Maple Ridge,, British Columbia|
Oils & Acrylics|
View Artist Statement
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Gallery Direct Interview with KRISTIN KRIMMEL|
Kristin's work has an astonishing variety. She takes the viewer on a journey into a world of whimsical imagination and delights them with images filled with beauty or humour. In her work, she expresses images of everyday life where she presents ordinary objects that she finds beautiful and noteworthy. Kristin has exhibited her work in numerous exhibitions in France, Canada and the United States. Steven Cannell Studios have used her work as decor in several of their serial productions and movies as have other movie productions created in the Vancouver area.
Were you interested in art as a child and at what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
I've always drawn and painted. When I was young, my grandmother gave me a gift of ďArt in the Park,Ē a summer program for children. This gift obviously underscored an innate need to express myself visually. I argued vehemently and unsuccessfully with my mother about going to Art School when I was ending high school but the family had other ideas for me and I dutifully went to University instead (which I have since not regretted).
I managed to find some practical art courses through the Faculty of Education and so fulfilled my longing to paint and draw better; and to begin a lifelong adventure learning and understanding the visual arts.
During the early years, who gave you the most encouragement to pursue your art career?
I had encouragement from my friends, both in high school and in University, but I was terribly envious of their facility with imagery and I had to strive hard and long until I felt comfortable with my own abilities.
I was in my thirties before I started to feel comfortable with all that I had learned in my formal training. I had great encouragement from artists Paul Kuzma and Les Weisbrich, and from Tom Hudson at Emily Carr College of Art and Design (it's now an Institute). When my mother finally realized that this was my life work and it wasn't going to go away, she supported me and turned up to many openings as well as giving me some financial support.
What formal or informal training have you found most useful during your career?
I studied with Sam Black and Jim Macdonald (drawing and painting), Gordon Smith (art history), Bob Steele (printmaking) and Doris Livingstone, all while studying at the University of British Columbia. Afterwards, my main mentors early in my career were Paul Kuzma, a New York artist and superb illustrator, and then with Les Weisbrich, another American illustrator and realist that had moved North to Canada from Los Angeles. At the time I studied with them, I wanted desperately to be a realist myself. Particularly, I wanted to have draftsman-like ability to draw something just like it was.
I've broadened my interest in art after I began working in the British Columbia provincial school system as a teacher. While teaching, I found that some of the kids had a better facility with drawing than I did. I decided to go back and get the basics, the art school training I had always wanted to do.
The opportunity came to me when I was thirty. My sister, Ingrid Baker, who is also a fabulous watercolourist, was applying to schools in Europe to do a year of art school while she perfected her French. She sent me the list of all the schools to apply to and I ended up in Rheims, France at the Ecole Regionale des Beaux Arts. But since I had already achieved the status of a teacher, they would not let me attend the basic classes.
My painting professor, Phillpe Drouard, has encouraged me to find my own expression, my own style. "You don't need that" he insisted. So I sat at my work table and developed what I had learned at UBC and found it was all I needed. I already knew the basic principles; I just needed to work with them constantly until I had internalized them and made them work for me.
As I developed, I realized what a fine education I had received at UBC with the folks mentioned above. I managed to stay at the Rheims school for four years despite a lack of funding. Then I stayed on in France for another three years, dealing in antiques. That was fun and a better school for the Decorative Arts than any dry text book. My fellow students there were also influential and many are still following careers in the Visual Arts.
What kinds of images did you first start out with and what medium did you use?
I started out in acrylics and watercolours. I believe that seeing is the most important task of the artist. I paint whatever I see as beautiful and noteworthy and present it to my viewers, directly from the object whether itís a still life, a drawing from life or a landscape.
I also do work from memory, or create and express ideas that I assemble. I look for found objects or found paintings. I find beauty in the urban landscape. Hearts have been a common thread in certain of my work. Utilitarian objects also hold interest for me. I have a series of works for which laundry and the clothes peg are the only focus. And I have a series called Plastic Fantastics or Plastic Archives where I used archival plastic, the kind one uses for fixing documents that are tearing. I sandwich things we use daily between them, like type writer ribbon. Remember type writer ribbon? And correcting tape?
At present, what is your favorite medium and why is it your favorite?
I have two. I love the versatility of oils, and I love the immediacy of chalk pastels. Both of them seem to have better colour possibilities than other media. Perhaps it's only that I have worked these two media until I know them well and can do what I want with them in relative freedom. Nevertheless, these are my favourite media.
I might add: I vowed not to be limited by materials or styles. If I find that wax crayons will best express what I want to do, I'll use them; If collage or silver pigment pens will do it best, then I use collage or silver pigment pens. I like to experiment, but I most often turn to oils and pastels.
What life experiences have most influenced your choice of subject matter?
