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Kelli Bickman working on the World Peace Mural" 12' x 36' mixed medium on canvas. photo © Connie Bickman
Kelli Bickman is a multi-media artist currently living near Woodstock, NY. Her art has been seen in many publications and shown in many galleries.
The world of spirit is the primary theme of her art. Respecting and honoring all traditions of fine art Kelli introduces her own style with many colors and spiritual artifacts. Although she has painted in many interesting places around the world, Bickman's studio is currently housed in a 3,500 square foot loft in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Building an empire of artistic play including video, fashion, fine art is her current destination.
Q: How did you start making art?
A: I don't remember a time I wasn't making art or creating something. A person doesn't become an artist, one is born an artist. If we were to be more focused on pinpointing a determined timeframe (although art class was my favorite in elementary and high school) I went full on in college (UW Stout in Wisconsin) when I was fully immersed in an arts education program. It became such a natural part of my world and was thrilling to experience a fuller range of materials and processes available. Painting was terrifying at first and I actually dropped out of my first class after staring at a large blank white canvas for several hours. After the first attempt,
I went back to drawing class so as to have a better understanding of how to translate form into a 2-D image. The second attempt at painting was in 1993. I was hooked and haven't painting stopped since.
“Reclaiming the Crown” 4’ x 5’ acrylic and oil crayon on canvas, ©2017, Kelli Bickman.
Q: What is the most inspiring thing people can see in your work?
A: I had a hard time answering this because one cannot speak for other people, so I posted the question to FaceBook. The responses included: "Universal Spirituality, freedom, creativity, color, imagination", "Love", "Possibility and Transformation" and "Connection to nature or spirituality and/or fellow man"...and more....
Q: Do any of your paintings have a deeper meaning than it usually communicates?
A: Almost all of them relate to personal transformation. The larger paintings especially are reflective of deeper experiences that were affecting me on a spiritual and/or emotional level. For instance, 'Heart's Desire" is a 5.5' x 6' canvas that expresses profound love, passion, betrayal, heartbreak, and the process of making peace from pain by meditation and focus on a higher power.
“Heart’s Desire” 5.5’ x 6’ acrylic and oil crayon on canvas. ©2016, Kelli Bickman
Q: What techniques do you like to use?
A: For large works on canvas I tend to use an acrylic medium to create texture. Several layers of paint are applied, one over the top of another to create depth and highlights. I love using metallic paints to really bring the richness of the painting to life and generally pull paint right out of the tube instead of mixing colors. Another
medium that I enjoy for layering on acrylic is oil and/or wax crayons...it is a wonderful tool for drawing and adds an additional level of complexity.
I also love working in fabric...printing my art on organic cotton knit and then making wearable art. This is a whole new direction for my art and it has been a wild ride.
Kelli Bickman in her studio, 2015. Photo by Christine Yates
I've also been working on an Art Diary series where I make video tutorials of my processes and post them on Patreon. This takes it to the next level as a teaching tool showing start to finish step by step on development ranging from quirky paintings of cats to large scale botanical paintings to a fashion show of my wearable art. The tutorial videos are sped up 6000x with notations explaining materials and process along with other musings from my studio. This is an exciting way to work as it becomes something that can be shared on a completely different platform. The most recent video has some amazing animations of my paintings by fellow artist Dack Oenomaus. The Patreon site is a continual work in progress and is set up as pay what you want so anyone can see these tutorials for as little as $1.00, which helps me continue to make them. This platform also offers a direct dialogue between artist and supporters (or teacher and student). Readers can go to Patreon.com and sign on to receive my monthly Art Diary videos.
The Cherry Forest" 4' x 6' acrylic and glitter on canvas © Kelli Bickman
Q: What is your favorite place to see art?
A: Any place that shows art is my favorite place...I especially love public art exhibitions. If I had to choose one place, though, I'd say the MOMA because I just love that exquisite giant Water Lily painting by Monet so much. And the Pompidou in Paris, and the Hirshhorn in Washington D.C. and...India! I especially love visiting temples, churches and spiritual sites. The temples in India were incredibly inspiring and helped me bring to life an entire body of devotional work infused with Eastern Philosophy. I also loved viewing the tapestries, paintings and works of art in the churches of France (or anywhere in Europe).
Public art exhibition in Woodstock, NY. Photo of Kelli Bickman and her daughter Isabella by Fredo Viola, 2011
Q: How art can transform and inspire your life?
A: Art has helped me work through deep emotions and transform them into something tangible, positive and life-affirming. The process of art making is a powerful meditative experience and when one is in fully immersed it can be transcendental. A true artist makes art for the sake of making art or simply expressing an intense need to create without expectation of reward or praise. That said, the fact that people pay me money to do something I love so much pretty much ROCKS! In 2009 I developed a program called “Youth Mural Arts” where I work with other artists to teach kids about the benefits of public art. I’ve worked with thousands of youth and dozens of artists to make large scale public art installations. This grassroots community engaged program is transformative in our lives in so many ways. I’ve seen kids go from slouching and unmotivated gangsters who are vandalizing public property to thriving and energetic painters with a broader vision and a mission to make something meaningful. There is power in creation. If it is directed in a positive way, it can work wonders.
Working on a mural project with students & artists Erin Fritts and Andrew Kaminski in Saugerties, NY. ©Connie Bickman
Q: Where are you finding ideas and inspiration for your work these days?
A: Recently we toured 'Olana' the home of Frederic Church and his wife Isabel. Church was the most famous Hudson River School painter in the late 1800's and had built an incredible estate here in the Catskill Mountains inspired by his world travels, especially Persia and South America. The walls were full of gorgeously framed and displayed paintings ranging from in the interior of a goldfish bowl to several brilliantly detailed large scale landscapes. Every element of the estate was thoughtfully planned and executed from the intricate decorative motifs painted on the doors to the 30,000+ trees they planted on the property. Although my style is very far removed from Church's, I was very inspired by his immense body of work and the attention to detail he gave to every aspect of his life. Beyond that, inspiration can be found just about anywhere...ie, this summer a dear friend stopped by my studio with a freshly picked sunflower and that simple act inspired my most recent 5x5 painting titled 'Shine'.
Forest Installation at the Woodstock Public Library for the Children’s reading area. ©Kelli Bickman
Q: What is integral to the work of an artist?
A: Discipline and focus are critical to the work of a successful artist. There is a saying "Success is when Opportunity and Preparation meet" This statement is profoundly true but also begs the question of 'What is Success?' Is success money in the bank or a quiet mind, good health and a joy filled life...or all of the above?
Q: What is the artwork of yours you are most proud of? Why?
A: My most favorite painting is titled "White Tara - Long life, Joy & Prosperity" and is 6x12, mixed media on canvas. It shows technical skill as well as a more energetic approach to materials. It is also one of my largest canvases and has many layers of paint along with several different techniques all in one art work. This one I painted in 2008 just up the road from Jackson Pollock’s studio in East Hampton, NY.
“White Tara - Long Life, Joy, Prosperity” 6’ x 12’ mixed medium on canvas, three panels ©Kelli Bickman
Q: Do you more relate yourself to contemporary art or classic?
A: Contemporary Pop with a Neo-Goddess flair...inspired by Classic.
Check Kelli's website for more :)
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