All art copyright (c) Mike Kloepfer
"The level of achievement that we have at anything is a reflection of how well we were able to focus on it."
-Steve Vai

About The Artist

A little bit about who I am and where I come from.
I'm proud to be an award-winning artist with a career spanning three decades, including:
· TRADITIONAL CLASSICAL REALISM- Portrait, figure, and wildlife drawings, paintings, and commissions for collectors worldwide;
· FINE ART-  Original paintings, drawings, and prints;
· FANTASY ILLUSTRATION- Book covers, CDs, posters, prints, and more; 
· TECHNICAL ILLUSTRATION- for Microsoft, COBE Laboratories, Mackie Designs, Inc., and others;
· HUMOROUS ILLUSTRATION & CARICATURE- for collectors all over the world;
· COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION- for advertising, marketing, and publication;
· ANIMATION- for Boeing, Custom Automation, Inc., and others;
· GRAPHIC DESIGN & PRODUCTION- for advertising, marketing, and publication;
and much more...

· I have sold over 1,000 professional portraits and over 11,000 professional caricatures, for collectors from every continent on earth.
· I received my formal training in Classical Figure and Portraiture in the Aristides Classical Atelier, at the Gage Academy of Fine Art in Seattle.
· I received my Associates degree in Commercial Art from Auraria Community College in Denver.
· My art has received numerous honors, including a purchase award nomination in 2004 from the Art Renewal Center in New York.
· I have been featured in magazines and books, including Classical Drawing Atelier by Juliette Aristides, and The Artist’s Magazine.
· I currently create art and teach classes and workshops in the Denver area.

The History and Lineage of an Artistic Tradition:
Jean-Leon Gerome>
William McGregor Paxton>
 R. H. Ives Gammel>
Richard Lack>
Juliette Aristides>
Mike Kloepfer

Ted Seth Jacobs>
Anthony Ryder>
Mike Kloepfer
As an artist, I am seeking not so much answers… I am seeking drawings that represent interesting explorations of questions.

Ask yourself better questions, focus on those questions, and your drawings will improve.

Anyone can learn to draw. Just look around, and you’ll see children as well as adults doodling, sketching, drawing, and creating pictures. Some theme parks even feature dolphins and sea lions, paint brushes in their teeth, creating ‘works of art’ for astonished onlookers.  Yes, anyone can learn to draw.
Mastering art is a different matter. It takes time, effort, energy, and talent. Yes, I said talent. But I do not think of talent as a gift from heaven that bestows upon a ‘chosen few’ the magical ability to impulsively create great art merely on a whim.
Daniel Parkhurst, student of William Bouguereau, wrote that “talent is just another name for the love of a thing.”  My mentor Juliette Aristides adds: “This love gives the person the desire to pursue an objective in spite of obstacles that arise, and provides him or her with the stamina necessary for extended study.” That extended study - and the extra effort it requires - is what leads to mastery.
There is a misconception that art ‘springs forth from the soul of the artist,’ or that a work of art is the result of an impetuous battle of mysterious forces between the artist and the canvas.
People often say to me, “I can’t draw at all,” or “I have no artistic ability whatsoever.” They think – and even say – “you’re either born with it, or you aren’t.” I think of a quote from Gregg Kreutz in his book Problem Solving for Oil Painters: “Every good artist had to learn how to paint. Some may have taken to it more easily than others, but none just started out making great pictures. There are no child prodigies in painting. That’s important to keep in mind, because it tells us that painting is learnable.”
This, to me, is the most encouraging news ever.

Learning and mastering the principles underlying great art does not inhibit expression. On the contrary, it opens the door to find one’s own expression through mastery of the tools and processes by which art is created. You must learn how to ‘speak’ before you can concern yourself with ‘what to say.’
Juliette emphasizes, “Mastering the basic principles of art does not limit expression, distinctiveness, or personal freedom in our work. Rather, it strengthens these qualities by giving them structure.”
I have encountered a lot of resistance to learning “Rules.” I understand. Most people view "Rules" as limiting. However, there is immense power and potential in learning principles – or to put it another way, learning why and how things work. A mathematician friend of mine has studied the science of music and the creation of sound and melody. He said to me: “These are not arbitrary 'rules'; these are naturally occurring phenomena.” To learn the principles underlying how things work broadens our understanding and empowers us, ultimately liberating our ability to express ourselves.

