Life

Behind Cedar Rapids mayor's portrait is a 'dying breed' artist

'I've learned to become good at things that don't pay much'

Kipp Wieland talks about his artwork at his house in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Wieland drew the mayoral portrait of Ron Corbett. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Kipp Wieland talks about his artwork at his house in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Wieland drew the mayoral portrait of Ron Corbett. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Kipp Wieland has been cobbling together a life as an artist and musician for decades, performing in local bands, drawing lifelike portraits and designing toy packaging and logos for restaurants and moving companies.

It’s a “soul crushing lifestyle,” he joked.

“I’m a dying breed,” the 53 year old Cedar Rapids man said. “I’m a Renaissance man. I’ve learned to become good at things that don’t pay much. It’s just started paying off.”

He looks the part of a Renaissance man. A cigarette dangles from his lips hidden under a handlebar mustache twisted up at the ends. He wears a drivers cap, rose petal sneakers he found online and a floral printed black button-up shirt, along with white jeans and a tan blazer.

Few moments pass without a sarcastic quip. “My doctor asks me when I’m going to stop smoking. I said, ‘Probably shortly after my cremation.’” Or: “I come from a long line of successful art school dropouts.”

This month, Wieland will be introduced to a new crowd as the artist behind the latest installment among charcoal sketches of Cedar Rapids mayors. The collection hangs in the hallway outside the City Council chambers in City Hall, 101 First St. SE.

An unveiling is set for the afternoon of Dec. 19.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, who is not seeking a third term as he runs for governor, asked Wieland to draw his picture.

The two met through the local rock ‘n’ roll band Crankshaft, for which Wieland plays the Hammond organ and Corbett is an occasional lead singer. Crankshaft performed with Corbett for his swan song — “Sweet Home Cedar Rapids” — during the mayor’s final state of the city speech in February.

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Wieland, who specialized in realism although in recent years has branched out to other styles, has used pencils, colored pencils and acrylics. The Corbett portrait was his first charcoal, he said.

Corbett provided a picture and Wieland sketched it over a week in a studio in the upstairs of his home.

Wieland, who left the Kansas City Art Institute after a year in 1984 to play music, said he’s been in 100 bands, including actively in Crankshaft and Jiffy Pop, which plays pop hits from the 1960s and 1970s. In addition to music, he stays busy with a handful of other projects.

He has a contract design business called Wieland Creative. He gets word-of-mouth requests for portraits and sells designs online. He laments how the computer has forced him to have a style yet also has killed many of his job opportunities.

“Now any mook who just graduated from from Hawkeye Tech can call themselves an artist,” he said.

Mostly, he enjoys doing things his way.

“My main job is just being Kipp Wieland,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3177; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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