Norman artist Tim Kenney was in Miami last week working on the sixth of 77 paintings he has planned with a portion of proceeds from each going to the Nicole Jarvis Parkinson's Research Foundation.
MIAMI – His personality is as big, bold and bright as his paintings, and Norman artist Tim Kenney's heart is wonderfully big too.
Kenney was in Miami last week painting the sixth of 77 paintings he is creating in 77 days of scenes from each of the 77 counties in Oklahoma.
He is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sales of each painting to the Nicole Jarvis Parkinson's Research Foundation, an Oklahoma organization dedicated toward efforts to find a cure for the chronic illness.
Jarvis, a 44-year-old, OB/GYN Physician, and mother of twins, was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson's Disease, and she's a friend of Kenney's.
Kenney is an abstract impressionist and colorist who paints with bold colors and strokes to create paintings with feeling and excitement. His work sells for hundreds to thousands of dollars and is growing in popularity with collectors across the country.
He started the 77 county endeavor on Sept. 4 in Jefferson County, and he has braved Oklahoma weather, hail, heat, sun and rain as he makes his way to each county to paint. His 77th and final painting in the series will be painted in Norman on Nov. 19.
“They're all 16 by 20 inches, they're $680 each, and 20 percent will go to fund Parkinson's research,” Kenney said. “Nicole was diagnosed six years ago, and we're great friends. I give my paintings to a lot of good charities in Norman; the American Heart Association, Chamber of Commerce, the United Way and those type of things.”
A retired contractor in sales and marketing, Kenney took up painting while caring for his ailing mother, and he hasn't stopped since. Kenney is a prolific artist and paints every day creating and capturing fantastic images.
“I'm a full-time artist now. I started eight years ago,” he said. “I started painting at 52 years-old, and I'm 61 now. It's been crazy. I had never done a painting before that age.”
He paints with oil on stretched canvas with palette knives and brushes painting in plain air, outdoors on location.
“These are oil paintings, and I use a very thick paint and pallet knife, so it takes about a month to six weeks to dry,” Kenney said. “It takes about four hours to paint each one probably. I will start them on location and finish them in the evening.”
In Ottawa County, he set up at the gateway arch on Main Street in Miami and drew onlookers who watched him paint.
“This one has already been pre-sold, but I 'm not going to say who bought it. He's a great guy, but I don't know if he wants me to name him,” he said.
The artist has painted in Jefferson County, Stephens County, Washita County, Greer County, Mayes County, Ottawa County, Craig County and Osage County so far, and was heading to the next county after a side trip.
Kenney has already pre-sold 34 of the 77 county paintings to collectors and locals interested in obtaining their county's piece.
The subject or view depicted in each of the paintings is sometimes requested by the buyer, and other pieces are depictions of places he is directed to by locals.
“The day before yesterday I was in Santa Fe to drop off paintings for a show, and so I painted on the way in and out of state. When I came back in the state I stopped at Greer County,” Kenney said. “I pulled into Mangum in Greer, and I asked them, 'Where should I paint?' and they all told me this spot called Jay Buckle Springs. Everybody knew about it, and I mean everybody. Of course, I never heard of it, and I drove towards it and ran into another small town, Willow. A lady drove me up there. It's a natural spring where they all swim.”
He posted a photo of the completed Greer painting on his Facebook page, and almost immediately one of Kenney's Norman friends bought it because he lived near the spring growing up as a child.
In Mayes County Kenney was inspired by natural beauty.
“We stopped real early at sun up, and there was a beautiful sunrise coming, so I stopped right there and painted,” he said. “It was great.”
In another county, he painted a lake by request where the art buyer had fished in his youth with his grandparents.
“He was really emotional about it. It was pretty cool,” Kenney said.
Kenney took a short break after painting in Miami to travel to Ohio and cheer on Oklahoma University's Sooners against Ohio State in their last football game with his friends Dale Baker, and David Thompson.
The artist has an overall plan for the 77 county journey but has been flexible with his course as he travels around the state.
“It changes daily,” Kenney said of his route. “I just had a grandson Friday, and I had to make sure Duke was okay. He's my fifth grandson.”
Once all 77 Oklahoma county paintings are completed Kenney intends to show the collection in Norman. He may also offer prints of the Oklahoma paintings due to the large interest shown in the pieces.
“The bad ones too, there's always one person who likes the bad ones. My wife likes them all," Kenney said with a laugh. “At least that's what she tells me, who knows what she really thinks.”
Kenney posts daily on Facebook throughout the journey and posts photos of the pieces once they are completed.
This isn't the first time Kenney has set off on such an artistic journey. In May of 2014, he made a 50-day tour with the goal of painting 50 paintings in 50 states in 50 days donating a portion of the proceeds to Parkinson's research. He accomplished that goal, painting the final art piece on the 50th day in Santa Fe, New Mexico of his grandmother's house, which is now the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center.
“I flew to Hawaii and Alaska, and I drove 12,800 miles. It was a great, great trip and I had a ball,” Kenney said.
Kenney's artwork can now be found in galleries in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Breckenridge and Vail, Colorado, Gulf Shores, Alabama, Oklahoma City and Norman with up and coming shows scheduled as well.
Asked what his next painting project would be, Kenney said, “I did the 50 states, and now Oklahoma. This is pretty big, and this is a real challenge, so we'll see.”
To follow Kenney's journey and see his artwork visit his Facebook page at 'Tim Kenney Art' or his website www.timkenneyfineart.com.
Melinda Stotts is the associate editor of the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @MelindaStotts1.