Friday, November 22, 2013

Friday Feature: Kelly Eddington

"Self Portrait" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
It's Friday again!  Is there any way we can slow down time, maybe double the month of December?  It is flying by and I am not ready folks. 

This week I'm bringing you a new discovery of mine.  I found Kelly's work through Imagekind and fell in love with it immediately.  I found her on face book and  after chatting a bit I found out that Kelly and I share some common ground.  She lives in Illinois where I call home and her sister is an news anchor in the area that I went to high school and college, small world.  Anyway, Kelly's work is AMAZING!!!!!!  It speaks for itself.

If you would like to see more of her work check out her website and blog.

 How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

When I was four or five my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas. “A scribble pad.” That was a pad of 9”x12” newsprint that retailed for around a dollar. “What else?” she asked. I already had crayons, so I was legitimately stumped. Drawing was my favorite thing in the world along with playing in the pasture behind our house, where I made forts out of paneling scraps, looked for monarch caterpillars, and hid from the ponies. (My grandparents had ponies, strangely enough, and I think I kind of assumed everyone else did, too.)

My love of art continued during my years at school—I was the only one in my grade who found any real pleasure in it. Inspired by my dog Alex, I created a comic strip about a family of basset hounds that my small-town newspaper published. My drawing style evolved from child-art to realism when I was 13. I felt like some kind of veil had lifted and I could really see. My right hand and my brain became best friends, and suddenly I could draw whatever I wanted. I was an overachiever in high school, a mathlete, if you will, and I knew that one day I would have to choose between art and math.

During the summer between my junior and senior years, I wanted to paint. I had been exploring acrylic painting in my art classes, but the only paints we had in the house were a set of watercolors that belonged to my three year-old sister. I spent the summer painting with those sad little watercolors and their awful plastic brush on drawing paper so thin that it turned a translucent gray whenever I’d flood it with too much water. Even though this setup was less than ideal, I fell in love with watercolor, and once I got my hands on decent brushes, acceptable paint, and actual watercolor paper, it became so much easier. All thoughts of studying math in college went out the window.

I loved being an art major at Western Illinois University, and those years flew by. After completing four semesters of required courses, I was finally able to study watercolor, and I didn’t even have to think about it—I knew that this was officially my medium. After graduation I became a graduate student in art education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My father was a teacher, and my working-class background dictated that I would need to make a reliable living once I was on my own. Teaching art seemed like the way to go.

I taught art for seventeen years in two medium-sized Illinois public high schools. I didn’t marry until I was 39, and teaching allowed me to support myself and pursue my painting every summer. I spent the bulk of my twenties exploring abstract expressionism before returning to realism in my thirties.

Teaching at its best is the most fulfilling job imaginable, and I loved helping students discover talents they didn’t know they possessed. My first teaching position was wonderful, but after eleven years my job became increasingly difficult—classes loaded with forty students, no money for supplies. I accepted another teaching position at a different school, but its breakneck schedule and factory-like environment burned me out in a hurry. I found that I was jealous of my students. I wanted to be the one doing the projects. Teaching at its worst can be crushingly repetitive, and eventually I experienced “I shouldn’t be here” feelings every morning when I pulled into the parking lot. So two and a half years ago I took a giant step and quit teaching in order to pursue my painting full-time, and while I am no longer raking in that big fat teacher’s salary anymore and have to hustle for every dollar I make, I have never been happier in my life.
"The Graduates" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 Where were you born?

I was born in Iowa and spent my entire childhood in La Harpe, a small town in western Illinois.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

If I could magically transport my current, weird home in eastern Illinois, along with its stream and dozens of trees across the ocean—and also take my extended family, husband, and three cats along in a way that would stress-free for all involved—sure, I’ll live in Italy.
"Mabel" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

Lately I’ve been obsessed with things that are wet, shiny, and/or complicated. For a while I was really into reflections on water. Now I’m crazy about jewelry. It’s also very satisfying to complete a portrait and watch a human being take shape under my brush—I like to say that it looks like the person I’m painting is slowly rising up from a vat of milk. Usually my portraits are very tight, so I tend to follow those up with a looser floral. I feel like I will never come close to painting everything I want to.
"Studio Assistant" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

The majority of my paintings are watercolors in the 22”x30” range. They’re highly detailed and can take from a couple of weeks to over a month to finish. I work slowly, completing one section at a time. Nearly everything I paint begins with one or two layers of wet-into-wet paint, and once those areas dry (or not) I’ll glaze over them with additional flat washes and drybrush techniques. I use the smallest amount of water required and rarely flood my paper. I’ve avoided using masking fluid for over twenty years—I felt that to use it would violate this ludicrous old-school code of mine—but a couple of years ago I had no other choice and broke my rule. And now I love the stuff. I use it sparingly, but if you want to paint sparkly things, it’s the only way to go.
"Burano Glass" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Most of my watercolors are from Old Holland (tubes). Their cadmium red light is so beautiful I want to be it. I fill in Old Holland’s color gaps with other brands such as Windsor and Newton and Van Gogh. I’m crazy about W&N’s turquoise. And opera. Oh. That’s the most gorgeous hot pink, and it stuns me when I squeeze some out of the tube.

