Magnetic, eclectic and elegant.
Welcome to the relaxed and charming world of Kelly Beeman.
Today we meet the New York based illustrator and her post expressionist work full of tenderness and delicate details.
Born into a home of artists, Kelly is not only a talented painter but also a strong women and our new Soap Muse.
Using fashion as a tool to give her characters their own personality, she boasts many collaboration with brands such as J.W. Anderson, Loewe and Jason Wu and with key figures like Nick Night and Kate Moss, contributing to the consolidation of the relationship between high fashion and artists.
In her work, the contours of the human figures, such as the objects, the spaces and the natural elements, are first black-ad-white and then dressed in watercolors, giving us a vibrant and soft touch at the same time.
The main focus of her work? Women whose tastes are incredibly sophisticated, very comfortable and confident, beautiful sirens with something dark and weird beneath the surface.
Well, now I definitely want to be like a Kelly’s subject.
Federica. Dear Kelly, tell us about your background. When did you find out you wanted to be an artist?
Kelly. I started drawing/painting when I was very young, so I cannot exactly remember when I began to consider this art – it was simply something I loved to do. My mother makes beautiful paintings and my father is a very talented draftsman, so when I was child I wanted to learn these skills. I guess at some point adults started to take notice and call me an “artist” which just meant that I drew well or expressively, but it was never a conscious decision I made or something I wanted to be.
Federica. What does your creative state looks like? What’s the process choosing your palette?
Kelly. I have a routine: I wake up very early around 6am usually, make coffee and start working. I usually have several paintings in progress at one time, so I’ll spend a few hours on each one. I take an afternoon nap, in the evenings I draw or go out with friends.
I don’t choose my palettes with too much deliberation, I start with a few colors and add as I go along depending on whether I want to be bold or subtle. However, I really like experimenting with color and creating unusual palettes. I rarely use “pure” colors and often opt for mixtures of various pigments.
Federica. Fashion plays a big role in your work. Which place occupies fashion in the world of art today?
Kelly.Fashion plays a role in my work because I am essentially inventing people. Very few of my subjects are real, they’re constructed through clothes, objects, backgrounds, and interactions (if there are multiple characters). So I find garments that I like or that express something that I want to incorporate in the paintings or that help tell a story.
The role of fashion in the art world is not something I can give informed commentary on – I’m not an expert on either. I do think however that there’s a crossover as more brands commission artists, and as fashion becomes more fast-paced, popular, “democratic” there’s a more obvious distinction between elevated fashion with an emphasis on design and creative expression, and the manufacturing of trends.
Federica. Speaking of fashion, do you have separate wardrobes for work and life, or are the two one and the same?
Kelly. The clothes I wear 90% of the time I am also working in, everything else I try not to soil with paint, and wear very rarely.
Federica. Figures and faces are fundamental in your art. What does it mean beauty for you?
Kelly. Beauty in my characters is a feeling. It’s about giving the subject certain qualities – tenderness, human sensitivity, a gaze that’s penetrating but relaxed, self-assured.
Beauty in the painting is the top layer, and functions as an invitation to go inside and explore the details, the story, the people. I want to create this allure..they’re kind of like sirens though; they appear beautiful, but there’s something dark beneath that surface, something unnatural and weird. Beauty is extremely powerful so I enjoy playing with it.
Federica. Who are the women in your paintings? Who are your muses?
Kelly. The women in my paintings are constructions of memories, experiences, observation of people around me…They’re like prototypes because their basic features are the more or less the same, but I use clothing, objects, and settings to differentiate them and to give them their own personhood. Throughout the process of painting them, it’s interesting to see how they gradually become people and they’re all different. They’re always changing, but generally speaking, they’re women whose tastes are incredibly sophisticated – maybe this is why they wear high fashion – and they’re very comfortable, confident and self-assured. Sometimes they’re shown in small towns, suburbs, or on neighborhood streets, and they’re bored with the mundane and monotonous. They’re powerful, even a little menacing and machiavellian, especially when depicted in groups.
Federica. How much the place you live influences your creative process?
Kelly. I think living in a city like New York where there are people literally everywhere has been very important in my artistic process. I never lack inspiration or references. But at the same time, I think that wherever you live you create a world inside your mind, or a vast library that you’re constantly pulling from. What goes inside depends on your sensitivity and perceptiveness to whatever your surroundings are, and how willing you are to seek out new ideas in culture via books, movies, film, art, and so on. Being alive today means you can do this pretty much anywhere.
Federica. A place, an artist and a film you feel yours.
Kelly. Place: Underwater. Artist: Otto Dix. Film: The Shining.
All the images courtesy of Kelly Beeman.