C. Keith Whitelock

by Dana Kester-McCabe

Salisbury painter C. Keith Whitelock may be the quintessential traditional Eastern Shore artist. A master watercolorist, he captures imagery long associated with a life which seems to be fading away, which represent the life of Delmarva's watermen.

He has lived his whole life here on the Eastern Shore. His parents' home was near the water. As a child he could hear the boats as they came up the river which began a lifelong fascination with them, especially the details of the way they are built and rigged.

Keith's attention to detail extends to building models of boats and buildings that he can work from in his studio. But mostly he works from his own photographs, using his imagination to add things or eliminate unnecessary details to refine the composition, and using colors that are true to his vision of the scene. His subject matter of boats and marshes dictates a color that palette is often a limited to blues and brown earth tones.

Keith went to the University of Maryland but credits most of his education to studying other artists like Frank Frazzetta and NC Wyeth from the "Delaware Valley School" who despite their mastery were considered by many to be merely fantasy illustrators. He says he began as an oil painter but unintentionally transitioned into watercolors taking a long time to study the genre and conquer it.

Watercolors are often judged on adherence to specific techniques which Keith generally follows. He allows the white of the paper and the transparency of the washes to illuminate the image. He uses opaque gouaches only when specific details cannot be otherwise achieved. The quickness of the medium also satisfies Keith's tendency to be easily distracted. It allows him to have several paintings in progress at the same time.

Keith advises artists who are just starting out to find their own niche. He says "become known for something, for sure something you are interested in…"

Keith could be considered an historical painter, as he tries to capture fleeting moments of time in our region's culture. With more and more real estate being sold off and developed and young people choosing technology careers over harvesting crabs and oysters, Keith sees his subject matter disappearing before his eyes.

Keith conducts watercolor workshops and has done a instructional series on PAC14 the Salisbury public access station. His work can be found online, in area galleries, and at some of the larger annual waterfowl exhibitions here the shore.

Watch Keiths' watercolor class on YouTube: