We’re pleased to be kicking off our 2020 Instructor Interview series with new-to-us artist Kimberly Kelly Santini. Kimberly is an acrylic painter internationally renowned for her color sensibilities, decades of commitment to daily painting, and expressive brushwork. She has over 1000 pet portraits in private collections around the world, created imagery for the American Kennel Club, and was the official artist of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, among other honors.
Q: How does your personal art practice fit into your life?
KKS: I’ve been a daily painter since 2006, and try to actively create at least 5 days a week. I am also doing marketing/social media/computer tasks every single day, so I guess it’s safe to say that my life evolves and unfolds around creating. Thankfully, technology makes it easier to take tasks on the road, so I’m not restricted to having to work from the studio exclusively, but I am working pretty much every day.
Q: What are some of your favorite tools for creating your work?
KKS: I absolutely love my acrylic paints, and have gotten a bit obsessed with pushing their properties with a variety of mediums and tools. I also love to experiment and try new things out – I’m not afraid to mix them with my paint processes and see what happens. Right now I’m thoroughly enjoying the addition of water soluble graphite to my paintings – it allows me to build up lines in a totally unique way.
Q: How has your work evolved over time?
KKS: I’ve evolved from a photo realist (as a teenager), to color field and graphic centric imagery (college), tried my hand at installations (post-graduate), and returned to representational painting. In 2000 I began painting pet portraits with expressive color; these paintings grew looser and embraced gestural mark making as the years progressed. Within the past few years, I explored still life, florals, figurative and symbolic work, as I found my way to a current series of abstractions that are about dreams and that point where lucidity ends and our imagination begins to gel.
Q: What’s the biggest “risk” you’ve taken in your journey as an artist?
KKS: Most likely my biggest risk was committing to a daily painting practice in 2006. At that time I had three children at home (5, 8 and 11) and my husband worked long hours 6 days a week. Learning to juggle family needs while also preserving my own creation time was a big challenge. Ultimately, it served me in so many ways. I learned that on those days when I simply couldn’t make it to the easel, it was ok to fail (and my kids saw that happen, and learned from it too); what mattered was my desire to succeed and the honest effort put into the practice. The daily hours spent at my easel added up over the years, and I’ve gotten my 10,000 miles in so to speak – I’ve greatly improved my drawing skills, learned my paints’ properties inside and out, created well over 2300 paintings (not all of them good, mind you, but I showed up!), and built a community around my business. Additionally, from a business standpoint, the daily painting practice gave me a platform from which to blog regularly and build a social media presence which serves me well to this day. And with respect to life, I demonstrated by example to my kids/their friends the value of embracing a creative lifestyle and what that returns to one’s self and one’s community.
Q: Tell us a bit about how you plan to conduct your workshop.
KKS: My workshops revolve around a presentation of an idea, perhaps a quick demo, followed by an exercise. Exercises are grouped around a particular concept – like loosening your brushwork – so that the learning happens in modules. While students are creating, I circulate, continue to talk, provide feedback and answer questions. We have many show and tells, where students share their exercise paintings or what they were surprised to learn. I also like to do one longer demonstration painting so that participants have a visual of the entire process, start to finish. The final day or a large chunk of the final day is focused on students’ pursuing their own piece while utilizing the methods and approaches learned. My goal is to allow them active time to practice what they have learned on their own subject/style while they still have easy access to me in the classroom.