Thursday, October 4, 2012

DPW Spotlight Interview: Kathleen Williford

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. 

To enter to win Kathleen Williford's painting, "Daily Bread," go to DailyPaintworks and click on the Spotlight Giveaway button in the top-left corner of the website.

From Kathleen's DPW gallery page:
I started out as an art major in college, taught art for a while and spent a long stretch in corporate America. For the past ten years, I've been doing decorative painting and murals, but recently decided to shift my focus to studio work.
Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I was one of those kids who was always drawing. Early on, it seems my parents decided I had some talent so they supplied me with plenty of art supplies and encouragement throughout my childhood. Back then I worked mostly with pencil, pastels, pen and ink and some watercolors at home and school. I didn’t paint on canvas until college in the 60’s and that was with acrylics.

Daily Bread
(click here to see original image)

Enter to win by clicking the "Artist Spotlight and Giveaway" button!

After college I didn’t paint much until about ten years ago, when I began painting murals full-time using acrylics. My business was fairly successful, I stayed busy and loved working with my clients painting high-end, residential murals. Painting murals is physically demanding! I’m still very fit and healthy, but as I grew older I knew I would eventually need to transition into something that would keep my feet on the ground instead of perching on a ladder all day. I also grew tired of executing paintings to fit into someone else’s design sensibilities and taste. I felt like I was completing a long string of assignments and I yearned to find out who I was as an artist.  

I explored the “daily painting” movement for a couple years online and kept thinking it would be a perfect fit for me. I wanted to learn how to paint from life and decided blogging about the journey would help keep me motivated and on track. I always dreamed of being a studio artist, but up until now it just never seemed to be a realistic goal. I started out a few months ago with the small format paintings in acrylic and just recently began using oils. I’m excited to see where this takes me!

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Many starts and stops! I taught art in high school right after I graduated from college with a degree in art education. I taught for about eight years and did a little art work of my own during that time, but not a lot. Then I changed careers and worked at a job that was unrelated to art. During that time I made many attempts to do art work but, with career and family, I never seemed to stick with it. I kept thinking someday I would have time. Someday I would get back into it. Someday I would like to paint full-time.

Buddha with Flowers
(click here to see original)
Then about twelve years ago, almost by accident, I fell into a little job of painting a mural for a salon owner. I did it nights and weekends while working full-time at my other job. It turned out pretty well and I decided maybe this was a way for me to actually earn a living doing art. From a marketing standpoint it made sense because the work was actually sold before I began painting it. My children were raised and doing well in their lives, I was on my own and decided I was willing to take the risk. I quit my real job and started my own business.

When I went in to tell my boss I was resigning, I felt like a little kid telling my Dad that I was going off to join the circus. I knew it was a crazy, reckless and risky endeavor but it was something I felt I had to do. Somehow I’ve eked out a living from painting ever since. My only regret is that I didn’t make the leap sooner.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with? Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away? Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

In the past I was always most comfortable with dry mediums like graphite, charcoal, colored pencils and pastels. I always felt more in control and enjoyed the sketchy and smudgy quality of dry media. But now I’m committed to painting regularly and I know it’s something that I will always do. At some point I may want to work in pastels again and maybe experiment with collage. But, for now, I’m sticking to painting. Even if I go off in some other direction now and then I think I will always come back to painting.

My concentration in college was in ceramics. I loved working in clay, throwing on the wheel, mixing my own glazes, and the anticipation of opening the kiln after every firing. Years ago, I did set up a small ceramic studio at home and built my own gas kiln. It takes a lot of space and equipment and after many moves, I found it was just no longer practical to pursue. My heart flutters every time I see a potter set up at an art show, but it’s not something I seriously think about getting back into.  

I’ve always been pulled toward realism and my work has always reflected that except while in college, my paintings were very large and very abstract. In order to fit into the program and get good grades, that was the direction I needed to go. I had no idea what I was doing and I’m convinced my instructor didn’t either. I do have an appreciation of abstract art and may want to explore it at some point and to some degree again in my own work. But for now, my goal is to really learn to paint well from life.

(click here to see original image)

Many of your paintings reflect a quiet, even whimsical domesticity. What can you tell us about what catches your eye in your environment?

Everything! I see paintings everywhere. My goal right now is to really learn to interpret what I see into paint. Still life offers me a way to control my environment and set up challenges with lighting, shadows and reflections to help me learn. So for now, I am pulling my subjects mostly from everyday items around the house. I’m more interested in the process of learning to paint than in the paintings I produce. They are almost secondary to the process. I don’t take myself too seriously, so I will occasionally throw a subject in just for fun!  

What does procrastination look like for you? What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I wear a lot of hats and have other obligations that sometimes cut into my painting time. I don’t have too much of a problem with procrastination, but when it does occur it usually looks like household chores and office work. I have this work ethic bouncing around in my head that says I should get my work done before I play. Maybe because I enjoy painting so much I do see it a little like play. So, I struggle with allowing myself to go paint if there is laundry to do or piles of paperwork on my desk. I’m getting better at balancing this and having a blog has helped.

I am committed to blogging regularly so that helps me to justify dropping everything else to get into my studio. If I am absent from painting and blogging it’s usually not because I’m procrastinating, it’s usually because of actual other work commitments.

Old Romeo
(click here to see original image)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I will never have enough time to paint all of the ideas that are in my head. My work doesn’t even begin to reflect yet all that I have tossing around in my mind. I haven't even scratched the surface of things I’d like to try and subjects I’d like to paint. What I find most interesting is to take ordinary things, often mundane, and elevate them into being art simply by selecting them. I shy away from what is usually considered picturesque or precious. I really like to see and appreciate the beauty in everyday life and everyday objects. It can be a color or light or a reflection or a fold in fabric or something totally unexpected that will catch my eye.

I don’t want to box myself into a particular look or particular subjects at this point. For now I’m like a crow flitting from one shiny object to the next. Maybe in time my work will narrow but, if it does, it will be through a natural process rather than from a deliberate decision. I want to explore in a lot of directions and I find inspiration everywhere!  

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

Maybe it’s because I’m so new to “daily painting” that I haven’t had time yet to experience burnout. I have so many things I want to try that I look forward with anticipation every time I step into my studio. I feel I am just beginning on my journey to discover what kind of painter I want to be and I see these small format paintings as a way to help me to do this. My intention is to try a zillion new things and to reserve the right to experiment even if it results in failure. So, I suppose keeping it “fresh” comes from my desire to try new things. I hope my work reflects the fun I’m having along the way.

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I have a lot to learn! For years, I measured my murals in feet and now I’m painting these small panels that are measured in inches so there’s some learning going on with that change! I didn’t know a thing about painting in oils so I took a little class a few months ago to get some basics, but I have a long way to go in trying to master that media. I read and study other artist’s work that I find inspiring. I tend to mess too much with details, over-work and define everything too precisely, so right now my goal is to loosen up. I’m working on softer edges and bolder more deliberate brush strokes.

Shiny Bowl with Oranges
(click here to see original image)

What makes you happiest about your art?

After lugging buckets of paint and ladders around while painting murals, I love being able to just walk into my little home studio and paint, sometimes in my PJ’s and bunny slippers!  I also love the fact that we live in an age where technology allows a global exchange of ideas, marketing and community. I'm most happy that I’m now in a place in my life that I actually have some time to make art. I’ve waited a long time to get here, so I intend to make the most of it!

Thanks, Kathleen!

© 2012 Jennifer Newcomb Marine

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