1. What’s your most valued travel advice you’ve been given or have to give?
Number one rule is: be open and respectful of the culture and environment you are visiting. Get outside your comfort zone, and try something that you would not normally do in your everyday life. Take advantage of the freedoms that being an unknown in foreign territory has to offer. Do something mildly dangerous that is not offensive and won’t get you arrested or killed.
2. What do you wear to feel the most free and confident?
I am a romper/onesie/jumpsuit fanatic. All-in-one outfits are my jam because you don’t have to overthink things too much. Those outfits are all inclusive - no need to fuss – which is the ultimate freedom.
3. What article of clothing or outfit do you wear most often?
Even though I would wear said rompers, in actuality I find myself wearing my same paint-splattered outfit nearly every day. I am an art teacher and painter, so I cannot wear anything too precious in my studios – it will immediately get destroyed. I reserve all my nicer outfits for when not dealing with any messy materials.
4. How do you incorporate sustainability into your life?
I try to only buy garments that are made of natural materials (I have a strict no-polyester-policy), or items that are statement pieces yet also timeless. I also almost exclusively buy from resale shops, and very rarely from retail. When an item no longer brings me joy, I resell it, donate it or give it away. That way if I do make an impulsive purchase, or the garment accidently gets splattered with something, I will not feel too guilty. However, if I do purchase from retail, it would only be towards an investment piece I know I will love for a long time.
5. What do you do or where do you go when you need to be inspired?
Like a true Cancer, my home is actually one of my main sources of inspiration. I often create what I would want displayed on my own walls. I am inspired by the layout and weird details of my home, which color my view of what my work should be like. For example, when I moved in, all of the doors were painted black. While walking around the house, I would see glimpses of little black geometric shapes everywhere. I started mixing those shapes in my paintings and drawings with my normal earth tone neutrals - hardly a coincidence! If I want to leave the house for inspiration, LA affords me the ability to get to mountains, desert or beach within an hour or two. My go-to local locations include hikes in Griffith Park or the Angeles National Forest. My destination locations have to be Joshua Tree and Ojai.
I come from a family of hard-working, yet humble people who truly love what they do and give it their 110%. Though they are not the type to brag, their efforts certainly go noticed and are sincerely appreciated. This is not advice, per se, but it has been the model for my own life/work philosophy, and continues to inspire me everyday.
7. How can women seek a sense of support and collective-ness for each other in the future?
I believe in the old cliché: before we can truly help one another, we need to look inward and help ourselves. Crippling insecurities usually create jealously and competitiveness amongst both men and women alike, which creates a dog eat dog environment. More than ever, there is immense pressure on women to exude perfection and invulnerability. We are constantly trying to prove our validity to the world, so we try to hide our faults. We also throw each other under the bus, and act like we do not need each other to appear independent and impermeable. What many of us do not realize is that there is more warmth, charm and power in someone willing to show their faults and vulnerabilities then in a person terrified to reveal any imperfections. If women shared their strengths and weaknesses more openly with one another, their senses of shame and false egos would likely dissipate and a desire to support and help one another will kick in. On a certain level, that is exactly what happened with the #metoo movement. I hope that an acceptance and subsequent celebration of our true selves will be the key to foundational understanding, support and love of each other.
8. Journey note: what are you seeking more of this year (2019)?
I seek more time and energy to create, plus space to unwind and opportunities to connect with new acquaintances.
9. Out of all the places you’ve traveled to, which have you connected most to? Which felt most foreign?
I spent about a month and a half one summer in Berlin for an artist residency, and I absolutely loved it. The city had a wild energy - alive and carefree, yet bursting with creativity. There was old world elegance and romanticism mixed with a modern grit and destruction that invigorated me. I had the constant feeling that any weird thing could happen at any moment, which was exciting and made the experience surreal. That surrealism made the city feel very foreign, in a good way. I also took a recent trip to a city for which I felt more of an intuitive connection: New Mexico. I wanted to pay homage to New Mexico based women artists Agnes Martin and Georgia O’Keeffe, and really did not know much about the state before the trip. The gorgeous colors and an undeniable spirituality in the landscape both made a huge impact on me. I had been on a very long hiatus from creating artwork after I started teaching, and this trip truly inspired me to start making work again.
10. What inspires your paintings? What have been your main themes in your work over the years?
I was initially inspired when I came out West (after living in New York for fourteen years) and met the sheer majesty of this new, wild landscape. I took that trip to New Mexico and grew awe-inspired by the colors and bizarre rock formations. I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles and now see legit Sound of Music mountains from my front yard – that’s simply crazy to me. I spent some recent time in Joshua Tree and Ojai, climbing jumbo rocks that made me feel like I was on Mars, and gazing up at massive starry skies. No matter where I looked, I had the same spiritual vision –millions and millions of years passing, the creation and subsequent destruction of the earth.
