In today’s artist spotlight, I’m introducing Stephanie Kirkland, a contemporary southern artist based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Inspired by the outdoors, Stephanie creates abstract and landscape paintings, including a series that was inspired by her travels to Provence, and an upcoming Glacier series.
When did you know that you wanted to become an artist?
I’ve been creating my entire life, but it was about three years ago, in 2017, that I really started thinking about becoming an artist. I was looking for a way to make an impact on things I care about while doing something I love. I’m very passionate about education, and that summer, my local school district put out a call asking for community members to submit summer course proposals. I so badly wanted to teach art, and that’s when I knew. I’ve always had this knack for taking what I see, hear, and feel, and expressing that creatively so others can experience the same thing. And when I really thought about it, I realized that my greatest impact will come from my greatest strengths.
You’ve mentioned that nature is one of your biggest sources of inspiration. Where do you like to go when you need a bit of inspiration?
I love going to national parks and forests, and anywhere with mountains. Hiking is a huge source of inspiration for me. There are so many beautiful destinations that you can reach only by foot. I also find hiking to be such a beautiful metaphor for life. Both can be incredibly hard, but it’s through hardship that you reach the most beautiful destinations.
The color palette you use in your work makes me instantly think of nature with the variety of shades of greens and blues. What is the particular paint color or colors you find yourself frequently reaching for?
I work with a basic set of primary colors and neutrals, and I mix all of my colors from those (a leftover habit from college art classes). So I actually need all of them to make the colors that I make! The process takes longer, but it’s also what makes my colors so unique. But you’re right about greens and blues. It’s rare that I make a painting without them! I also love including touches of warm colors like peach and rich earth tones for contrast.
How do you begin each day in the studio and what are some of your favorite songs/musicians to listen to while you paint?
Lately, my routine involves journaling to clear my head and to set my intention for the day, and then I find or create a playlist that fits the mood of the paintings I’m working on. I’m usually listening to a mix of things—alternative, pop, folk, bluegrass. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe.
As a lover of all things French, I’m so intrigued by your Provence collection… What was the most memorable part of your visit to the region?
I was so captivated by the way Provence felt. It was so refreshing and laidback, and the light was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I was also fascinated by the mistral. It’s a weather pattern unique to the region where there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and yet a very strong and sustained wind blows for days on end. The mistral can be brutal in winter, but when I went, in late September, it was refreshing and definitely unlike anything I had experienced before. It’s also what makes Provence so sunny and clear—which contributes to that unique light.
Roussillon | Provence landscape
In the journal section of your website, you’ve shared Q&A’s with a few of your fellow artists. What is the best part about learning what drives and inspires your fellow artists?
Artists have so much good life advice to offer. The work that artists do is so vulnerable and brave, and because of that, artists tend to be very inspirational and encouraging. It’s rare to find an artist who doesn’t inspire you to go after your wildest dreams!
Out of all the pieces both abstract and landscape featured on your website, is there a piece(S) that is a personal favorite?
It’s funny you ask, because every time a piece sells, I find myself saying, “That’s my favorite!” This isn’t untrue, because they’re all my favorites in different ways. But there is a painting that I can’t seem to let go of…which is probably a good indication that it’s my ACTUAL favorite. It’s called “Cool Morning.” It feels like the rawest and honest painting I’ve ever made. It’s marked sold on my website, but that’s because it’s “sold” to me. It’s hanging in my living room where I love seeing it daily. A close second is one called “Looking Up.” The imagery is inspired by sunshine shining through trees after a thunderstorm. It’s a metaphor for coming out on the other side of something really hard, which I love.
You are currently taking commissions for the spring of this year. What do you enjoy the most about working with your clients to create the perfect piece for their home?
Art is so personal, and commissions are such a fun way to capture something meaningful experienced by someone else. I’m most often commissioned to create paintings based on places or personally significant travel experiences. I love hearing stories about what particular places mean to people, and then being able to give them the gift of a unique piece of art inspired by that meaningful experience.
Tell me a bit about your upcoming Glacier Collection.
The Glacier Collection is a collection of abstract paintings inspired by my travels to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. I hiked several dozen miles while I was there, and I was captivated by the grandness of it all and the clarity and power of the water. Like my other paintings, the brushstrokes are very bold and expressive. I love the idea of raw fragments coming together to create something of beauty. The colors and mood are very much inspired by the water. About half the paintings are crisp and icy, and the other half is deep and intense. The collection will be available to the public on March 30, and early to email subscribers on March 26. My email list always gets first dibs on new artwork!