Dan Kirchhefer, professor of art, has been a teacher for 40 years.
“I have the greatest job in the world,” Kirchhefer said.
Kirchhefer is from a small town called Hastings, Neb. He graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in printmaking and the University of Kansas with a master’s degree in printmaking. Kirchhefer began teaching at Emporia State in 1980.
“ESU selected me,” he said.
Being a good teacher and looking at art, are always the goals of Kirchhefer.
“Professor Kirchhefer is a gifted teacher, with a tremendous knowledge about and passion for instruction of printmaking and drawing,” said Monica Kjellman-Chapin, professor of art.
Watercolor and gouache are Kirchhefer’s favorite types of paintings. Kirchhefer said teaching drawing and printmaking were hard at first. However, now he has his own way to do it perfectly.
“As a teacher, he is a model to which we might all aspire – his willingness to work with students so they might improve, his diligence and comprehensiveness in terms of preparation and critique of individual projects, and his somewhat irreverent sense of humor, coupled with a determination to help his students learn and grow as artists, render him an outstanding professor,” Kjellman-Chapin said.
Michelle Parkman is a non-degree seeking student who has taken all levels of life drawing and printmaking classes with Kirchhefer.
“(Kirchhefer) always pushes you further than you think you can go with a piece. His favorite line is ‘that’s a good start’ and he knows so much I don’t know how he fits it all into his head,” Parkman said. “You never get bored. He teaches more than just art to his students. he teaches life with his quirky spin on it.”
According to Kjellman-Chapin, Kirchhefer consistently gets tremendous work out of every student, regardless of previous experience and skill. They walk out of his class with improved technical ability, a keener observational eye, and a deeper commitment to composition, craftspersonship, concept and content.
During many of his classes, Kirchhefer comes up with a survey question which he asks every student for his/her opinion.
“(Kirchhefer) gives good advice.” said Marco Hernandez, junior painting and printmaking major. “He provides new techniques and a great knowledge about art to his students.”
As an art teacher and also an artist, Kirchhefer said sometimes it is hard to find time to work in his studio. Kirchhefer has more than 130 juried shows and more than 40 awards. His artworks includes drawings, paintings, prints and artist books. Most of them are showed in several public collections or galleries, such as the Charles M. Young in Portland, Ore., and the C.T. and Strecker-Nelson Gallary in Manhattan.
“Professor Kirchhefer’s images are often provocative, challenging and are historically rich, with an exquisite handling of line and color,” Kjellman-Chapin said.
“(Kirchhefer’s) art is so realistic without being too photo-like,” Parkman said. “He draws the human figure in a way that catches the viewer in the process and his use of graphite and color is like no other I have seen.”
Next October, five of Kirchhefer’s prints are going to be in a show in Chamalier, France. Kirchhefer will be one of only four American artists invited to exhibit artworks at the International Triennale
Kirchhefer made his first artist book in 2004 and now has made 10. The artist books are made on Japanese papers connected with string. Kirchhefer thinks Japanese paper is some of the most beautiful paper in the world and it has flower peddles in it.
“They are like books of hours or prayer books,” Kirchhefer said.
The books are about people, dogs, lust, Kirchhefer himself and the secrets he keeps.
Kirchhefer is a dog lover, and he had 2 dogs who just died. When talking about them, Kirchhefer said, “(They are) good dogs, good subjects and they both appear in same print I made titled ‘Jackdog and Bart Watch Jesus Build a Boat, While He Worked on His Tan Boat Say He was an Above Overage Carpenter.’”
Kirchhefer has different kinds of hobbies, such as baseball, gardening, travelling and reading.
“He often recites poetry, and can recall at will sections of dialogue from movies such as The Big Lebowski,” said Kjellman-Chapin.
Looking forward to the creation of future artwork, Kirchhefer wants to go travelling and do cows and water. He has been to France, Mexico and Italy, and his next stops may be Brazil, Alaska or the Grand Canyon.
Parkman thinks Kirchhefer can always keep you laughing.
“(Kirchhefer) can not only name all of the U.S. presidents in order, but can also tell you which ones had mutton chops or other configurations of facial hair,” Kjellman-Chapin said. “He is always ready with an anecdote, a bit of trivia, or a joke, and has an unparalleled affection for River Dance.”