Decades prior to showcasing his work at Eastern, Kevin P. Lewellen was faced with a pivotal decision. He had to choose between a “Billy Blast-off” action figure and a “Visible Man” anatomy set. Lewellen chose the anatomical man, a choice that would lead him into a career of artistry.
Lewellen’s wife, Perri, used to be the executive assistant to the president at Eastern and was responsible for introducing her husband to the university.
“She came up to me one day, handed me a brochure and said, ‘Did you know that Kevin started a new academy of art?'” explained Dr. Betsy Morgan, the coordinator of Ways of Seeing.
Lewellen took the opportunity to speak about his artwork presently on exhibit in McInnis and shared his personal history in a presentation in the Baird Library on October 13. He began with his childhood inklings and progressed to the present.
Lewellen graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and has studied under renowned artists Arthur DeCosta and EvAngelos Frudakis. He later spent 12 years teaching at PAFA.
Throughout his career he has created many museum-quality reproductions in oils such as Portrait of Thomas Jefferson, originally painted by Charles Willson Peale, commissioned for the Mellon Independence Center in Philadelphia.
Of his personal achievements, Lewellen is especially proud of Tea for Two, a drawing on tinted paper. In his drawings he employs both store-bought charcoal and homemade charcoal recreated from a Renaissance recipe. Examples of both are on exhibit at Eastern.
He is the co-founder of The Schuylkill Academy of Fine Art, a non-profit school “solely dedicated to preserving the classically based fine art traditions.” The academy provides intensely disciplined learning opportunities to students like Mikel Elam.
“I went to art school but I decided to change my direction a bit, to go back and rethink what I am doing,” Elam explained.
“It’s really challenging but I’m learning a lot and opening up to art-it’s very creative, but also very scientific.”
For Lewellen, being an artist is being a master of perception-a path that is not easy.
“Many are called, few are chosen,” he said.