By Kim Hogstrom
It is not often that one can identify an artist’s work from across a room, but that’s the case with the work of Kermit Patrick Eisenhut, one of Houston’s most prolific and popular artists.
Eisenhut often works in a range of artistic styles ranging from abstract and impressionism to folk-art. But style aside, all his pieces seem to share some curious element. It is rare to find an artist who can work in so many expressive methods and media while still retaining an identity, but Eisenhut does it routinely.
What is that consistent element, we ask the artist? “I don’t know,” admits Eisenhut. “I guess I always create with the objective of making people happy. It’s my job.”
That’s it! All of Eisenhut’s work contains an element of joy, which makes each piece a delight to behold. Little wonder he has fans, followers, and clients across the U.S. and the world.
Eisenhut’s work can be found in hospitals, schools, homes, restaurants, and in the offices of doctors, lawyers, and veterinarians throughout Houston. While the artist works with many subjects, he has established a radiant reputation for painting pets. He is absolutely the go-to artist for pet-lovers in search of unique gifts or memorials to their four-legged loved ones: bunnies, cats, dogs, horses, cows, and even budgies. If it’s an animal and it’s treasured, Eisenhut can capture the love.
“Sometimes people want portraits of animals they’ve lost. Sometimes it’s for their living furry friends. Either way, I try to identify the spark that makes the pet unique. I try to capture the life spirit that connects the pet to the owner. That way, every time the owner looks at the painting, he or she will connect with the pet. It’s just one aspect of the power of art,” Eisenhut says quietly.
Many folks have commissioned Eisenhut to capture their pets on canvas. These paintings make wonderful, personal gifts and start at about $200, making them an affordable option.
Denise Hurd is an administrative assistant and animal activist who has been a fan of Eisenhut’s for years. She sees his work throughout Houston, and it always raises her spirits. “My favorite Kermit painting is hanging in the spay-neuter clinic in the Heights. Everything he produces is fun, colorful, and imaginative. It’s remarkably affordable art from an artist with a true heart,” Hurd concludes.
In addition to being prolific, Eisenhut is generous. As an out gay man, he has donated his time and work to many LGBTQ projects and agencies. In addition, he has donated
work or sat on the board of dozens of Houston’s most prestigious and significant nonprofits, including Texas Children’s Hospital, M.D. Anderson, and many animal shelters and rescue groups.
Recently, Eisenhut started teaching painting to cancer survivors for both the Memorial Hermann Hospital System and the Harris Health System. Eisenhut may have found his calling with this teaching work; he’s witnessed the restorative power of art through his students, and it has moved him to his core.
“Sometimes my cancer students come to class in tears,” Eisenhut explains, “but the power of art is transformative. It helps us touch our dreams and exercise our imaginations, and it can redirect or drive moods.
“Art helps us communicate with the divine, helps us reach our souls, and helps us express both. These same students who come to class in tears can spend an hour painting and leave happy, wearing smiles. That is just how powerful art is,” Eisenhut concludes.
The artist’s life took a turn in 2005 when he was told his beloved mother had only weeks to live. “We brought Mom to my home in Houston, and we took turns taking care of her,” Eisenhut remembers, referring to the help provided by his out-of-town sister. (In fact, we suspect most of the responsibility for the care of this sweet, aging woman fell to Kermit.) The two grew close during her last months, and they both blossomed through the experience.
“My dear mother was supposed to live only a few weeks, but she survived another 18 months with me. She was such a joy in my life. I miss her every day. Every day. But teaching some of my oldest students gives me a chance to sort of care for her again. Many of them could be my dear mom,” Eisenhut says.
Kim Hogstrom is a guest writer to OutSmart magazine. She is also a documentary-film producer and a slave to a spoiled Chihuahua.