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VL VL . artspan December 2013 Volume 2 No. 12

VISUAL LANGUAGE contemporary fine art

Kari Tirrell


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VL Studio Visit Kari Tirrell I never intended to be a professional artist. Like many artists, I drew constantly throughout my childhood. Although my lack of formal art education has not been a hindrance for me, had I known I’d become a professional artist someday I probably would have chosen to focus on art in school. At that time, though, art didn’t seem to be a good career choice. Being a “starving artist” didn’t appeal to me, and I didn’t want to teach, so drawing was more of a habit. It was something I felt compelled to do, but had no intention of doing anything with it. Many years later, when my kids were at an age where they were becoming independent and I started thinking about what I was going to do with my time, I decided to try painting and it completely changed my life. I painted abstracts in acrylic and sold them on eBay. It was great validation, super fun to find people liked my work enough to bid on it, and even more amazing to think about people in countries around the world hanging my work on their walls. Eventually, I switched from abstraction to realism, which also caused a switch in medium. I was now painting in oils. However, soon after changing to oils I stumbled upon the amazing pastel work of Alicia St. Rose. I had no idea such detail could be achieved with soft pastels, and I knew I had to try it. Her process looked painfully tedious, and I knew I didn’t have the patience to work like that, so I purchased various soft pastels, pastel pencils, and a variety of papers and set out to develop my own process. It took a lot of trial and error, but I was able to figure out how to get the results I wanted. Once I started painting realism, I realized brick and mortar galleries would be a better fit for my work than selling online. I had no idea how to go about getting into galleries, so I created a plan: I would join art organizations, get into their shows, and build up a resume. I decided three years would be a reasonable amount of time to give me the experience and a good enough resume where I could feel comfortable approaching galleries. I painted specifically for exhibitions, focusing on composition and lighting to make sure I was able to enter at least one award worthy painting into each show. I believe this focus helped improve my compositional ability as well as my painting technique. The awards my work received were validation I was heading in the right direction. My three year plan was successful, and although my first gallery ended up not being a great fit, it was a good learning experience in choosing the right gallery. I currently work with several excellent galleries, and I truly value my relationships with them. While I started my pastel career painting people and animals, over time I’ve gravitated toward painting still life, and I really enjoy it. I like the challenge of creating an interesting composition with inanimate objects. I like painting various surfaces (wood, glass, ceramic, etc.) and getting them to read accurately. My compositions have grown more complex; I like paintings that invite the viewer to stay awhile, something that will keep their interest over time. On the other hand, I also enjoy creating simple compositions, particularly when I can experiment with changing the scale of the objects.

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Saturday Evening Puzzle

I like to explore themes, repeatedly painting the same subject in different ways until I feel I’ve said as much as I want to say, and then I move on to something else. I typically enjoy painting things that touch on nostalgia. Old toys are a favorite. Right now I’m working on compositions with candy. I recently started working in oils again, in addition to pastels. My work is very time consuming, regardless of medium, but I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. It is definitely work; mostly challenging, and sometimes even frustrating. But painting satisfies my soul as no other job could, and I plan on doing it as long as possible.

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Banana Bread One

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Banana Bread Two

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Train Wreck

Game Over

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A self-taught artist, Kari Tirrell spent her formative years drawing people and animals in graphite, charcoal, and ink. She won her first award in an art contest at age 11. After many years of drawing, Kari changed direction and started painting abstracts in acrylic, selling her work to collectors around the globe. After returning to realism, Kari’s work has been juried into many regional, national, and international exhibitions, and has received numerous awards. She lives in Gig Harbor, Washington, and is a signature member of the Pastel Society of America and the Northwest Pastel Society, and a Distinguished Pastellist with the Pastel Society of the West Coast. Her work can be found at Meyer Gallery in Santa Fe, NM, Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, CA, American Art Company in Tacoma, WA, and Kirsten Gallery in Seattle, WA.

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Kari Tirrell Featured VL Artspan Artist Dec 2013  

Kari Tirrell "I never intended to be a professional artist. Like many artists, I drew constantly throughout my childhood. Although my lack...

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