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

I was an art history minor, so I have so many, and I’m the crazy person in the museum who stands in front of paintings with tears running down her face. Artists who have made me weep include (in no particular order) Giotto, Masaccio, Rembrandt, Goya, Durer, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Hopper, Warhol, Vermeer, Picasso, Rothko, Bellini, and de Kooning.

But, and not to sound too precious about this, my biggest inspiration is nature. The colors and shapes I see in this most boring of landscapes blow my mind sometimes. Yesterday I gasped at a stubbly, harvested cornfield in afternoon light—that yellow-gold was stunning. Or swirly snow drifts by the side of a ditch after a blizzard: there is no better sculptor than the wind. Color combinations you see on birds, shapes created by wilting flowers…I feel like I must annoy my husband whenever we take a walk in the fall because I can’t see a red tree without pointing it out to him. It’s really kind of a problem.
"Glass Gems" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 What have been some of your crowning achievements?

I’ve had a great year: I’m now a signature member of the Illinois Watercolor Society, saw one of my paintings turned into a mural in downtown Urbana, won an online art competition put on by CaféPress, and received special awards in a couple of juried exhibitions. I’ve had two one-person shows over the past year and a half. A few months ago, I finished an insane wedding portrait that kept me busy all summer long.

I follow Roger Ebert on Twitter, and one time he tweeted that he always looks for books on film criticism in bookshelves in the backgrounds of movies, but he has never seen any. Coincidentally, I had just completed a portrait of a little girl named Mabel, and one of Roger’s books was on a shelf behind her. I brought this to his attention, and he’s blogged and tweeted about my work and has been a pen pal of mine ever since. We even sort of collaborated on my painting Abandoned Knowledge (he sent me a photo and said, “You should paint this,” so I did). I got to meet him last year, which was a thrill. He is unable to speak and communicates via a small notebook and pen now. He introduced me to one of his friends by writing the word “artist” on his notepad. And then he underlined it. And then my mind exploded.
"Planets and Foil" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

I want to remain healthy and keep doing what I’m doing. I don’t take that for granted for a second. I’d like to have a few more one-person shows, maybe publish an article or two in watercolor magazines, and take on some high-profile portrait commissions. I also think it would be awesome if every “like” or positive comment on a Facebook post of mine would automatically translate into cash that would come spewing out of my laptop. How about a dollar per like, and five dollars per comment? Ten dollars per share!

What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Paint what you love and realize that you’ve got to put in lots of time no matter how talented you are. I’ve been painting for over 25 years and feel like I’m still improving. Challenge yourself and take on projects just to see if you can do them. Be prepared to deal with rejection and keep expectations low as far as competitions are concerned. Don’t get too down on yourself if you lose, but don’t get too thrilled if you win. Count on the fact that people who ask you to paint something might flake out at the last minute. Down-payments need to happen. That person you said you’d email? Email her today, not tomorrow. Social media will not lead to many direct sales, so don’t get discouraged; if you stick with it, it can provide a foundation that will lead to other opportunities. Let your audience get to know you as a living, breathing person with other interests beyond begging them to buy your work. If you like to write, create a blog. If you are like me and live in an area where the art scene is not exactly robust, online art galleries and printers like Imagekind can be your friend.
"Ruby Liberty Dragonfly" original watercolor by Kelly Eddington
 What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?

I love this quote by Nick Cave.

"Inspiration is a word used by people who aren't really doing anything. I go into my office every day that I'm in Brighton and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant. Inspiration is nice, but if you only work when it strikes, you're going to be an unhappy artist. This is especially true if you want to earn a living at it; you don't hear about surgeons getting ‘surgeon's block’ or garbage men getting ‘garbage men's block.’  There are assuredly days when the surgeon doesn't want to be removing gall-bladders, but she does it anyway, because that's her job."

Chocolate or vanilla? chocolate

Your dream vacation spot? Venice/Murano/Burano (I’ve been there twice.)

Book or movie? Book

Favorite author? Vladimir Nabokov

Favorite movie? Pulp Fiction

Romance or comedy? Breaking Bad

Favorite dessert? This: (Malted crisp tart, from my blog)

Night owl or morning person? Morning.

Thanks Carrie! :D

Thank you so much Kelly:)

Happy Friday everyone1!!


  1. Carrie enjoyed your interview will Kelly Eddington - her paintings are beautiful and I really loved seeing her work. Thank you for sharing.

  2. LOVELY POST, and interview, too!
    Cats make great companions when creating...
    they are so interested and curious. Thanks for sharing ( :

  3. Amazing artist, Carrie!!! So glad you shared her with us..!!!

  4. Thank you Carrie for featuring Kelly. I really enjoyed reading this. I love her work and have been following her for some time. It's really nice to learn personal things about her.

  5. Wish I could meet her since she is in my state. Her work is lovely and reminds me of your own a bit, Carrie.

  6. Incredible! That glass is amazing! I'm amazed at what can be achieved with watercolour - a depth I used to think only possible with oils :0)