One of the coolest things I get to do at the Atelier has seemingly nothing to do with the description of my actual role, and that is getting to meet and speak with artists I admire. The art world is just outside my realm of comfortability in speaking on, or so I thought it was until I met Kelly Beeman.
Kelly is an artist whose colorful post-expressionist work not only truly inspires and awes Garance and I, but has also attracted the likes of brands like J.W. Anderson. Getting to interview people you hold in high regard within any industry can prove inspiring for reasons beyond just seeing the artist at work. Speaking to Kelly revealed her innate ease and creativity, as well as the drive that powers her style, discipline, and inspiration.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Oklahoma City and lived there until I was 18.
How did you start painting? Is it something you’ve always done or went to school for?
I have always loved to draw. When I was a child my sisters and I would create stories and illustrate them. They were actually sagas that continued over many weeks – each day there was a new twist to the story or a new character. They were essentially stories about teenagers (because we couldn’t wait to be them ourselves) and all of the details of their lives – we never had Barbie dolls, so this was a good substitute.
At the same time I was very interested in painting, and technique especially. My mother is an artist and used to create beautiful landscape paintings in watercolor, so she would teach me about mixing colors, application, etc. I was about 4 or 5 when I started sitting with her while she painted; watercolor fascinated me.
When I was 12 I started making paintings on canvases. Eventually I went to a visual arts high school, where I had wonderful instructors who taught me so much. But that was really my last formal study. In college I studied sociology.
Tell us about your process, your pieces are quite graphic. How did you end up with the style you currently paint in?
I think that style is something that naturally happens when you create work consistently over many years. So other than that, I have no idea how I ended up with my style. I could not have predicted what my artwork would look like now even 2 years ago, and I have no idea what it will become in the future. I spent many years painting nudes, and then it occurred to me that clothes provide a lot clues about people, so for right now, I am enjoying making paintings inspired by that idea.
My process begins with a mental image, sometimes before I am falling asleep I imagine pictures and different scenarios and try to remember them the next day. Because people are always the main focus of my work – and because they’re invented in my imagination – I use fashion to develop their personalities. So once I have an idea for a painting I look through all of the collections and find clothes that express a quality I would like to impart on the subject(s). When I have the idea and am ready to start the painting, I draw the composition in very clean lines and fill in the colors using watercolor and mixed media.
How did you partnership with J.W. Anderson come about?
It was very funny actually – I didn’t know very much about fashion at the time and was barely using Instagram. But I was always looking for clothes that could help me execute ideas, or images that were in my head. So one day I was searching through collections on Style.com and getting very bored and frustrated not finding the right look.
Eventually I came across J.W. Anderson and clicked on a resort collection and immediately fell in love with everything I saw. I did a few drawings that day and shared one of them with Jonathan Anderson and J.W. Anderson on Instagram, honestly believing that they would never see it or care about it. So I was very surprised when I received such positive feedback. We have been working together ever since – every season I create original artwork for their offices in London.
What is your favorite way to work? In silence or with music? And do you have a favorite place to work?
It depends – sometimes I enjoy working in silence, sometimes with music, sometimes with the same song on repeat. My favorite time to work is in the morning. Right now I am making large oil paintings and have to wait for them to dry overnight, so I wake up very excited and anxious to continue painting.
I work in my apartment. It’s not exactly ideal because it’s a small, typical New York apartment but everything in it is somehow related to my creative process. I have a piano that takes up a lot of space, but it also clears my head when I’ve been painting all day. I also like not having to go somewhere else to work…whenever I feel like painting (which is most of the time), everything I need is right there.
Top three sources of inspiration…
People, story telling, fashion.
Have you ever shown at a gallery? When is your next show?
Not officially….But I am doing a residency and having a solo show at 3125C in Los Angeles. We’re still deciding the specific dates but it will be sometime this fall. I’m very excited about it!