Get to Know: Kristin Kwan
For our recent release with artist Kristin Kwan we sat down with the artist to discuss her life, art and her release - "Thorncat" - with us. Read the fun and short interview below:
Where were you born and where are you now?
I was born in Eastern Washington state and spent the first part of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. After that my family moved around quite a bit while I was growing up, we lived in Washington, Oregon, Utah, Nebraska, and Wyoming. I currently live in Lincoln, Nebraska.
What are your earliest artistic memories?
I’ve always loved to draw and had a coexisting fascination with nature and especially birds for as long as I can remember. When I was in grade school I drew many, many dinosaurs and wanted to become a paleontologist, but I eventually came to the conclusion that I mainly loved to draw them. My mom took us to the library often and I had Robert Bateman’s books checked out constantly, his wonderful pictures of animals and nature were one of the biggest first artistic inspirations for me. I was homeschooled from 5th grade until my last year in high school and I had the freedom to roam around and draw and paint when I pleased.
How has your style evolved over the years - have you always focused on the same subjects? Who are some of your greatest influences?
I’ve definitely always had a strong interest in natural history, and when I was a kid I even collected dead birds and stuffed them to use as reference. Years ago I worked in watercolor mostly, but I find these days I really enjoy the process of painting in oil. I particularly love early northern renaissance painting, the way objects and plants are so carefully observed and painted and yet the whole effect being not entirely naturalistic.
Could you tell us a bit about your release with us, "Thorncat?"
Thorncat is one of a series of Cheshire Cat paintings I’ve made over the last year. I love the idea of a Cheshire Cat, also quantum tunneling cats that can appear anywhere at will. When I was younger I enjoyed reading a lot of popular science books, especially ones dealing with physics, and of course the thought experiment of Schrodinger’s cat was an instantly fascinating one. As I was painting Thorncat I was also thinking a lot about myths surrounding the scarab or dung beetle, and the way it rolls it’s ball of dung across the sky, creating the day. It’s kind of gross and awesome at the same time.
What's a normal day for you like in the studio?
I generally try to walk first thing in the morning which helps me to be more relaxed and less anxious the rest of the day. Then I’ll hang out in the studio with my coffee and feel guilty about not painting while I doodle or rearrange my piles or look at emails. I usually start working on a current project around eleven, and feel my most productive toward the later afternoon. When I’m drawing I find I can sit for long stretches, but when I’m painting, I think because it is more mentally taxing, I tend to jump up every 10, 15 minutes and go get water or stare out the window or look in the fridge. I need to work on that!
What's the hardest part of creating?
Getting started! It’s amazing how hard I try to avoid doing something I actually want to do. It seems like that is pretty common with creative work though, I’m not sure why but I have a hunch it has to do with a fear of failure. Time management is a big challenge, and I think gaining a very small mastery over this has been one of the biggest drivers of me moving forward in my artwork over the last few years.
What's the most rewarding part of creating?
I love those moments when you try something and then feel like, hey that worked! It’s always really small things, like that color is just what I wanted, or the flow of that line makes me feel good. It happens just often enough to string me along, so I keep chasing that feeling of satisfaction. Nothing ever turns out exactly how I imagined in the first place, and actually it might get boring if it did, but that feeling like the NEXT piece will be the best piece is always very compelling.
When you're not in the studio, what do you like to do?
I love reading a good book (I tend to lean into science and speculative fiction), going on a long walk, working in my garden, falling down a wikipedia rabbit hole. I lead a very quiet life.
What can we look forward to from you next?
This September I will be having a show at Nucleus Portland, Beautiful Bizarre will have an article featuring my work in their September issue, and I will be participating in multiple group shows throughout the rest of the year.
"Thorncat" is currently available in our shop.