Glovebox Film Festival

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Giddy'up and DRAW

Artist illustrator Keith MacLelland aka "Cowboy Keith" takes a moment to show us his work and what inspires him. He also tells us why he went to grad school and why he choose to do so at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, a small art school in Boston.
GLOVEBOX: So, who is Cowboy Keith?

Cowboy Keith: I combine traditional cowboy imagery and other visual components appropriated from popular culture to create non-traditional illustrations that simultaneously engage a diverse audience while acting as a conduit for personal experiences. My work challenges the notion that being a Cowboy is much more than hats, buckles and boots, rather, it is a state of mind.  The image of the cowboy evokes sentiments like courage, discipline, and kindness, all honorable attributes that strike a contrast to the rough and tumble exterior.
Acting as avatar, I collage images of the cowboy, the primary visual component, with recognizable images garnered from everyday life and combine them into a vibrant and whimsical web that attracts viewers with bright colors and flashy surface embellishments, all the while masking the underlying story of my own anecdotal narrative.
GLVBX: Where did that name come from?

CK: While exploring the image and icon of the great American Cowboy and use this image as a stand-in illustration for myself, and my experiences in an on-going visual diary the nickname “Cowboy Keith” has stuck.
GLVBX: What made you come back to AIB for grad school?
CK: I feel most at home when walking the hallways. I couldn’t image going anywhere else. That coupled with the fact that the AIB MFA is a low-residency program. That translates to five ten day intensives that you are required to be on campus, other than that you are on your own working in your space with the assistance of both a artist mentor and academic advisor. The program is still only two years long, same as a traditional MFA, the main difference being that you don’t have to take two years out of your life to complete it. I get it two years of nothing but intense study is amazing, but the reality is that many folks can’t afford that luxury. Programs like that don’t allow for life to happen concurrently, this one does! You’re still considered a full-time student and have to have the research and body of work to prove it. Slackers will not make it in this program. I felt as though it did a really good job teaching me how to incorporate art making on a professional level into my day to day life.
GLVBX: Why did you decide that grad school was a good choice for you and what advice would you give to others thinking about doing the same?

CK: I really felt as though I needed those three little letters attached to my name in order to start opening more doors for myself down the road. I did wait eight years though between undergrad and grad school. I am real thankful that I did, it gave me time to mature and I definately don’t think I would have gotten as much out of it had I not waited.
Sign up now! It will be painful and cost you some dough, but it’s the best investment in yourself you can make hands down.
GLVBX: What inspires your personal work and your professional work? 
CK: Old toys, signs, type, music, color, westerns
 We just can't end this great interview without a few cowboys!

Check out more of Keith's work at or contact him the old fashion way with a good 'ol phone call or pony express via Keith MacLelland:  22 Winthrop Street, West Newton, MA 02465 or 802.558.7399.

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