Pikes Peak Art Council board member Kevin-Matthew Siemers didn't learn the fundamental elements of art and principles of design until college. He considers it a failing of his earlier education and something he wants to address in others' lives.
"People, I think, are shut off from art because they don't have the vocabulary," he says. "They may not be aware of the vocabulary to have conversations with each other about it. As a teacher, dealing with the fundamental stuff with little kids... it's my job to teach that kind of language."
Siemers teaches art at West Elementary School. He says that when his students have that vocabulary, they'll be more capable of talking about art as they grow up.
"For instance," he says, "line and shape are elements, but contrast is a principle of design. You can talk about line contrast, shape contrast, value contrast in a work of art."
In his own work, Siemers is constantly revisiting the fundamentals. He reviews pieces he made in his 20s and 30s and revises them, taking more time to emphasize technique and fully express the original idea behind the piece.
"I'm injecting a little more thought into what I'm doing, fixing things, adding things, and taking things away too," he says. "[I'm] just being a lot more mindful about what I create."
Recently, he's been showing pieces from a 53-image ongoing series called The Trees. By virtue of his subject matter, they're landscapes, yes, but Siemers considers them more portraits.
"Trees are unique in the way that humans are," he explains. "They have their own size, their own personalities... Humans have used trees as spiritual symbols, too." Each of Siemers' trees has a personality and some kind of backstory. Some are simple, but others are based on real people's narratives. That element of character helps his audiences connect to his works more deeply.
"We're always looking for connections to artwork, and a landscape can be interesting, but if there's something symbolic behind it, I think that gives it much more power."