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Kim Peters

Artist Spotlight

There is a great thread that runs through history that unites all of humankind, telling the story of what it means to be alive. The human experience is what I like to delve into: our common emotions, our common fears, our hopes, our sorrows, our dreams.

Kim Peters' technique combines a love of painting in oils and an appreciation for classic themes with modern re-contextualization. Despite creating extremely realistic works with incredible level of detail, the artist does not aim to idealize beauty but to represent it from the soul - to visualize inner life. By establishing a connection between emotion and form the viewer is invited to look closer, to decipher the underlying message, but also to look deeper within themselves. 

DISCOVER HER WORK

INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST


Q. Did you always want to be an artist? 

A. No! I came to art late in the game. As a child, I was heavily involved in music and although I come from a very artistic family, I never wanted to be an artist. I literally woke up one day 11 years ago and felt that I was being called to paint. So I did. From that first brushstroke, I knew this is what I had to do. 

Q. Was there a pivotal moment in your artistic career? 

A. When I arrived in Spain in 2012, I took my first workshop and was blown away by the  experience. It expanded my idea of what painting could be and how much I could say and how I could present ideas with it. The experience gave me the idea that maybe one day I could “make it” as an artist. Now I see that there are hundreds of little essential moments that have brought me to where I am today, but that first workshop was like stepping through a doorway from a dark room into a whole bright world! 

Q. You work in a rather classic academic technique and medium, yet many of your subjects are  distinctly contemporary. What would you like to achieve with this juxtaposition? 

A. It’s true! I love the predictability of academic techniques, the rigor and high standard that it teaches so that you are free to focus on the message of your art, and yet I feel responsible as an artist to record the ‘now.’ I’m not creative enough to invent fantasy worlds, I’m not nostalgic enough to recreate times passed, I’m thoroughly interested in the people that live right here and now, and in the how and the why of their lives. So I would say I’m marrying a method with a message. 

Q. How do you choose your subjects? 

A. This might sound flaky, but I wait until I feel a pull to paint them. There’s this process that happens where I have an idea for a painting and then I wait for the model to appear. It doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes, I dream of the composition and the models that are supposed to be in the painting and then I have to go to that person to ask if I can paint them because they appeared in my dream. At times, I see a person, and even if I’ve seen them a thousand times before, I suddenly know I have to paint them. Sometimes, they fit the pose that I’ve seen in my head, and I just know they’ll be the right person to convey the message. 

Q. How did you develop your extremely realistic painting style? 

A. I’ve always been drawn to realism and I don’t know whether I can do anything else. It’s all I’ve ever been able to paint or draw. I’m not sure why that particular style flows out of me and other styles, even though I love them, just do not emerge. It’s not necessarily the style that I set out to do, or modeled myself after - it just pours out. 

Q. Some of your pieces are sketches or studies. When do you consider a work to be finished? 

A. A while ago, I decided that I needed to ditch the concept that I was making finished works of art or that everything I made should be framed. I needed to allow myself to be a student. Making sketches and studies took all the pressure off of me to produce massive pieces and allowed me to enjoy the process of learning. If I have learned something in a study then it is finished. If I achieve the  goal for that piece, say a color study, then I am fine with leaving it. This has evolved into the sketches and studies that I do today, which are my way of searching for a tool to say something, but in a smaller, less formal manner. Refining a method of pencil work or painting something more loosely than I usually do, trying out different brushes — it all contributes to the aesthetic of the larger, more finished works and allows me to explore free of pressure. I guess now I would say that the work is finished when I’ve said what I needed to say. 

Q. How (if at all) does the concept of beauty play a role in your work?  

A. Beauty is a constant in art. Either in avoiding it or admiring it, artists are always working with or against beauty. The subjective versus objective side of what beauty is will be a never-exhausted topic for visual artists. I am no different in that I try to paint what I see, and ultimately, I’m drawn to meaning, which to me is the most transcendent beauty there is.  

Q. Your work often seems to draw on classical themes, is there a narrative aspect to your pieces? 

A. Yes, I do tend to lean into classical themes. There’s a reason they’re called classical, and  personally, I believe they’ve stood the test of time. The themes are human, engaging, thought provoking, and even if just to compare our way of thinking today versus that of yesteryears, they are compelling. I think any time a person is painted there is a story. Even a work that one might classify as ‘portrait’ rather than ‘narrative’ will still somehow begin to find its shape in the question of ‘what is this person’s story?’. That is a tradition I would like to be a part of. 

Q. The emotional aspects that find their way into your work, are they based on expressions of the personal or rather meant to appeal to a universal experience? 

A. There is a great thread that runs through history that unites all of humankind: telling the story of what it means to be alive. The human experience is what I like to delve into: our common emotions, our common fears, our hopes, our sorrows, our dreams, our deaths. But as common as each person’s experience may be, we also live those moments personally, intimately, uniquely. There is a mystery there that cannot be expressed lightly, and I love that I can explore those emotions through art. They are both universal and highly personal. 

Q. What would you like your work to evoke? 

A. Whenever I have stood in front of great works of art, I have had a sensation of meaning flood over me. The mastery of the artist or their technique came much later in my assessment of the piece, because there was this…depth…that made me stay in front of the work. I needed to be present with it. To absorb it and share time and space with it. There is that feeling that until you stood in front of that painting, you were missing something of yourself - that you were that little bit more you when you were standing with that artwork. It might be a lofty goal, but I would like my art to connect with people. Whether it be through meaning, emotion, symbol or image, I want there to be a deep sense of understanding and above all, honesty.


Q. Could you describe your artistic process?

A. Although it has changed a little bit over time, I basically have the same process as many realistic artists. I begin with a model, take pictures, do studies, and determine the final size, draw out the image, then start painting. I do a little glazing in areas that need to be adjusted in value and color and paint until I have said what I needed to say. This description does not include the self-doubt, the struggle to focus for long hours, the difficulty in figuring out values and the delicate line between working to completion and overworking the piece.

Q. Which other creatives do you admire?

A. Oh gosh, here’s my chance to thank so many dear people, but I’ll mention two: Eloy Morales, without a doubt, has been my principal teacher and mentor for the last few years, and Arantzazu Martinez, who was the first teacher that opened my mind to great art with that first workshop. Without them, I would not be chatting with you today. It’s hard to find better people to admire, and, on top of everything else, I get to count them as my friends.

Q. Could you describe your work in three words? 

A. Work in progress


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