Five Minutes with Emerging Artist Aaron Kloss

Ed Newman


“By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-
trees,Rose the firs with cones
upon them...”
~H.W. Longfellow

It may have been at the DAI Members Show that I first noticed the paintings of Aaron Kloss, an emerging artist here in the Twin Ports. His evocative paintings of trees, moody and dreamily lit, remind me of Longfellow’s love of the same as described in his “Song of Hiawatha.”

EN: When did you first take an interest in art?
Aaron Kloss: I first took an interest in art as a child. One of my favorite quotes comes from Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” During school, art class was something I looked forward to every day. My teachers were so encouraging. I wanted to become a full-time artist while in high school. By my senior year, I figured I couldn’t make much of a living off my art, but I discovered graphic design and the rest was history. I went to North Hennepin Community College in the Cities, and later transferred to UMD to finish my bachelors in fine arts. I majored in graphic design, where my head told me to go, yet my heart told me to create art. As a graphic designer I worked at several local publications that would feature fine artists in their A&E sections. Designing page layouts for these art editorials got me thinking again of art as a career.

EN: How did you get back into painting?
AK: I picked up where I left off. I love landscapes and geometric style. I wanted to somehow combine those two into painting, but it took a while. I basically just painted in acrylics and explored different styles and ideas. I was drawn to anything graphic in look and feel, anything that featured the color black. I suppose it was the way the black made the colors pop and give them life. Working towards this goal yet not reaching it was frustrating at times, and I did give up. Drawing comes naturally to me, but painting was always a huge stumbling block. I worked for years as an airbrush artist and often would grab my airbrush when I was frustrated with my acrylics on canvas. The feel of the airbrush in my hand, the ease I had using the airbrush after years of experience, would soothe my creative blocks and give the feeling of accomplishment. I soon noted that I needed a style, something that would be totally unique and unseen before. Something that would give my work a signature, so that people could glance at it and know I had created it. I needed to be different. I needed a style, and once again I began seeking that style through acrylics on canvas. Through trial and error, my style emerged one spring day, and once I saw it I knew I had found what I was searching for.
EN: Your paintings do have a distinctive style. What do you call it and what attracts you to this form of expression?
AK: I love to know what people think about my work. Usually the first thing they mention is the style. Often they ask me how I get the “squares” on the canvas. Even people who have painted years longer than I have will often ask. I just paint with a square-end “bright” brush. My paintings have several layers, each transparent, showing the layers beneath, giving an incredible depth. In many places, the black gessoed canvas beneath shows through. I think that my intent to show my process is the influence behind that. I’m naturally attracted to complementary-colored themes in nature. Blue skies and yellow sunsets. Red cardinals and green evergreens. I’m also drawn to vertical-themed compositions. That explains my tall trees in many of my works. The negative space of a blue sky in the background is often the subject matter of my piece. Many times people will comment on what they see in the distance, then realize the huge birch trees in the foreground they completely missed because of the color in the background. The acrylics applied on the black canvas is just intriguing to many people. As far as a name for it ... I’ve never thought about naming my style. Acrylics on black canvas does sound a little boring. Graphic expressionism would be closer to an official name for what I paint.
To see more of Aaron’s work, visit the Blue Lake Gallery in Canal Park, Lizzards Gallery downtown, or Silvertson Gallery Grand Marais. In June his show “Urban Oasis” will be on display at Jitters, downtown Duluth. Online visit