Behrens was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1933. He grew up near Washington, DC. He began drawing at age seventeen after being confined to bed following a sledding accident. Howard Behrens formal education in art was at theUniversity of Maryland College Park, where he earned a master's degree in painting and sculpture. Behrens was hired by the United States Government printing Office, where his father was employed as a printer, and worked there for the next seventeen years. Behrens resided in Potomac Maryland and died on April 14, 2014 after a long battle withParkinson’s disease.
"Many years ago, I learned that the only way I can really achieve what I feel in my paintings is to create them using a palette knife instead of a brush. I love the boldness of the knife, and the control I have of color. Using the knife, I find that I can capture not only the softness of clouds, but also the boldness of mountains, the vibrancy of flowers, and the strength of water. I move the knife furiously as I apply deep, rich color in many layers to achieve dimension and mood."
Even a casual observer who seeks to venture beyond the natural greatness of the scene and the power of that dull blade (the palette knife) as it shapes unwitting pigments of color into visual dreams, will recognize that Mr. Behrens' work speaks to the segment in each of us that wants a better, more beautiful world, as if by reproducing the outside in its perfect state, the artist can induce us to greater internal satisfaction. Howard Behrens is a romantic poet sculpting paint on canvas, and while he has spawned an entire cottage industry of emulators, few, if any, capture the emotional breadth of this man in love with love, life and the sun.
His approach was experiential in terms of his involvement with the formal aspects of painting; brushwork, composition, and color. The artist's process creates a lush "skin" of paint using a combination of brush and most often a "spatula," a palette knife, in the spirit of the vigorous palette knife technique adopted by the master realist, Gustave Courbet.
At once an introspective and humble man and a skilled painter, Behrens created a world of beauty in his work that combines a love of paint, a passion for travel, and a mastery of style and color. The evolution to today's rich, distinctive, texturized style came through experimentation. "I slowly started using the palette knife to paint on canvas," said Behrens. "It started out very fine and thin using very little paint. Then, it got thicker and thicker and heavier and heavier. Finally, the most amazing thing happened - the act of painting became the subject matter." Behrens also developed a method for creation that combined travel, sketching, fine art photography and painting. Creation of paintings that integrate what he calls "big, juicy chunks of paint."