Artist of The Month

Kent Banta pauses in his studio with an in-progress work. Photo by LaVerne Kyriss.

LaVerne Kyriss

Kent Banta and his wife, Carol, moved to Tucson in 1975. His goal was to practice dentistry two days a week and golf two days a week. That plan worked well for many years as Banta built a successful dentistry practice.

In 2005, the Banta’s retired and moved to SaddleBrooke, impressed with the many opportunities to explore new and longtime activities and hobbies. He had no idea that soon he’d find himself wielding an artist’s brush instead of a golf club.

“We found a house that had stunning views and purchased it. We completed a number of remodeling projects to make it our own. My back had been giving me problems and that cut into my golfing plans. Now I had to figure out what else interested me,” Banta reflected.

“I’d taken up travel photography many years before and enjoyed it, but I couldn’t always get the right scene. A tree would be in the wrong place or the colors wouldn’t be bright enough or it would be the wrong time of day. The camera just wasn’t able to express the emotions I was feeling when viewing the scene,” he explained. “I read in the SaddleBrooke newspaper about some painting classes and thought ‘Why not give it a try?’”

That decision turned out to be the beginning of a new avocation. Banta took classes though the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild from several teachers and over time settled on oil painting as his medium to evoke emotion. “My goal was to be able to create something that I could put up on the wall. That meant my wife had to like the result, too,” he smiled.

Like any activity, Banta knew that it takes time to master the entry-level skills. “Then it’s a matter of honing those skills and developing a style that’s yours,” Banta noted. Practicing under different instructors helped him on that journey. “Even when I didn’t think I was learning from a particular workshop, I kept at it. When I looked back months later, I could definitely see how that instructor had helped me improve my work,” Banta explained.

Today, Banta has a recognizable style that captures the essence of a scene to express the beauty and energy that nature provides. “I love color. I always use a bright palette and often paint flowers—big, bold—with interesting shadows and light playing off them. Years ago, if you’d told me that I’d be painting flowers in my retirement, I would have said ‘No way!’” he laughed.

“It turns out I love to paint flowers. I start with an end in mind—either I’ve seen something in nature or I create a setting. It takes me a while to study the light and shadows—getting the scene where I want it to be. I use photos as a tool. I also sketch out the shapes and make a note of the values,” Banta explained.

“I know in my mind’s eye what I want to achieve, what emptions I want to express…then I work on getting what’s on the canvas to meet that goal. To paraphrase Ansel Adams, I’m not trying to record what I saw, but convey a story about how I felt when I saw it,” he summed up. “When a viewer connects with the finished work, then I know I’ve been successful.”