Kristin's wistful landscapes of the southwestern U.S. depict sights that a traveler might pass along isolated roads: a gas station, a billboard, a few palm trees, etc. These sparse scenes -- always under immense skies -- evoke a sense of tranquility, remoteness, and wide, uncluttered space. Kristin is a native of Texas.
Want to learn more about Kristin's work? Scroll down to read our interview.*
What made you decide to become an artist, and how did you pursue that goal? Did you go to art school and/or learn your craft through other means?
I always loved drawing and playing with art supplies as a child. I would stay late after art class to spend more time on projects, and often skip lunch to spend time in the art room. I guess art was really my “thing” in school (I was never athletic — ha!). My mom was always very supportive of my love for art. She would take me to the art museum in Houston often, and also signed me up for a ton of art classes outside of school. I owe her a lot of credit for encouraging me to pursue my passion!
I really focused on art beginning my junior year of high school. My teacher encouraged us to look into art programs across the nation as an alternative to college. I did end up getting into an art school in NYC, but decided to opt for a Liberal Arts college in Austin to be closer to home instead (St. Edward’s University). I ended up attending Otis College of Art + Design for my graduate MFA in art shortly after finishing undergrad.
What is something about art that you learned either in school or in working as an artist that you think is useful to share with someone who maybe doesn’t engage with the art world on a regular basis?
I love this question! I often find myself having the best conversations about art with people who aren’t from an art background. I’ve learned that whatever you love, is what you should follow or buy. Whatever art makes you happy, brings you peace, or sparks an interesting conversation — that’s where you should direct your attention. Everyone has different tastes, and that is what makes the world go 'round. It is ok to like something that someone else doesn’t!
How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen it? In other words, please give us a very basic description of your work: what it looks like, what it's made of, what subject matter we will recognize, what shapes or colors are most noticeable, etc.
I make paintings with big open skies that explore the horizons of Texas, California, and the highways in between. I like to consider my paintings as a virtual road trip for the viewer. I often use familiar signage to help identify the locations the paintings are based in (Whataburger for Texas and In N Out for California, for example).
In most of your paintings, sky takes up the majority of canvas space. Any buildings, signs, or other subjects are usually confined to the very bottom of the painting. Could you please talk about that?
Absolutely! The big skies in my paintings are a direct result of living in Texas my whole life, and of living in LA for graduate school. I grew up being able to drive 10 minutes down I-10 to see cows and farms; living in LA this wasn’t as accessible. I craved the open spaces of Texas, so I would often go to overlooks around L.A. to take in the city from a distance. This resulted in my first series of “smog paintings” where I would paint the hazy L.A. skyline with the big sky above it. It was relaxing for me and I’ve been painting that way ever since.
One of the most noticeable features of your work is the colors that you use, especially in the sky. Your skies range from soft pinks to deep blues and purples, and everything in between. Are your color choices a reflection of your mood and thoughts at the time, or of what you saw in real life, or something else?
I would say it is a combination of all of those things! Depending on the source images I’m inspired by, and how I’m feeling, I’ll choose a subject for my paintings. I then often use Photoshop to try out different skies and see which one really helps the painting pop. I find that I make the most of the sunset pieces because I love mixing blues, pinks, oranges on the same painting. I don’t paint as many of the night scenes because they can be very striking— but they are also so special to me. It truly depends on the body of work I’m trying to complete and how much variety I feel the series needs. It’s a surprise every time!
Some of the recurring themes in your work include isolated -looking streets or single buildings, business signage, empty highways, palm trees, and desert or other rural scenes. Do these motifs have special meaning?
Yes absolutely. When I isolate a sign, building, a palm tree — I’m hoping to remind the viewer of those peaceful moments we have looking out an airplane or car window. There's a sense of wanderlust that I strive to recreate in my paintings. I hope to spark nostalgia in the viewer for these specific locations and also create a sense of aura and atmosphere through isolation. When I moved back from LA to TX, I cannot tell you how happy I was when I saw the first Whataburger sign on my drive. I can also say I felt the same when they finally opened up an In N Out in Austin! That is part of what I hope to recreate in my work.
Your paintings tend to have a sort of an uninhabited or desolate look, even when they depict buildings and city lights. They rarely, if ever, include people. What is it that draws you to these types of scenes, and what do you hope that your viewers will take away?
I hope to offer the viewer a pure sense of location and almost place them within the scene. Often in films we are introduced to a set or location from a view above or from a distance that is empty of humans or cars. There's a nice introductory feeling that I believe helps create a personal relationship for the viewer with the painting, almost like they are the first ones to discover that spot and their relationship with it is all that matters.