As I said earlier, I feel the task of the artist is to see and analyze what is noteworthy in the world and then help the viewer to see the same thing. I'm a West Coast girl. I've spent lots of time in the woods, on the beaches and in my garden. I love the specificity of nature and I love the wildness of the West Coast climate and terrain, so that is always an underlying basis for my subject matter when I'm recording the beauty that I see about me.
That being said, I learned to understand the basic principles of visual perception. Having done that, I fell in love with abstraction and non-representational forms and images for their own sake now that I understand them. When I am involved in making a work of art, I am always cognizant of the underlying structure, the spatial relations between different colours and focal points. I am always aware of the textures and surface qualities of the work; the tonal relationships throughout the piece; the forms and balance between positive and negative shapes.
Now, going back to the beginning of this question of subject matter, when I had lots of time out in the countryside of British Columbia, my subject matter was most often landscape. When I worked in Corporate Offices during the last 23 years, I found subject matter in the views outside the 19th floor windows such as the rooftops of tall buildings, and while in meetings, I would draw slightly bored meeting attendees. When I was in France, I drew the people and the flea markets and the lovely rows of windbreaks along the secondary highways. Wherever I was, I was analyzing where I was and trying to record it.
I would also like to say that art is a meditation for me, both in the looking and seeing role and in the painting activity. I hope that the viewer will find the same satisfaction and meditative quality in viewing my work and making sense of it.
Could you tell us a little about your Kimono Series and what inspired you to do these pieces?
As do most creative people, I fell into a creative block where ideas would not come. I did several things to lift myself out of it. Many times, I can move forward and onto a new idea by doing studio maintenance - just cleaning up, or managing my brushes and chalks and watercolour paraphernalia. But this time, that didn't work. I had painted myself into a very realistic corner and I couldn't get out.
I have been an avid photographer along the way. I take pictures for reference and just for capturing the beauty of a moment. I began sorting these out with the idea of culling them and doing something with them. Amongst them were many photos of the North Shore Mountains in Vancouver. I had photographed them from work and my poor little point and shoot camera couldn't bring them close enough to make the snow on the mountains the principal image in them. I had the bottom third of the photos with dull back lane industrial imagery and flat tar and gravel roofs.
The imagery was so dirty, yellow and black coloured that I started to cut out the building shapes from the remainder of the photograph. This gave me some very odd but beautifully shaped mountains-with-snow pictures crossed by electrical wires that I hadn't been able to eliminate from the mountain portions. I started moving these odd shaped pieces of pristine blue mountains and sky shapes around and I liked the negative spaces they created when they were sometimes upside down and sometimes right side up. I made a collage of them and was very pleased with it. I had enough pieces to make another. Then I started playing with other photos, and the thought occurred to me that if I reversed the photo and put them together, I might get some patterns and movement that I had not expected. It became a rather all-consuming pastime. That was the beginning.
I have many of these photo collages, but then I didn't know what to do with them. Being photos, they are not permanent, and I didn't feel I could market them if I knew they were not going to last. But then I thought that perhaps if I tried to paint what I felt about these images, I might come close to expressing the rhythms and patterns that I found.
Working with 4 x 6 photos, I found that they naturally set into a kimono-like pattern, with two photos going horizontally at the top and two going vertically directly below them on a centre line. They reminded me of the lovely Japanese Kimono shape and their exquisite art work. The rest is history. I can't turn all of them into paintings, but I feel successful about the ones that I have been able to translate into oil paintings, and I have some ideas about being able to publish some of the other images that are photographic only. The series is not finished. I will still be doing these long into the future.
Do you have a sketch or an idea before you start to paint?
I do a tremendous amount of sketching. I love drawing in itself. I love experimenting with different materials, different papers, and lots of different ideas. I will often do a sketch before I start to paint or even a collage-style maquette before I begin, but not necessarily a detailed one. Sometimes, the work ends there. It stays a "sustained drawing" and does not become a steppingstone to another work. Once I have the gist of the image on the painting support, whether canvas or paper, I then let the painting lead me as much as I lead the painting. I must say, though, that this is a result of a lifetime of painting. When I started out, I did an enormous amount of thumbnail sketches and note taking to refine my idea. Now, my brain just shortcuts a lot of that.
I'm more likely to do a detailed drawing in watercolour, especially if I'm searching for a realistic result because the medium demands that. I do think, though, that the best watercolours are free and liberated in the brush strokes and the drawing. The older I get, the more I want to liberate myself from rigid realism.
As an artist, do you think you perceive the world differently from other people and if so, in what way?
Absolutely, artists see the world differently. Joseph Albers said, "Art is not an object but an experience." Artists are always looking. We notice patterns and textures, shapes, forms, and relationships between things. We are constantly composing pictures even if we have no support to put it on. Thank goodness for cameras that can help us remember something if we are not able to sit and capture it on the spot as we see it.