I began to ponder the creation and destruction of all things, and how nature is rooted in both order and chaos. This led me to considering the role of the artist as both creator and destroyer. As a creative exercise, I produced drawings and paintings based on a grid. I gave myself certain rules as far what I could create within the grid, and left certain elements up to my intuition. But whenever I filled in and created something in a given section of the grid, that creation would obliterate and destroy what I had created beforehand in the background behind the grid. I felt like I was playing the role of Mother Nature, overseeing the ruthless game of what goes and what stays. The final compositions elicit a feeling of either something on the brink of formation, or having just been blown completely to pieces. Most of my current work is based on this newfound relationship to nature, specifically in the Wild West.
11. Your color palettes are gorgeous, refined, clean, and focused. Is there a process for creating them or is it more of an intuitive feeling?
Those color palettes are mostly based on the earth tones I see in these sublime Western landscapes. I am currently trying to break out of that palette, using more saturated hues and going with my intuition. I think there will be more color in my upcoming work…
12. Years ago you went back to school to become a teacher. What motivated you to go into the field of education? What’s the most rewarding part of teaching art?
Both my parents are teachers, so you could say it is in the blood. Actually, rebellious child that I am, for a long time I actively rejected the possibility of teaching, as I would be following in their footsteps. Ultimately I could not deny that all my interests and natural abilities pointed to a flourishing career in education. I discovered that while teaching I had to be ten thousand times more creative, quick and strategic than I ever would have been while sitting alone in a studio. It is exhausting work, so it was hard (and still is) for me to find enough time and energy to work on my own artwork. Teaching was my art, and that became my philosophy. It still rings true to me. Because I teach students of all ages, I have to figure out how humans of all developmental stages and abilities learn best within a group setting, coupled with the constraints of limited time and space. Most days, my job feels like an outlandish game show! But I think that is what I really love about it. It is most rewarding for me when a student (adult or child) initially claims they cannot do something, and after much guidance and coercion successfully completes the task on their own. Equally heartwarming: when children genuinely geek out while attending an art museum and witnessing artwork by artists we learn about in class. I die with excitement and pride when children name drop Basquiat to a joyously shocked adult.
13. You are also an expert closet organizer! What advice to you have for those inspired by Marie Kondo recently to create more zen with their belongings, clothing, and closets?
Ahh- where to begin?! In a nut shell: make this a space of beauty, function and a reflection of who you truly are. Do not make it a space to shove all your secrets, past lives, confusion and shame. My advice is to take the time to go through every item in your closet and ask yourself: When was the last time I used/wore this? Can I envision myself using/wearing this now? If so, to what occasion? If you can define where and when you would use/ wear such item, it will plant a seed in your mind for the future when such an occasion arises. All of those items should be visibly hung up, and preferably in ordeder by color. I typically loathe dressers or any space that involves folded clothes lying on top of one another. If your items are hidden, you will forget that they exist. You will then unnecessarily purchase similar items, only to lose those in the same dresser Black Hole. Hanging up and arranging your items by color will allow you to: 1. Find/put away your items easily 2. Realize that you have 5 red shirts, and thus do not need to purchase any more 3. Make the closet appear as a beautiful artwork that you actually want to maintain. If you come across old items that you cannot envision yourself ever using, take them to your local Goodwill or Crossroads Trading Company (or a resale shop of choice.). You can even host a fun clothing swap with friends. Do not hold onto something just because you feel guilty that you bought it and never used/wore it. It would have the possibility of a better life if you found it a home with someone who does want it.
14. We just had an amazing time joining you in your beautiful Silver Lake backyard for a painting workshop and wine tasting. For those who want to join your next painting x wine tasting events in LA, how can they find out more and sign up?
Yes! I had so fun doing the Seek pop-shop painting workshop. I will be hosting future workshops that include all forms of media (not just painting) as well as tastings of either raw, natural, organic and/or biodynamic wines. Since the workshops will take place all outdoors, I have named these upcoming series of boozy workshops Plein Air LA. "Plein air" is French for outdoors, and is a painting style where painters would physically paint outdoor in nature in order to capture the true essence of the daylight. I am still in process of building the website, www.pleinairla.com, that will include a calendar of different workshops and a way to register for classes. For now, I am just reaching out to various friends and friends of friends who I know will enjoy these events. If anyone is interested in joining these small, intimate starter workshops, they can DM me on Instagram (@anneelisekyle) and I will be sure to keep them in the loop!