Please talk a little about your process. Do you work from photographs? If so, do you take the photos yourself? Do you use real-life scenes (or photos) merely for inspiration, or do your paintings recreate them with some accuracy? In other words, how closely do you try to reflect the real-life scene?
It has definitely evolved over time! I mix my own photos with found images in Photoshop. In the beginning, I would only strictly stick to the images I took myself (without any digital editing), and they began to feel dull. It is SO rare to capture an amazing image with the perfect sky, contrast, and no power lines in the way. I use Photoshop as a tool to digitally mock up my paintings and then paint from that while in the studio. I sometimes will swap out a sky, remove a street sign, or add a cloud here and there. Depending on what makes it into the mockup, I try to really recreate it as close to the image as possible. The realism aspect is important to me because I want to make sure the viewer knows what they are looking at. I like to take the guessing away so that they can focus more on the aura and personal experience with the painting.
Has the Covid-19 physical distancing situation affected your work? Are you currently making art? If so, what are you working on?
I’ve had a few art fairs and exhibitions canceled, which is a bummer, but I definitely think creatives and artists have been lucky this year in many ways. We are very used to working alone and away from the standard office setting. I’m lucky enough to have a second bedroom in my apartment that is my home studio. Nothing has changed on that front and I am so thankful. We are also very lucky to have the internet. A lot of artists, myself included, have seen online sales blow up this spring and that is SO amazing. I am so thankful for my website shop and also online art galleries I work with. The art world is shifting onto the internet and it is long overdue. I think the ability to be flexible and open minded has really blossomed for me during this time.
What other contemporary or historical artists or art movements inspire you or influence your work?
So many! Ed Ruscha is a big influence for me. He photographed gas stations and various stops along Route 66 in the 1960s, and those photographs are what inspired my current artistic approach. I am also very inspired by Agnus Martin. She made minimalistic large-scale line paintings on square canvases. We were able to see a retrospective of her work at LACMA while at Otis, and it definitely sparked a love for square painting surfaces for me. She also lived in New Mexico for some time and I am in love with that desert landscape.
As for art movements, I was always inspired by the intense contrast of light in the Baroque period (Rembrandt specifically). I also (oddly enough) find influence in Color Field Painting (Mark Rothko and Frank Stella). Though my work looks nothing like theirs, I do love their use of color and the ability to play with what the human eye sees through painting.
What are some of your inspirations outside of the “Fine Art World?”
I am also in love with cooking. When I’m not painting, I’m making a meal for my husband and myself. We love to try new foods and pair them with different wines. The wine world in itself is so fascinating to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your work? Anything that our questions didn’t cover?
You covered all of the basics and then some amazing extras! I suppose I could mention what’s next for me: I’m considering starting an online critique group for my peers that would help us grow our art during these times of isolation. Those gallery and studio conversations aren’t happening right now, and I know we all miss them. I also have some group shows coming up this fall that I would love to share with readers! They can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and @kdrawstheline_ on Instagram.
I’m interested in talking to more artists who are doing exciting or relevant work right now, and I think a good way to do that is to ask artists about their friends. Whose work do you love? Who else do you think we should interview, and why? Thank you so much for offering this platform to artists! I know so many amazingly talented people I’d love to share (obviously Austyn is at the top of this list! :) )! I could name them all but it would take so many pages (haha!) — here is a start… Feel free to come to me for more if you run out of artists to interview!
My dear friend Whitney Avra (Austin, TX) explores femininity throughout history with powerful collage/mixed media portraits of women (@whitneyavra).
Faisal Warsani (Chicago, IL) makes the most stunning and precise landscapes of islands and the ocean (@faisalwarsani).
Raphael Krump (Dallas, TX) paints these amazing brightly colored urban landscapes that are eye-catching and also often reference pop culture (@akrapheal).
Arielle Austin (Austin, TX) is the sweetest friend and also makes the most stunning abstract paintings exploring her childhood and nostalgia (@arielle_austin).
Lisa Horlander and I have been in a few group shows together and we are now studio neighbors at the Cedars Union in Dallas. Her work oscillates between abstract and representational -- plus she’s just the sweetest! (@lisarachelhorlander).
Abi Salami (@abi.m.salami) is also SO talented. She makes two bodies of work: one focusing on black female portraiture and her second project is titled Taunes Bunny — fun, stunning pop surrealism (@taunesbunny).
*All images on this page are property of the artist, unless otherwise noted.