The Story of ‘Conquest of the Irrational’

by Kent Paulette

In Progress in the Studio

I painted Conquest of the Irrational in March 2015 at my home studio. Before that for two and a half years, I had only been painting live in front of people in Banner Elk. I missed my home studio at Powder Horn overlooking the mountains and it was so nice to paint here again. I can paint barefooted and listen to any music that I like. Instead of people, it’s wild animals that come to watch me paint.

“I’m so happy to be painting in my Powder Horn Mountain studio again on this first day of spring! It’s been two and a half years since I’ve painted here. A bunch of wild turkeys just walked by the window to see what I was up to.

The squirrels and chipmunks also came by to see what was going on.

Two pileated woodpeckers just stopped by and hung out for about 20 minutes as I painted. I’d never seen two together before!”

K. Paulette (3/20/15)


“So much irrationality in this one. I’d paint a part that I loved and then I’d paint over most of it for no reason. Just kept doing that over and over again until all those layers started to come to life!”

K. Paulette (2015)

Irrationality is an important aspect of my paintings that I always try to incorporate.  After spending a long day working on this painting, I was already starting to like it.  The egret was looking great.  So what did I do?  I woke up the next morning, stuck my hand in dark paint, and slung it across the painting from a short distance.  It was irrational, spontaneous, and I ended out throwing dark paint across the entire body of the egret.  It’s those types of moments that bring my paintings to life.  You can still see some of those early layers peaking through including a bit of that dark paint in the egret’s body.

I once got to see a great egret in person at Penny Lake here at Powder Horn Mountain where I live!

As I was working on this, I started to like what was happening with the layers on the bottom right and left corners so I ended out trying to get that same feel on the rest of the painting.

Finished Painting

I put those shapes in the paintings totally spontaneously.  Some of them are whimsical and remind me of my doodles in elementary school and then there are others that I create in more of a Zen state of mind.


I was listening to the Ninja Tune Solid Steel radio show as I was creating this painting. Conquest of the Irrational by DJ Vadim played in the mix and I took this video of the painting in my studio as it was playing. I later found out that Conquest of the Irrational is also a book by Salvador Dali.

At the Gallery

Conquest of the Irrational is a special painting to me so I kept it safe at home most of these years. It marked a turning point in the story of my life and artwork. I did have it at a gallery for a bit hanging next to Galloping Sunlight.

Preparing for the Painting

In February of 2015, a collector purchased 24 of my paintings for their home at Eagle’s Nest.  After that, I began a new series of paintings at my Powder Horn Mountain studio beginning with Conquest of the Irrational. I was reading Bug Music at the time and I posted this quote from the book.

“Nature loses its ethical weight; there is nothing so right or alluring about it if we decide it includes everything we do, instead of just those things that ally us with our place, our home, our environment.”

from the book ‘Bug Music’ by David Rothenberg


One of the big ways I prepare for painting is by sledding.  I love the thrill of sledding down the hill but even more important is the long walk back up in the quiet snow.  It’s at these times that I find the drive and willpower that keeps me walking up that hill over and over again.  I use that same drive as I create my paintings.

We had 2 big snows in February and March of 2015 and that’s when I shot these videos and posted the photos below.   I sledded 7 hours a day for a week straight by myself in the woods.  It’s a couple miles walk each way to my favorite sledding hill. I usually end out walking home in the dark because I always wanna sled down the hill one more time.

My good buddy Dan Joy came sledding with me once or twice during these snows. Conquest of the Irrational is his favorite painting of mine.

Live Music

I went to this concert with friends a few days before I started painting Conquest of the Irrational.

Painting Finds New Home

My original Conquest of the Irrational Great Egret painting “flew” 5 miles west to its new home when it was purchased by one of my collectors in September 2019. It hangs in the same home as Galloping Sunlight. Their stories have been linked since the beginning. Next up, read The Story of Galloping Sunlight and The Story of Daybreak Dance.

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