Kimberly Santini is formally educated as a painter, with a BFA in Painting and a BA in Art History, but worked a traditional career path for over a decade. She set up a home studio in 2001 and began with commissioned portraiture. In 2006 she committed to daily painting, a creative practice she continues today. Santini brings her unique voice to the easel with an unparalleled sense of color and spontaneity. She was honored as official artist of the 2015 Kentucky Derby, spent 18 months (2017-2018) creating an expressive figurative series of nearly 100 pieces, and is currently painting intuitively using allegory as a gateway to exploring abstraction.
A firm believer in community involvement, Santini is also in leadership roles with the Romeo Guild of Art and The Detroit Society of Women Painters & Sculptors. She is enamored with her materials and the trace of the artists' hand. Line, form and the properties of paint drive compositions filled with intriguing passages built from linear elements and arbitrary color. Layers build a dream-like scape, yet all is rooted in an expressive core with a personal vocabulary of color, intriguing marks, and form. Santini paints a beauty much needed in our world. Her paintings define our relationship with others and build connections between possibility, intentions, and the trace of our actions.
She maintains a well of online resources, including an active social media presence of in-process and behind the scene details (Facebook and Instagram). Santini continues to blog multiple times weekly, and her entire body of work including over a decade of daily paintings is archived at www.PaintingaDogaDay.com. Santini travels to teach multi-day workshops several times annually while also mentoring (in-person and online) other artists. She has an online classroom (Patreon), where students get an exclusive behind-the-scenes peek into both mental and physical processes, along with studio management guidance. And she, along with Alabama painter Ardith Goodwin, is co-creator of #journalthroughit, a free online art journaling collective begun in March 2020, in response to the corona virus pandemic.
Most recently, she has begun teaching art journaling via monthly sessions held via ZOOM. The artist makes her home in Lake Orion, Michigan, where she lives and works in a historic cottage filled with fairy dust and laughter. She has three children (four if you count her husband), adult in age if not demeanor (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). There is a herd of family pets, as well, which at the moment includes 3 dogs, 2 cats, a tank of fish and a pony sized rabbit.
What’s your preferred medium to paint? Have you tried different mediums before?
I am a painter, through and through, but lately I have been drawn to mixed media. Ultimately I work with tools that are “activated” by water, so they essentially also become paint, at least in theory. I use acrylics, acrylic based mediums, and a variety of water solubles in my work. There is something about the gesture of a brushmark – how it dissolves into the gesture of an arm/body – that I find particularly appealing. One of my favorite things to do is to stand in front of a painting and imagine how the artist moved about creating it.
What’s your favorite and least favorite thing to paint?
I love to paint what fascinates me – the things that give me goosies. And at some point, those things become boring, and then I seek out new material. I am always evolving, sometimes quickly, since I am a daily painter and in the studio pretty much every day. Typically I love painting animals in some capacity. Right now I am working with the form of the horse – drawing them repeatedly, exploring how far I can push the abstraction until the horse dissolves. I am also currently obsessed with birds. Prior to that it was rabbits. I believe it's important to work with imagery that resonates deeply, even if that connection isn't fully understood. Create now, ask later.
As to what my least favorite thing to paint is, I would have to say something with very little color that requires great precision and lots of straight lines. I want to dance when I work, which doesn't leave much room for static or tight marks. And color makes me joyful. It doesn't have to be brightly saturated, but when color is drained from a composition, my interest dims markedly too.
When are you the most creative? Morning? Night?
I am always painting, either at the easel or in my head. I even paint in my dreams, or else I'm wearing paint splattered clothes in them. However I am the most creative when I am embarking on solving a new problem – that is when the idea consumes me, and all of the “what if's” are swimming about as I seek answers. This timeframe isn't subject to a particular hour so much as it is a project or opportunity to express myself.
What do you listen to when you are painting/creating artwork?
I have a Spotify playlist called “Shut up and Paint.” It has over 1200 songs on it. Silly, I know. But whenever I hear a song that makes me want to move or one that makes me feel something strongly, I add it to that list. It's a very eclectic collection, from symphonic to alternative to spoken word to movie scores to hip hop, and even a couple children's songs. What's important is that the music keep me moving and responding emotionally, because that's the head space I want to be in while I'm working.
And when a song on that list becomes trite in that I've heard it too often and it no longer is impactful, I delete it. I have tried to listen to podcasts or audible books or even talk radio, but ultimately they don't work for the sustained sort of meditative space that a melody can carry me into.
Where do you like to paint (outside of a studio)?
I have tried plein air painting, and it's just not my thing. I get too distracted by all the things I can't control, and inevitably I forget to pack something that is now utterly critical, despite having hauled half the studio into the field with me. I have accepted that I am a studio painter, but I do enjoy getting outside to refuel. I just don't bring much more than a journal/notebook and some pens when I do – otherwise I'm just setting myself up for frustration.
When you receive unsolicited critiques or comments, how do you feel/how do you react?
I try to remind myself that art is subjective. I make my art for myself, first and foremost. So am I using the finest materials I can afford? Is my message as clear as it might be? Have I done the absolute best that I could at that moment in time? Did I push myself out of my comfort zone, even if it's just a smidge? And how can I take the idea/essence/what I learned from this piece into the next?
Sharing work on social media opens the door for all sorts of unsolicited advice. Some of it stings, even with a positive mindset. I can't paint one piece that makes everyone happy, and I have to be ok with that. But it can be hard, particularly via social media, when one doesn't have body language or voice intonation to clarify a message.
For instance, I had an unknown party comment pretty harshly on my studio FB page. I slept on their words, and then responded, asking them to please elaborate about their position. Turns out they felt that recent pieces were too literal, and when they explained this, I was able to see how the work did shortchange that particular perspective. So having an unemotional dialogue enabled me to find value in a comment that initially made me uncomfortable.
Of course, not every negative comment deserves that sort of treatment. There are lots of people who say hateful or hurtful things because that is the space they are currently in. Thankfully, my community of fans, followers and collectors are overall really wonderful, generous souls, so I don't get a whole lot of haters/these sorts of comment. But when they do show up, I am grateful to NOT be in their shoes, and also grateful for the delete button (on social media).
Kimberly's Favorite Trekell Products:
I am relatively new to Trekell, having found your panels about a year ago. I particularly love the unprimed wood surfaces in the non-traditional shapes. Trekell panels give my work another edge that makes it stand out even further from the crowd. I currently have a couple of the gothic shapes to work with, and am enjoying finding compositions that respond seamlessly to the panel's shape. It's a wonderful challenge from working with traditional squares and rectangles. And when galleries and exhibitions recommence, I am looking forth to seeing how my work on Trekell panels is received!
I thoroughly enjoyed creating my two entries for this year's Trekell pet portrait contest. The ornate portrait shaped panel made it particularly enjoyable to tuck the dogs' personalities into. I only wish they were readily available in larger sizes.... particularly the birdcage ones.... hint hint!!
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