You Should Know…

Photo by Daniel Nozick

Eric Kessler, who turned 36 on Dec. 26, began creating art four years ago.

That may come as a surprise to many who now seek out the Owings Mills and Pikesville native for custom paintings. A former addict, he was in the midst of a depression and needed something to break from it, so he decided to pick up paints and a canvas from Michael’s and give it a try.

“I’ve never had any formal training,” he said. “I never went to school for art or had a teacher, so I just started putting paint on the canvas, and it came out pretty good. You could see that I didn’t really know what I was doing, I didn’t even know the difference between gloss paint and flat paint, so I was wondering why some parts of the painting were shiny and some parts were not.”

Since then, Kessler has had time to hone his craft. At first, he thought he would be an abstract artist, but he has since found that impressionism is more his niche.

His first commissioned work came when he was hired to do two paintings by a friend — one of Sheldon Cooper from “The Big Bang Theory” and one of the famous photo of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue. Both were well received, and he has since been getting regular requests from people to do custom paintings.

Is painting something that has always appealed to you?

I have always liked art. Some of my influences are Leroy Neiman and Monet. In fifth grade I wrote a poem about Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.” My grandmother would take me from museum to museum trying to find the painting — knowing it was in the Louvre, knowing that we would never find it — just as a way to take me around to every museum possible. It was just something we did together. She has been a big inspiration of mine.

By the time I was 30, I had probably lost about 30 friends [because of my addiction] to drugs and alcohol. Painting was never something I would do under the influence. A lot of times in early recovery, you don’t know what to do with yourself, you’re scattered all over the place. So for me, it was a way to focus my attention on something positive rather than on the negatives. It helped me quite a bit in getting through that. It is a very creative, positive outlet.

What have you been working on recently?

One day, I decided to try a big Ray Lewis. About three days after I had finished it, I got maybe six or seven offers. I have a Terrell Suggs painting that I recently finished too. I have been asked to paint some family members and pets of coworkers also. I don’t go around telling people that I paint; sometimes it comes up in conversation and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t market for myself though.

What is your life like outside of art?

I have been in the mortgage business for over 15 years. Right now, I am working strictly with reverse mortgages [as a specialist with Reverse Mortgage Corporation in Reisterstown], which means I only deal with homeowners over 62 years old who [may be] in financial trouble and don’t have money to pay their bills or mortgage payments. I have a grandmother in Florida, two great aunts that I’m very close with, and being that I am from a Jewish family — they say be a mensch — I’ve learned to respect the older generation. I feel really good about what I do. I smile at work every day when people call me saying, “You gave me money for medical bills that I never would have been able to pay” or, “You saved our lives.” It feels really good.


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