I met Kimberly Meuse thanks to the wonders of Facebook, when she started looking for people interested in forming New Hampshire Society of Watercolorists. And when we met in person, it didn’t take long for me to grasp what a talented artist stood before me. Her skill is apparent in every piece I’ve seen, from her life-like animals, to her luminescent still life.
Kimberly graciously agreed to answer a few questions for my new Blog feature – interview with an artist. And I hope you will enjoy getting to know her, and will follow her work on social media and the website linked below.
- I know most artists say they’ve been drawing and sketching since they were little. Does that reflect your story? When did you become an artist?
I started at a very young age, as well. My first memories are of an old tin canister of crayons and drawing paper. I became “the artist” in the family in those early days and it suited me; an artist was what I felt destined to be. I won an art class competition in the 5th grade and the prize was a semester class at the art center across town. That was quite a validation of my artistic skills for me, and I loved the art teacher – a man who retired from teaching after suffering a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. His gentle manner, encouragement and enthusiasm for my artistic abilities was really where I feel I turned the corner as a budding artist and felt that my life’s purpose would be forever tied (happily) to creating art. I was very shy as a child – the youngest of 4 children and often easy to overlook as I sat quietly drawing in whatever space I landed in, so the guidance of this wonderful mentor at such an early age was life-changing for me.
- What mediums have you experimented with? What is your favorite?
At the art center, my instructor introduced us to wire sculpture. At age 11 I created a wire sculpture of a cowboy on a horse. That was my preferred subject – horses – and moving from drawing horses with pencil to creating a 3-d wire sculpture of a horse was intriguing and expanded my visual sense of the horse’s body. I’d like to try my hand at that again, more so than changing my painting medium. When I started out, I focused on drawing in graphite, then tried pen and ink, oils and acrylics. Watercolor was the last medium I experimented with and I’ve never looked back. I love the clean transparency of the pigment. I don’t care for the heavy toxic smell associated with oils or the heavy plastic feel of acrylic. I see painting with watercolor as the reverse of how I painted with heavy pigments of oil and I love that quality. With watercolor, I start with the white of the paper and work in layers (glazes) to achieve the depths in detail and value, whereas the opposite was true with oils and acrylics. Even with the amount of glazing in my paintings, I feel that working with watercolor maintains a luminous quality I haven’t found in other mediums. Watercolor is definitely my favorite medium and has remained so for over 4 decades (wow, I feel old!)
- Can you talk a little bit about your process?
I work primarily with still life, so my process starts with the imagining and re-imagining of my elements and how they fit together in a composition. I have years of collecting estate sale treasures to work with in my studio – my favorite being polished silver pieces and glassware. Sunlit reflections in silver and refractions through glassware has always mesmerized me. Even a glass of water on a counter is fascinating to me when the light hits it just right. Seasonal flowers, spring and summer growing seasons are motivators for generating the most productive work months for me. I am inspired when the blossoms break through the shell of winter.
Once I’ve settled on a still life set up that suits my eye, I take reference shots to capture the lighting (I use natural sunlight for my still life) and start drawing the details of the setting onto paper. I keep the set up in place as I work and draw from life.
I create a highly detailed sketch before I start to ensure I capture all that I want before starting my wash. And then I go from there – a light wash to bookend with the graphite drawing, and glazing layers upon layers of pigment from there. The process, while seemingly tedious to anyone viewing it, is actually quite meditative for me; the details emerging from the white blank page never fails to bring a thrill.
3. Do you ever have self-doubts about your work?
Sure. I think most artists do at some point or other. Trends in art change constantly, just like trends in clothing or hair style, and at any given time it can feel as though your genre/medium/style is not sought after or in vogue. Unfortunately, fine artists are not paid a living wage to create – we are generally compensated only once the work is done, if even then, and our work is valued by way of a subjective audience. (It’s why so many of us need day jobs to survive.) I paint because I’ve always been compelled to create. The self-doubts set in when I question why I chose this career if I’m not compensated in the same fashion as corporate employees or granted an hourly wage like an employee anywhere else. We value art to maintain a level of humanity and culture that is desperately needed in this world, but we don’t ensure that creativity is nurtured and encouraged and cared for in a manner that would keep those creative avenues open and healthy. I find self-doubt the wall that stops the flow of creativity and I try hard to avoid it when I can. We are artists and we must continue to move forward with our work in whatever means is available rather than allow conditions of our environment, economy and our own insecurities to shut it down.
