Artist Profile: Peter Kalill
Peter Kalill spent his college summers drawing caricatures in an amusement park. Upon graduation in 1995, the Springfield native moved to the Cape—but not as a professional artist, even though he had been an art major. Waiting tables, bartending, and then building houses, he would “make a bunch of money,” he says, “then spend the winter traveling.” And painting.
Becoming more serious about painting is, in fact, how he got into building. He was trying to construct a studio in his mother’s backyard, and a contractor friend who saw that he was using a book to figure out how to do it took pity and invited him to come work with him.
By the late 90s, things began to shift for Kalill, who as a boy had been constantly getting into trouble at school for sketching instead of taking notes. “When I was around 29, I had enough confidence to go pursuing galleries,” he says. He was accepted by the Addison Art Gallery in Orleans, where his paintings started to sell.
Early on his works tended to be en plein air. “Then, more and more,” he says, “I liked slowing down the process and expanding it in the studio.” Others liked that approach, too. He has private collectors as far away as Paris and has been represented in galleries both in Massachusetts and in Sedona, Arizona. To date, his work has been exhibited in the Cape Cod Museum of Art, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, and currently, the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. His paintings have also been exhibited in juried shows, including ones put on by the Copley Society of Art and the Guild of Boston Artists.
These days he does a lot of exhibiting in his own large and airy gallery, Orleans Modern. “I did a couple of pop-up shows, and they went really well, so I decided I wanted to open up my own place,” he says. As bad luck would have it, he opened just before COVID hit. But now the gallery is humming along. Many of his works have a Hopper-esque quality, as can be seen in the sharp-lined boat sails, the houses perched neatly on a bluff, the “pretty intense” colors, as he calls them. One can also see the influence of painter Rockwell Kent in Kalill’s art, with its prominent use of geometric shapes to interpret a subject.
Along with showing his own paintings, Kalill exhibits the works of such artists as Vincent Amicosante, Taylor Fox, Karen Ojala, Christine Niles, sculptor Alen Morehouse, and Frank Gardner. He credits Gardner for helping to put him on his successful trajectory in the first place. For one of his very first winter trips after saving money from his summer Cape work, he traveled to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where Gardner was living. “I remember telling him I didn’t know what to paint because I was used to getting assignments in class,” relates Kalill. “He said, ‘Come on out and paint landscapes with me,’ so I started doing that.”
What’s next for Kalill? “It’s constantly changing,” he says. “I don’t like painting the same thing over and over again.” Thus, chances are you’re not going to see canvas upon canvas filled with sunsets or skiffs rocking gently in calm waters. But whatever it is, it’s going to be good.