Accomplished artist pursues lifelong love of painting

Cynthia Kinard, at her studio and gallery at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center, is currently at work on an original oil painting showing Jesus outside the tomb.

Deena C. Bouknight Contributing Writer

This original painting by Cynthia Kinard was inspired by a dream in which she saw the painting fully realized.

Cynthia Cochran Kinard was stricken with cancer when she was a child. To help her pass the time while she recovered from surgery, members of the Macon County community – where she grew up – gave her activity gifts to open each day. One of those was a pigment painting. 

“It was of Prince Charming and Cinderella,” said Kinard, “and when I dipped my brush in water and ran it across the board and the image appeared, I decided I wanted to be an artist.”

Then, at around age 13, Kinard’s father purchased a book for her on the Dutch master artist Rembrandt. “I thought he was the most skilled artist I would ever see. I decided to pursue the masters after that.” 

For the past seven years, Kinard has managed a gallery and studio in one of the former classrooms at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center. The Franklin High School and Western Carolina University graduate eventually studied in Italy the teachings of mainly 16th and 17th century master artists. For more than eight years, she studied the painstaking process involved in oil painting techniques. Kinard also paints in watercolor and enjoys pen and ink and charcoal mediums as well. Besides a degree in art, she holds a degree in modern foreign languages. And Kinard has also studied in Asheville under Western North Carolina fresco artist Ben Long. 

Her artistic education has included mastering various techniques, such as cast drawing, charcoal drawings of models, cast painting, and more. Although she enjoys achieving copies of famous Christian religious paintings as well as original works – such as her current oil of Jesus outside the tomb – she said portraiture is her specialty.

Anyone who expresses interest in having Kinard paint their portrait is encouraged to first visit her gallery/studio. “I can tell them or show them what I do on my website,” she said, “but it’s not the same as seeing in person the work.” She admitted she is fascinated with faces. If she sees someone she would like to paint, she will approach them about modeling for her. 

This oil, depicting French artist William Bouguereau’s “Pieta,” 1876, took Kinard eight months to complete.

Kinard’s copy of French artist William Bouguereau’s”Pietá,” oil on canvas, 1876, includes a Mary so lifelike, it appears there are blisters under her eyes from excessive grief and crying. Kinard explained that it took her eight months to paint the multiple layers necessary to create the $24,000 painting. 

“Oils take a lot of time,” she said. “And as I go along, I take close-up photos of different aspects so I can study the work before I move on.” Watercolors often take her up to two weeks to complete.

Kinard is most proud of an oil of a Rembrandt self portrait as well as a watercolor of her father. “Not all my work is for sale,” she said. “Much is, but there are some I like … that mean something to me, so I will keep those.” 

Regarding her religious paintings, Kinard will often loan them to churches. Her depiction of “L’Innocence,” 1893, also by Bouguereau, was purchased by and hangs in the Church of the Incarnation in Highlands. After the church displayed the loaned Kinard painting for a while, they decided to raise the money to buy it. 

Cynthia Kinard captures perfectly the character of a Cowee farmer, the late Lloyd Allen.

Kinard is also an author; she has written five books, three of which have been published, including one that focuses on her healing journey. 

“Art is a gift from God,” she pointed out. “I have to paint. I didn’t do it for three or four days during the Thanksgiving holiday and I couldn’t wait to get back to it.” She said her three sisters are also artistic in some way. 

Kinard admitted that although she might tackle difficult projects that take her weeks and months, it is often her signature that stumps. “Sometimes it’s the hardest part. I don’t want to mess up the painting with my signature. I have to work up my courage to add it to the paintings.”