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Courtesy of the artist
"Tricks on paper \\\\— study" (oil on paper, 2003) by Brian Kershisnik.

Brian Kershisnik's exhibit of recent paintings, "Tricks on Paper" at David Ericson Fine Art continues the popular artist's foray into what can only be described as The Kershisnik Kosmos.

Here one finds "Justice and Prudence Thrown Into the Dumpster By Insurance," a fair maiden "Treading the Basilisk" and two canines startled as "The Dogs Breathe Fire."

In each of the nearly 20 paintings — on display beginning Friday — the artist plies his trade with complete confidence and competence, offering viewers a singular taste of wry on canvas.

And while capable of conjuring up the required periods of wild creativity needed by an artist, Kershisnik maintains a remarkable balance between his personal life and work. He rises each weekday morning between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m., gets dressed, and goes directly to his studio, where — as a religious man — he prays, studies and works on minutiae not necessarily related to his painting.

"It could be anything," Kershisnik told the Deseret Morning News, "from making valentines to wrapping paper to trying something new with a woodcut" — something to get his gray matter ready for the day because "I don't usually work on metaphors in the morning."

Around 9:30 a.m. or 10 a.m., Kershisnik goes home for breakfast. "In our house, breakfast is the main meal," he said. "We always sit down together as a family." (Suzanne, the artist's wife, home-teaches their children.)

There is family prayer and scripture study, and then Kershisnik takes his children outside to tackle their nature-journal sketchbooks. "We go out for a half-hour or so and draw the dogs or cats or trees, whatever they want. I usually draw the kids drawing."

He returns to the studio to begin painting by 11 or 11:30 a.m. "I paint until I get hungry — or starving — and then go home to eat. I go back and forth maybe three times a day, until around 7 p.m., when I come home for good. I get to bed around 11:30 p.m. or midnight."

When putting together an exhibit, like the one at David Ericson Fine Art, select areas of his paintings always distract the artist. "I will be enthralled with a particular surface that accidentally is working really well, and am not yet at a point where I can be objective about all the paintings in the show." At this juncture, the artist has his wife come to the studio. "I had her in this morning, looking through the paintings with fresh eyes, searching for things I might be overlooking."

Kershisnik has used Suzanne as a critic since they were married, but she recalls that it wasn't always easy. "I remember there was a painting called 'Going to California.' There was a man sitting in the foreground, and behind him were Joshua Trees. But there was also this funny purple thing, sort of like this protuberance, in the background."

"And he said, 'Well, what do you think about this, this and this in the painting?' And I told him that I liked all that, but I didn't like the purple thing. I said, 'It looks like you're trying to make the space interesting.' Brian got mad because he really didn't know what to do with the space and was truly just trying to make it interesting."

Fortunately for us, this is the type of experience — husband and wife resolving differences — that becomes fodder for Kershisnik's Kosmos.

There are also little moments, innocent communion with his children: "When I was looking at some paintings this morning and thinking about what I might say in this interview," Kershisnik said, "I was completely derailed by a picture my daughter Leah drew. It's kind of calligraphy spread over the page.

"She doesn't write yet, she just pretends. I said to her, 'What's that, Leah?' and she said, 'A letter to a jellyfish.' I thought to myself, 'I'm a novice.' "

"Tricks on Paper" is quintessential Kershisnik: what a joy.