Finn Keith: A Journey Through Art


Aubrei Roland

“Around The Throat” by Finn Keith, exhibited at the Columbia College High School Art Show

Aubrei Roland, Reporter

The metallic scent of paint filled the room, partnered with the soft thud of paint brushes moving swiftly against the canvas. This is where Battle senior Finn Keith can be found, conjuring and transferring images in his head to the paper in front of him. For Keith, this year has a different look, plagued by a national pandemic and a fully virtual education. Despite the changes throughout the year, Keith has remained passionate in regard to his art, completing pieces and fully diving into his investigation on perceptions of one’s self.

“I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. 15 years maybe? I’ve drawn pretty much since I could hold a crayon,” Keith said. He’s been enrolled within Battle’s visual art department for his four years attending the school. Currently in AP Drawing 2, taught by Jody Spriggs, Keith has taken this year to truly dive into his own creations, looking through internal vs. external self-perceptions.

“I have struggled with my own self-perception all my life, especially as someone who feels disconnected from my own culture and the people around me. I always wonder what other people think of themselves because of this, and through years of talking to people and making friends I concluded many artists have a very visual grasp of their own self-perception that can be easy to swallow to an outside audience,” Keith commented. “Self-portraits always focus on a part of themselves that they feel defines who they are, or in some instances, the self-portraits do not feel like they define them at all. I suppose that sort of thing is something I find fascinating in the human experience. It’s absolutely something I find fascinating in my own experience.”

Looking at pieces of Keith’s art from the 2020-2021 school year, one can see this exploration he is diving into. In Keith’s sustained investigation #1 piece, the highlight of the image is the “internal self,” residing in-between a womans hands.

“She is small, yet is also the focus of the piece, and the expression of the woman is meant to show a surprise to her being there- though they are similar, they are two distinct styles,” Keith remarked on his digital portfolio.

In his sustained investigation #2 piece, he drew inspiration from another person, basing the piece off of the muse’s own insecurities.

“The person I drew said he fears thunderstorms, before telling me one of his biggest insecurities is his teeth. However, when he draws his internal self he draws his teeth exaggerated. I wanted to show how he has a connection to those teeth, while also representing his insecurity through a mask on the external self,” Keith commented.

Within this piece, Keith mentioned how the mask played into this years experience with COVID-19, referencing how the pandemic has stopped him from completing some of his own goals. Keith also remarked how he didn’t have a specific feeling that he wanted viewers of his work to experience, but if he had to pick something, he said a sense of belonging.

Keith’s journey through art has been lengthy, and has given him a lot of time to dive into his own self perceptions as well. When mentioning his biggest deterrent in regards to creating art, Keith spoke of his own neurodivergence.

“I communicate in ways that a lot of people don’t like or find annoying, and I think that has hindered me a lot in terms of finishing my work in ways I enjoy or communicating all my thoughts on a subject. It’s not that I fear people will perceive me this way, it’s that I know they do and it’s hard for me to “snap out of” my own mindset and communicate in a way that is palatable to people. Even now I’m doing it, though I’m not meaning to– it’s just something I do naturally at this point. Which is funny because I’m sure I’m still not communicating in a way that is normal,” Keith commented.

Respectively, Keith also mentions his friends and fellow art classmates as some of his biggest motivators.

“The feeling of being in an art class and having the sound of other conversations while you make art is a very nice experience. It’s hard to replicate it, honestly,” Keith mentioned.

Within this, Keith spoke of being a completely virtual student, and it’s impacts it’s had on him as an artist as well as the surrounding art world. Keith spoke of how receiving direct criticism and being able to work and build off other artist’s energies has been nearly impossible. He also mentioned how he’s learned that he relies heavily on those around him, specifically his friends, as he’s grown as an artist.

“It’s shown me how much I need other people around me to be able to organize my thoughts about art. It’s difficult to remember to turn things in, and it’s difficult to keep track of the things I want to work on next. My internet is also unbelievably unreliable, and sometimes just does not load anything, which can lead to more demotivation. I’m not a perfectionist by any means, but it does not help that any work I will do could have the chance of not being turned in on time,” Keith remarked, sharing a common complaint with many other students who have experienced virtual learning.

Keith also spoke about how he works through his own art work, and credits COVID-19 in improving his digital art.

“It’s been extremely difficult to to get traditional art supplies for myself, since a lot of the regular supplies I use – acrylics – are expensive if I want to have good quality art.”

Like many other artists, Keith experiences periods of artist block, unable to create pieces or put a brush to the canvas.

“Honestly, when I overcome these periods, I write. Not in a traditional sense, but I create elaborate stories and narratives that I will want to visually draw down in some way, and that normally leads to me getting back into the sort of ‘groove’ of drawing again,” Keith mentioned.

Keith’s journey through art has been long, yet one he wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world, bringing him a comfort and allowing an expression outlet in his life.

“There will be people who will enjoy your work besides yourself. There will be people who love your work, who love your life and who you are. They’re out there, but you must create the pieces to find them.”