- What is your favorite thing about your studio?
That it is in my home and overlooks the water. I find water eternally soothing and inspiring. But even when I had a small studio in my former home in CT overlooking our backyard and driveway (and the neighbor’s yard and a perpetually barking dog beyond), the solitude and meditative qualities that I gain from painting are extremely satisfying. I’m not necessarily a loner by nature outside of my painting and studio time, but I definitely prefer painting alone. I drift in my head when I paint – I listen to music or books on tape, and mull over the life I’ve lived and the people in it. An avenue opens when I paint that allows for ideas and revelations to take seed and grow. It’s a near religious experience for me to be in my studio – just as close to heaven as it gets. That said, outside of my studio I do enjoy an occasional plein air session with others, but studio time is jealously guarded!
- What is the best acknowledgement as an artist have you ever received? Has there been a particular award, show, or a comment that made you feel accomplished?
The experience of an opening reception for a body of work is both nerve-wracking and exhilarating. This is when I’ve heard the most important acknowledgement and feedback of my career as an artist. The outpouring of sentiment from the average art lover and fellow artists is genuine and worth more to me than accolades from all the gallerists I’ve worked with and art connoisseurs together. While I value the professional comment regarding my work, there’s just something about the hearing it straight from the heart of an art patron.
I’ve received awards over the years, but I think the very first juried show I entered was when I was 12 and won First Prize. That was one of the best moments I had as a young artist! The other artists in the show were college students and adults of varying ages, so it was a special moment for me. One of the most interesting comments made – not to me but a gallery owner representing my work – was from another watercolorist who remarked that I wasn’t “doing it right” when I painted with watercolor. Both the gallery owner and I found that comment so fascinating – who ever sees creating art as falling into line and ‘doing it right’? Isn’t art about pushing the envelope and removing barriers? It wasn’t an accolade, for sure, but I felt that I’d accomplished so much with a medium that doesn’t easily get pushed to the limits I aim to go beyond, and his comment reinforced in me that I was going into unknown territory and felt I was “doing it right” for me.
- Do you have any exhibits coming up?
I’m in several group shows over these next few months. I am showing in a one-woman exhibit in Concord between September and October at the Chamber of Commerce. Looking forward to a new body of work show next spring at the NHAA in Portsmouth if I can get on the schedule.
- How do you connect with the community of artists?
I belong to several art memberships. The most active is the New Hampshire Art Association in Portsmouth because I can volunteer by gallery sitting. Others are further away and often too far to remain active outside entering shows. I’m looking towards painting more plein air with a local NHAA group and Plein Air group this summer to step outside of my studio a bit more. I am hoping to start a NH watercolor society in the future and started with a FB group to create a gathering place for interested NH watercolorists. I also work in volunteer opportunities like the Portsmouth-based Arts of Recovery that pairs artists with artist-patients of the Seacoast Mental Health Group.
- What advice can you give to anyone considering career path in the arts?
The best piece of advice I’d pass along is that when considering a path in the arts, take a business/marketing course, or minor in business. I didn’t do that when I was attending my college’s art program and have long regretted it. We need to be smart about the business of our work, and taking a few courses will help an artist in the end when it comes to marketing your work.
- Do you offer classes or workshops?
Not at this time. Perhaps in the future, and I’ve been looking into online classes to offer.
- How can someone get in touch with your, if they would like to place a commission or visit your studio?
My website provides a means to contact me directly: www.kimberlymeuse.com
My phone #603-373-8709