I had always desired and sought to learn what the great Master artists understood; the knowledge, principles and processes used in creating the great art of history.
In one of my earliest memories, I sat spellbound and watched as my father, who was an engineer, created a drawing of a skeleton to decorate our front door for Halloween. I asked him how he did it. I wanted to know what he knew. When he showed me, I sat for hours trying to recreate the marvel I had witnessed. I knew that if somehow I could understand it, I could create drawings too.
Whenever my dad brought work home, I pored through the blueprints he created for his work. There was knowledge underlying the complex engineering drawings he created; that fascinated me. I sat at his drafting table and drew for hours on end.  

As a young boy I was captivated by the works of illustrators like Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth, their masterful and powerful portrayals of classic literature. They had been trained in a tradition with generations of history. As a teenager, I was fascinated with artists like Frank Frazetta; while his subject matter was fantastic, it was clear that he had also been trained in these traditions and had an understanding of the principles of art.

These Illustrators (Pyle, Wyeth, Frazetta, et al...) are finally receiving praise as Masters. They are being respected as the bold individuals who ‘carried the torch,’ preserving the Classical Traditions while others flocked to Modernism. Ultimately, the survival of Classical Realism owes a great debt to these Illustrators. At long last their original paintings are being shown in museums that house works by the other Masters of Antiquity. They are now joined by a new generation of artists (such as Donato Giancola and James Gurney) who embrace the Classical Traditions while creating contemporary works of fantasy.
There was a power and a harmony in the work of great artists that I was unable to achieve by trial and error. I concluded that they must have been taught how to draw and paint, that there were principles at work which I did not understand – but that I could learn, if only I could find someone to teach me.

When I was in college, classical instruction was virtually nonexistent in the United States. Fine art teachers would tell me “just paint what you feel.” I would hold up a reproduction of a painting by one of the artists whom I admired: Sargent, Waterhouse, Pyle, Wyeth, Frazetta, etc. I would solemnly state “I feel like creating great art like this.” And so at that time, I went to college and studied Commercial Art and Technical Illustration, because these trades at least had principles which were being taught.To my delight, I found Technical Illustration to be challenging, and very satisfying. I was now able to create the drawings that I marveled at as a youth.

While I enjoyed Tech Illustration, I still had a desire to learn how to paint like the artists I grew up admiring. I read books and magazines, watched instructional television programs, took classes at the local arts & crafts stores, and absorbed all that I could, but still I felt unsatisfied. I tried to learn all I could by copying the work of artists I admire; but without guidance or understanding, the best I could hope for was mimicry – this was less than fulfilling. More often than not, I was left with failed attempts at copying a technique that continued to frustrate and confound me. I wished to create art that was powerful, magnificent and harmonious, not a mere shadow of other artists, however much I admired them. The creation of great art remained a mystery.

The great masters had a long tradition and history of knowledge, training and practice which empowered them to create great works of beauty and magnificence; knowledge which seemed to elude me. But I kept searching. Whenever I saw art that captured my attention, my thought was always “I would like to know how they did that.”

Then one day, while touring an art walk in Seattle, a picture caught my attention. There, on the front of a brochure, was the most breathtaking tonal portrait I had ever seen. It was a charcoal portrait by Michael Grimaldi, and the brochure was for the Academy of Realist Art. I was ecstatic! Finally, I had found a place where I could learn the knowledge, skills, and craft of the great masters of antiquity. I immediately began taking classes.
I took as many classes as I could from a variety of great instructors; Painting Techniques from Milo Duke, Still Life from Michael Friel, Understanding Color from Charles Emerson, to name a few. I attended lectures and demonstrations from  Gary Faigin, John Morra, Scott Fraser, Kent Lovelace, Michael Grimaldi and Steven Assael. I also had the privilege of many lengthy discussions with these contemporary masters.
I was fortunate to take several workshops from renowned instructor and mentor Anthony Ryder. I was thrilled by his knowledge and skill; his calm, quiet demeanor; his enthusiasm; his ability to impart great knowledge; his patient and methodical process. This, combined together with the privilege of watching a master at work, were an immeasurable value to me.

