needless to say, I was totally overwhelmed by just the sheer technique and artistry of his work! My Lord, what an amazing talent he possesses!!! I’ll be purchasing many more items from him as soon as I possibly can. This is definitely going to be A focal point in my vast art collection!!! Beyond over the moon thrilled!!!
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