With bright, gestural florals & enigmatic expressions, our newest collection by North-Carolina based artist Kelsey Howard is a treat for the eyes. In this interview, you'll learn more about the artist's interest in portraiture, her unique process, a recent win she's celebrating, and a goal she's working toward.
Tell us about your fascination with portraiture and how you experiment with color & pattern to achieve a dynamic quality in your work!
My fascination with portraiture has really evolved. I have always loved drawing faces and often studied anatomical drawing books when I was young. Many years later when I was a senior in college, and studying to get my studio art degree, I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate faces into my senior thesis project. Portraiture in our history has largely been used to capture a figure and help them live on even when they are no longer alive. On the contrary, I began exploring portraiture as a way to show the fragility or impermanence of life. I used fragile paper and created portraits that were sort of half human and half skeleton. They were dark pieces- literally and figuratively- but they were meant to be reminders to enjoy the precious time we have here on earth.
As time went on, I eventually returned to my roots of colorful painting, and left the skeletal portraits behind. (Fun fact, even though my style is very different now, these skeletal pieces were some of the first pieces of art I ever sold). Now my portraits have more of therapeutic value. As someone who grew up with a lot of anxiety and body image issues, I enjoy creating portraits of women who are colorful, weird, totally imperfect, but beautiful in their own way. I want them to radiate confidence. I try to remember, in life and in art, that things do not need to be perfect to be beautiful.
Additionally, I took a color theory/painting class a few years ago and love experimenting with colors to see what will give visual excitement! When certain colors come together it’s like magic. I live for finding those magical combinations and it pushes me to keep creating.
Are there specific colors you find yourself being drawn to again and again?
I love experimenting with complementary colors and playing with different values. There’s something so satisfying about laying down a bright clean color next to a more muted muddy tone. This year I’ve played with fluorescent colors more than ever before. They really provide an extra pop of color!
How do your pieces come to life - are you someone who plans out compositions in advance or do you tend to work more intuitively, letting the image unfold during the process?
Lately I have been planning out the composition of my work more than I have in the past. Having a strong composition helps the rest of the painting flow easier, even if you’re not sure about what colors you will use. I’ll often document colors I love in a notebook, and will refer back to them at later times. Once I have a color or two in mind, I start with those and let the rest of the painting flow and unfold. I love the magic that can unexpectedly present itself while working on a painting. I never truly know how a painting will look until its done.
Are there any exciting details or stories about the paintings in this particular collection that we might not figure out just by looking at them?
These paintings are a continuation of my love of using color and using art as therapy. These paintings include elements of flowers that I received from a local flower farm in the spring time. I am always overjoyed when color and life begin to fill the world again after winter.
What is an accomplishment in your art career that you're especially proud of? A goal you're working toward?
I’m very proud that my artwork was chosen to be used as a book cover by one of the largest publishing companies of Germany, Ullstein Buchverlage. It was an incredible way for my artwork to be shown all over Europe! The book is called “An den Ufern von Stellata” by Daniela Raimondi.
I would love to maybe be an artist in residence somewhere. I love to travel! But overall, I am working toward having an increasingly improved work/life balance. I want to create art all my life and to make sure I set myself up for success to do so. As long as I’m able to continue sharing my art with others, I will be overjoyed!