I formed friendships and shared camaraderie with my fellow artists. We would take trips to galleries and museums. For the first time, I was able to look at, analyze, and discuss great works of art with fellow artists who were also on a journey to understand the concepts, ideas, and working processes of the masters.

This was a great turning point for me.

One day, as I was leaving a painting class, I spied through the open door a classroom full of students who sat, enraptured, as an instructor lectured. I had to know who this was, and after the class I introduced myself to Juliette Aristides. After a short conversation it was clear that I had found not only an instructor, but a mentor whose guidance was what I had been searching for. I enrolled in her classes. I eagerly soaked up everything I could learn. When Juliette started her Analytical Drawing course, I offered my skill and experience, and helped her design and produce the in-depth printed materials.

When she opened the Aristides Atelier in 2001, I was one of the first to sign up.It was exciting to watch the Atelier grow from a weekly class with a few students, to a full-time Atelier with 16 full-time artists working together in an immersive learning environment. You can see how the Aristides Atelier has grown by following this link:

It took me twenty years to find the art instruction I had desired all my life to learn and master. It is my aim to pass on the traditions handed down to me by my mentors whom I greatly admire and respect.

First and foremost is Juliette Aristides, and to her I am forever grateful for her guidance, her patience and her love of great art.

I would also like to thank my other instructors from the Academy of Realist Art, which was renamed the Seattle Academy Fine Art (SAFA), and finally the Gage Academy: Anthony Ryder, Michael Friel, Milo Duke, and Charles Emerson; and Michael Grimaldi, Steven Assael, John Morra, and Gary Faigin, for their inspiration, knowledge, and support. I thank the faculty and staff of the Academy (now the Gage Academy) for their dedication and support.
I would also like to thank Michael Grimaldi, whose cover drawing for the Academy of Realist Art first was the catalyst that led me to the world of Classical Realism, and opened the door to find the instruction I had so earnestly been seeking for many years.
I extend my heartfelt affection and friendship to my fellow atelier students: Tenaya “T-Dog” Sims, Yumiko “Render-Meister” Dorsey, the extraordinary John Rizzotto, David “Doc” Dwyer (the Master), Michael “Oh Wow” Hoppe, Nancy “Holy Moses” Engstrom, Christine Bergman, Jan Politeo, Caroline Rockey, Holly Hudson, Lisa Joseph, Pat Wagner, and Susan Bari Price; fellow (Gage Academy) students Michelline Halliday for her sparkling enthusiasm and many inspiring trips to the Museums; Ben Bama, and all the other artists and models with whom I shared those joyous days of study and camaraderie; and who embodied for the first time the true sense of an artistic community.

I suppose I should thank Mr. Page, my 1st grade drawing teacher, an old-school disciplinarian. I watched in amazement as he would draw on the chalkboard and then say “Okay, draw this tree.” Though not incredibly informative, he did impart some kind of inspiration to me. Later in life I would reflect that if I could survive being hit over the knuckles by his yardstick – affectionately named 'John Henry' – and still want to learn to draw, I must love art!
I would also like to thank the late drawing instructor Mel Carter (from Community College of Auraria) for being the first art teacher to challenge my abilities, and say “that’s good, but not good enough; you can do better.”

Finally, and most importantly, I am grateful to my parents, who provided stability and an environment where I could nurture my budding love of art. I thank My mother, for her words of encouragement and refusal to give up in the face of adversity; and my father, for his humility and his quiet exemplification of the term Craftsmanship at its best through his actions rather than just words. 

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