With a solo show this month at Leesburg's King Street Coffee, it's only fitting that I interview my wife Kris, who has only recently returned to painting again, after a somewhat lengthy hiatus. As with her photography, Kris is drawn to the simple, common everyday things, and has a genuine knack for capturing their essence in her work. It's been a while since I actually interviewed an artist, but this occasion is as special to me as it is for Kris, so some extra effort was put into this week's artist of the week feature. Enjoy!
1. Q: About how old were you when you first began to seriously get into painting?
A: Probably the earliest I can remember actually trying was around age 13 or 14. I always remember asking as a kid for paints and brushes instead of toys as a gift, but in my teenage years I wanted to start working with more advanced materials. I even took some classes, but for the most part I taught myself to work with different layers and watercolor washes.
2. Q: Recently you got back into watercolors after a long time of not painting and doing jewelry and more craft-based work. What got you back into it again?
A: I always loved doing crafty things, but none of it felt as basic or fulfilling as watercolors. I even went through a bit of an acrylic phase, as you know, about five years ago, but it didn't quite feel as right as working with watercolors. Coming back to watercolors felt like a sort of homecoming, and I look forward to pushing and exploring the medium much more.
3. Q: You tend to focus more on basic, everyday things in your work. What draws you to these things?
A: I've always enjoyed taking a deeper, closer look at everyday objects like certain plants, and fruits and vegetables, and the way light would illuminate certain surfaces - things most people might not normally pay much attention to. Part of it was a need to learn to draw from observation, but I also just like everyday things and the way nature shapes and colors objects. I'm reminded of how recently, while at work I was photographing an apple I brought for lunch from different angles, and my boss just looked at me like I was nuts, but I could have looked at it all day long! I just am fascinated at how light can shape an object.
4. Q: When it comes to making art and taking on a variety of creative endeavors, you seem to be somewhat of a natural. Do you think some people just "have it" while others might struggle more? What's your take on this thing we like to call talent?
A: I think that everybody has the ability, but for me it comes down to observation. My problem is trying to make things look too much like something, which is what some people think of as art, but is something I'm trying to move away from more and learn to be Ok with some mess and imperfection, which is a lot more interesting to me. I think when people get too wrapped up with trying to make something look realistic, they get intimidated and even turned off from making art, when in fact that's really not what making art is about in the first place. I think the interest lies in the little artifacts that are created when you get a little bit of a mess going, so it's good to distance yourself from the end product and just get to work.
5.Q: I noticed that you have a couple of styles going on right now with your watercolors, one of which is more of a layered, realistic look and the other a more simplified, almost abstract approach. Where do you think you might be going currently, with regards to you own personal style?
A: Well, I like a little bit of both. I don't want completely abstract work 'cause I'm not too sure if I, personally can identify with it, but I'm also trying to distance myself from that teacher I had in high school who demanded realism when painting a still life. I had such a positive response to the looser, simpler works that I think I gained a certain level of permission to go more with that route when I paint, which is something I've been enjoying a lot lately.
6. Q: So like most people, you're pressed for time, work a day job and sometimes just want to come home and veg out on the couch with a book or the computer. What do you say to folks who are also busy, or have kids or work a lot but have a strong urge to create? What might you tell them?
A: No matter what, you'll never have enough time, you'll never have enough energy, you'll never have enough money, but you simply have to begin somewhere. It might not turn into a routine, but you simply have to take out some time for yourself and give yourself that personal permission to create, even if it's a little bit at a time each day. I used to think I had to complete a piece right away, but that's really not the way to go for most people (especially when working with watercolors) and it will become discouraging when you can't finish something. Throw in a load of laundry and do a sketch. Put the kids to bed and set aside fifteen minutes. Make yourself a little space that's accessible and know that you'll most likely never have that perfect, ideal situation. So, yeah, kind of like that Nike saying we all see and hear, just do it.
7. Q: I know that you're kind of particular when it comes to using certain materials when painting. What are some of the mediums that get you excited these days?
A: Well, if you're working with watercolor, it will always make your life a lot easier if you use a nice thick paper. It will make all the difference in the world. Spend a little extra on some good brushes. I used the cheaper Winsor & Newton brushes for years, which were great, but recently I've been buying some better quality brushes, which makes quite a difference I think. I like watercolor from a tube more than from pans, though I use both. I've really been into the Cotman line of watercolors from Winsor & Newton, which is relatively affordable when compared to a lot of stuff out there. I've also been having some fun with watercolor pencils and watercolor masking fluid, which might be my favorite thing in the whole wide world. But yeah, just invest in some good quality materials if possible.
8. Q: So who or what do you find helpful or inspiring lately.
A: Lately Kate Spade photos (from their catalogues), looking at other people's work (which can sometimes be a double-edged sword and intimidating), but mostly nature, more than anything. Working during the Fall has been especially inspiring, with the variations of color in the leaves and the trees. If you just stop and look at a leaf and its veining, color variations, and whether or not it's a matte leaf or a waxy leaf, that makes all the difference in the world when painting. Apples as well, such as the gala apples and the variety of color. Going to museums and websites can be helpful as well, but more than anything, just getting to work and the act of doing and creating is most motivating for me.
9. Q: You've been on a roll in a very short period of time these past few months. Do you see yourself continuing at that pace or taking a break to catch your breath? What's in store for you and your art?
A: Unlike my last show, I actually still feel like painting, though I wouldn't mind a breather. I want to explore some more fashion-based work, which I did a little bit and enjoyed so much and had a real positive response to. I'm by no means some fashionista, but I like accessories and colors and patterns and the way certain things go together to create a pleasing aesthetic. So yes, I will continue to make that time for myself and continue to paint and enjoy creating things and see where it all leads me.
* Kris will have a new website with prints of her work for sale in the near future, which I'll feature here when the time comes.