Here is my interview with Alison's Animals.
Hooray! A new interview, today with Kim Stenberg, an Alexandria, Virginia based artist who favors an impressionistic style. After retiring from a long career as a history professor, Kim decided to follow her passion and is now a full-time painter.
Kim’s paintings are dazzling; they are alive, capturing what seems like many seconds of space and time, similar to time-exposure photography in my opinion. Not only does Kim produce beautiful work, but she is very productive; for example, she completed 20 new paintings last month! I’m inspired by her in so many ways. What I most respect about Kim, though, is her confidence. On her Facebook page, she isn’t afraid to let people know when she is proud of a piece she’s working on. It’s a quality I’d like to cultivate in myself.
Kim loves what she does, works hard, and is positive and self assured - keep reading to learn more about this fascinating painter!
|"Stargazer in the Sun"|
Alison: What are three interesting or little-known facts about yourself?
Kim: I don't know how many people know from my married name that I am originally from Seoul, Korea.
I am what they call a self-taught artist, as I don't have any art degrees. I do, however, have three advanced degrees in history. I received a PhD degree in British history from the University of Minnesota in 1993 and has taught history at a college level for 20 years until my early retirement.
These days I usually paint in oil, but I used to be a watercolorist for a long time. I've had some success in that medium as numerous awards and publications would testify.
Alison: How much of your artistic skill would you attribute to self-teaching vs. formal training? Would you recommend a similar path to other aspiring artists?
Kim: My late mother used to say that I should have gone to art school for college. I don't know if that would have done much good because the abstract expressionism was all the rage in the 70's and 80's in Korea. Besides, I haven't quite found myself or my passion when I was young. Would I recommend the path that I took to other artists? I believe every person should find his or her own path.
Alison: What is it about your subjects that attracts your attention and inspires your work?
Kim: One of my "problems" is that I like to paint pretty much everything! I paint figure, animal, landscape, floral, and occasionally still life. I paint in two very different mediums of oil and watercolor in quite different styles. I find beauty in so many things that I want to try to render them in paint, to see if I can make them come alive by capturing light striking them. That's right. I paint light, the source of life.
Alison: I am always intrigued when you showcase your transparent underpainting in the initial stages of your works. How does this step contribute to the success of the final painting?
Kim: I learned the method during the workshop of Dreama Tolle Perry in April, 2013. She starts with a minimum drawing and dark transparent underpainting, then she layers with opaque paints. I don't paint anything like her, but what I walked away from her workshop with elevated my work to a much higher level.
What transparent underpainting does, as far as I am concerned, is to help the artist to see the values and color temperatures of the project. One also gets to approach it as mass, not lineally. Besides, when an underpainting is well done, the painting goes fast because much of the problems have already been solved.
Alison: How did your style develop and has it changed over the years?
Kim: used to be very tight when I painted in watercolor. I felt hemmed in by lines. So I moved away to oils and freer ways of painting. I worship John Singer Sargent. Someday I hope I will be able to paint like him. In the meanwhile, I have taken many classes and workshops with my favorite artists to learn from their knowledge. I keep experimenting new ways of applying paint to canvas toward a more expressive style. My current preoccupation is pointillism. This "dotted style" captures effectively the sensation of light sparkling and pulsating throughout the picture plane in my landscapes.
Alison: Do you have a specific creative process from start to finish?
Kim: I paint quickly, generally on a small scale. Painting is an exciting, yet meditative act, which carries me through the tough spots. I insist on finishing a painting and move on to the next. It doesn't mean that I don't dwell on the yesterday's painting. I have thrown away quite a few unsatisfactory paintings and reworked many an old painting. But my maxim is keep painting. Thinking about painting is about as useful as piles of cookbooks with recipes never tried. Growth comes from the act of painting.
|"Dupont Circle Fountain"|
Alison: As someone who has always been passionate about art, I've frequently been told that the only artist is a starving one. Have you heard such a comment throughout your career, and how do you deal with this seemingly culturally pervasive notion about professional artists?
Kim: One yoga acquaintance of mine asked me what I did for a living. When I told her I was an artist, she asked me again: "Seriously, what do you do for a living?" Is that what you are talking about? The trouble with being an artist is that anybody can call herself or himself an artist. There are as many artists as grains of sand on a beach.
I do have a faith that it is possible to make a living as an artist. I have seen successful artists and know a few in person. As long as one is good at what she is doing and works hard, anything is possible. What the world thinks of me doesn't bother me much. They are probably jealous, because I am living a creative life, seeing beauty in mundane things that they walk by and having the ability to transform them into a work of art!
Alison: How did you know you were ready to begin selling your paintings?
Kim: Turning 50 was the reason. I was delusional about selling my paintings like hotcakes though. But quitting my job and committing myself to what I always wanted to do made all the difference. I have been working prodigiously hard for the last four years and, boy, my paintings have improved a great deal. Dreams do not come true, just because you dream fervently! Because of higher quality, I am able to sell my paintings at higher prices and sell more of them than before.
Alison: Have you found social media such as Facebook and Twitter to be helpful in promoting your work?
Kim: Yes and no. I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook because you cannot ignore the digital world in which we live. If the artist gets into the social media business with the sole aim of selling art, she is bound to be disappointed. To be sure, there are occasional sales that come from the exposure on Facebook. What is more important, I think, is the instant feedback one gets from fans from all over the world. I can tell whether a painting has "a mass appeal" or falls flat. It is also good to be connected to the world, however "virtually" it may be. Being an artist is a lonely business; Facebook alleviates some of the cabin fever.
Alison: Do you have a favorite painting tip or other creative advice you could share?
Km: Bring the painting you are working on to the mirror often, or take a snapshot with a smart phone every now and then. You will be able to see right away the problems you didn't see before.
|"French River" (watercolor sketch)|