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Kennedy's Watercolor Memories: Urban artists commemorate life in Billings

Posted at 6:21 PM, May 23, 2024

Billings' Urban Sketchers gathered at Rock Creek Coffee Roasters on Wednesday for the group's artists to draw, paint, and discuss their art with one another.

“We don’t all have (the) opportunity to leave vast amounts of money, or great buildings, but we all have (the) opportunity to leave something," said Linda Hewett about her works of art.

Many of the creatives said they are excited by Billings' older architecture and more decrepit buildings, but they also enjoy capturing people.

“It’s about relationships," said Vince Long, a multimedia artist, "You can’t draw something if you don’t see it.”

For John Kennedy, the Billings Art Association's executive director, this kind of creativity was suppressed, starting with his father's expectations.

“It was never really encouraged in my family. My dad was a businessman and business was the thing," said Kennedy, "I spent most of my life not being who I was, not doing what I loved.”

This caged lifestyle offered a difficult lesson, according to Kennedy.

“The closer something gets to not being there anymore, the more you appreciate it, which is a real shame," said Kennedy, "all of the sudden, whoosh, it’s gone … buildings, friendships, all of it.”

Just as Kennedy said he neared retirement, he lost who he had made his sacrifices for — his wife.

"I lost her four months before (my) retirement," said Kennedy, "I traveled like 35 weeks a year. So, I was just never home."

Kennedy said he now paints to remember everything, like the joy artwork has brought him.

“Art connects me with a lot of spectacular people," said Kennedy about his fellow artists.