EXETER — In the living room, there’s a painting reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s famous half-time wardrobe malfunction.
In the kitchen, you’ll find a muscular ballerina, inspired in part by Wonder Woman, on the same wall with a portrait of a New Orleans waitress whose complexion caught the artist’s eye. “She’s all freckles,” he said.
Jim Kearney’s artwork decorates his entire Susquehanna Avenue home, where he showcases pieces as diverse as a portrait of his grown children, Scott and Kristen, and an image of olives, destined to be a gift for a friend, now a work in progress on an easel in his basement studio.
Look further, and you’ll see it’s almost as if the house couldn’t contain the results of all the creativity he’s felt since his retirement nine years ago.
Step into the backyard, pass through the garden Kearney and his fiancee, Dionne, maintain, and amble down the foot path of bricks Kearney painstakingly cut with a grinder. You’ll come face to face with a mural of a boat he recently painted on the garage door.
It has a summery kind of look, which he believes will serve him well in other seasons.
“When there’s no other color out here,” Kearney predicted, “it will perk me up and help me get through the winter.”
The artist used to work in information technology for the banking industry, and lived in places as far-flung as Chicago and Tallahassee, Fla. After he retired, he moved back to his native Wyoming Valley and started to paint.
“I thought I should learn about what I’m trying to do,” he said, explaining why he began to study art at Luzerne County Community College, first part-time, then full-time.
Earlier this year, he graduated with a degree in commercial art, painting and illustration, and he credits instructor Darrell McGinnis as the inspiration who “always urged me to go bigger.”
“The garage door is basically a result of that,” Kearney said. “Don’t know how I’m going to get bigger than that — but I’m open.”
Neighbors didn’t crowd around to watch him paint; the backyard actually has a secluded feel, thanks to rose of Sharon and other bushes.
“It was boiling hot out here for months. Now it’s wet,” he said, indicating he’s waiting for better weather to add more details.
Some of Kearney’s other pieces are on display in the golf shop at the Four Seasons Golf Course in Exeter, where he designed the membership cards and restaurant menu. “They were nice enough to let me show my work there,” he said.
As a painter who also enjoyed a career in a different field, Kearney believes he’s in good company — namely David Bowie, Peter Frampton, John Mellencamp and Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood.
All of those men paint, he said, and they‘re all better known as musicians.
Does Kearney listen to their music … while he paints?
Kearney was all set to say yes, of course, he listens to their music. But when he’s painting he’s more likely to turn his radio to NPR’s “Fresh Air” program.
“I want to learn what’s going on.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.