I'm never too sure whether we see things and fit them into visually pleasing arrangements in order to paint them or whether we only notice them because they already fit into the pleasing arrangements. Art is one of the cheapest thrills around! Just think. You have endless possibilities of things to look at and play with in your brain's visual compartment. Unless you lose your sight, no one can take that away from you. The looking doesn't cost you a dime and it brings you such joy. You don't even have to make imagery to get the enjoyment, although, as along as I live, I hope I will be able to continue putting on paper or canvas or a napkin, the ideas that I get from looking and seeing.
Another reason I perceive the world differently from those who are not educated into visual thinking is that we are trained to think about visual ideas. We think about visually morphing one image into a completely different one, egg, caterpillar, pupa, imago style. We learn to express visual puns. We look for found drawings and much more. It's one of those situations where the sum is far greater than the parts. Art idea is such a limitless bundle of creative flux to dip into. Discovering new creative ideas is a very satisfying activity.
What has been your greatest success and biggest setback during your career as an artist?
I'm proud of having achieved two exhibitions in Municipal Galleries. It means to me that other professional artists who I consider my peers have recognized the value of my work. You said "my greatest" but I have to mention that I'm pretty proud of having been juried into the Joan Miro International Annual Drawing Exhibition twice in my career and my solo exhibition in the foyer gallery to the Canadian Consulate in Paris was pretty thrilling for me as well.
I suppose that the economic downturn in 1983 was the biggest setback. I returned to Canada and started to work here again. But as one door closes another one opens. That's when I engaged with Emily Carr College of Art and Design to teach there, and I had a long and fruitful association with them. That opened many doors for me and put me in contact with practicing artists which was a wonderful experience.
While you were an instructor at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, what advice did you most often give your students?
I always started my classes with this advice: Don't worry about what you are going to do when you are finished this class or how your work will stand up to that of your neighbours. Park your ideas and styles at the door and absorb what is being presented to you. That way you can get the most benefit from it and then you can return to your own work if you will. You can take away all the things you found positive here and just put the other ideas away in mental storage until you may be ready for them.
I also stressed two other things. One was Draw, draw and draw again; repeat it over and over again until you come to what you wanted to express. You dissipate your abilities if you leap from one subject to another and you gain freedom and freshness by knowing your subject well. It's better to express one idea in depth than to express many shallowly. Second, was to Experiment, experiment, experiment. If you allow yourself to experiment with your materials and with your ideas, you will not have a problem in coming up with ideas and means of expressing them in a way that will become uniquely and recognizably you.
I always used to laugh inside at the shock some students would have when, after a half hour of studious figure drawing in charcoal, I asked them to take a paper towel and wipe off everything they had so diligently drawn. Then I would ask them to spend some time looking at the other students' wiped out work, and return to their own to think about and then redraw the figure. This time, the image blended in with its ground, no longer seeming to float in a blank space. They were able to correct things they had gotten wrong before; they found they could use an eraser to pick out light areas on the form; they had a much better textural balance and they had a range of marks from scrumbled to sharp lines that made the drawing interesting. After this exercise, there was not one who hadn't discovered the merits of taking a drawing past its first tentative description on paper.
Have you published any of your ideas and art techniques?
I wrote a manual on drawing for the Drawing Foundation course when I first started working with Emily Carr College of Art and Design. Now I post my ideas on www.artiseternal.wordpress It has some memories of my adventures and my thoughts on my work as an artist. As well, it contains my philosophy on various aspects of the visual language.
Do you have any exhibitions planned?
I'm joining in the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Art Walk for the first time this year. It's coming up on April 26th and 27th. I'm hoping to concentrate more on exhibiting in this next year.
Do you do any volunteer work in your local Art Community?
I have done photography for the Canadian Federation of University Women and for the University Women's Club of Vancouver. I have also done photography for the Maple Ridge Arts Centre, and just this week, I was engaged to do some work for the Burnaby Art Gallery Rental program.
How do you think or want other people to respond to your work?
I want them to say, "Wow! Can that girl ever draw!" I want them to feel an emotional or gut connection to the work that is intended to express emotion. I want them to become aware of the beauty around them because I have drawn their attention to something beautiful (and not necessarily in the ordinary sense of beauty). If I find the back of trucks beautiful, or the reflection of a tree on a car, or the telephone wires that string along down the city lanes, then I want a light bulb to turn on in their heads, "oh yeah! That really is beautiful" and have them come along with me in my awe of the wonders around us.
I would also like to say that art is a meditation for me, both in the looking and seeing role and in the painting activity. I hope that the viewer will find the same satisfaction and meditative quality in viewing my work and making sense of it. And, I want people to laugh at my visual puns or to get involved in some of the imaginative work and try to figure out what it is that I'm trying to say.
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