Kelly, welcome to Reprehensible Digest. Tell the audience a little about yourself... your background, where you're from, what you specialize in as an artist.
Thank you for choosing me to interview, I am beyond honored and extremely grateful. You are one of the kindest artists on LinkedIn and I appreciate your continued support – and I admire your talent! I was born in a small town in Ohio and now reside outside of Chicago. I was always referred to as the girl who brought home every stray or injured animal, the one who picked all the neighbor's flowers to give to my Mom. I have a horticultural (hence the flowers) and petrochemical cost engineering background, but I retired because we are raising four of our young grandchildren full time. I am currently a full-time artist specializing in animal portraits, which is my dream job.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist? What specifically triggered your passion?
I fell in love with art at a very young age when my Father taught me how to draw. I have fond memories of winning numerous coloring and drawing competitions as a young child and teenager. I always had contests with my Father drawing pictures as well… he made it fun. He also taught me other creative things like how to write backwards in cursive and numerous other fun things. My love for art is because of my Father's influence.
What mediums and brands do you prefer working with?
As of late, my two most used mediums are acrylic and water colors, due to the quick drying time and the amount of commissions I have. I prefer painting with oils when I have the time, but save those for the special pieces. I absolutely love all mediums and all brands. When I step into an art store my heart races with excitement and I want to try everything. I'm like a little kid in a candy store, LOL...
You are a pet portrait artist. How did this adventure come to be?
About 90% of my commissions are pet portraits. I've painted for years, but I've never had anything for sale until recently. This wild ride started about three years ago when I painted a few dogs for my close friends. From that day forward I have been blessed with a back log of commissions. It is my dream job and was certainly meant to be.
What attracted my eye to your portraits was the colorful brushstrokes and emphasis on character. How do you capture the essence of each pet on canvas?
I use color to express myself and bring out the already existent beauty in an animal. I love the way it helps to enhance the pet's personality and expression. Color influences me and makes me happy. I still paint the actual animal, just with color that helps it to shine a little brighter.
Prior to starting a painting, I like to study the photograph until I feel a connection with the pet. I put those emotions into the painting. When it's complete, I can tell if I was able to capture the pet's beautiful personality. Leonardo Da Vince explained it perfectly, "Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art."
You are a pet lover yourself. Tell us a few fun facts about your own fur babies.
I absolutely adore ALL animals. Sometimes more than humans, LOL. I'm the person who captures insects in a glass that have been trapped in a house and releases them outside instead of hurting them. I've saved numerous turtles in the middle of the road. I've splinted the wings of numerous birds... I currently have two Siberian Huskies, one solid white and one black. They are my heartbeat outside of my body. They are my art inspiration, members of our family. They are adored and the feeling is mutual. Animals make me a better human.
What truly brings your pet paintings to life is the way in which you portray their eyes. Explain how you capture the essence of "puppy dog eyes" in your work.
The eyes are my favorite part of the painting as well as with everyone. I begin a portrait with the eyes and work around from there. I end with detailing and save the eyes for last. Eyes have the ability to speak a wonderful language. My hope is to capture the beauty of the spirit of the animal so that everyone who sees it can discover that beauty as well. To hear them speak without saying a word. They don't have a voice, so I like to give them one.
What is your favorite thing about creating these lovely pet portraits?
Having the ability to give this precious little being the love and shine that it deserves. And to create a lasting memory for their humans.
I imagine some of your clients must experience a sense of heartbreak once they've lost a companion. How do your paintings help grieving pet owners to heal?
About half of my clients' pets have crossed, prior to me painting them. The reactions that are most common are "OMG – I am crying!" I cannot put into words what a blessing it is to have the ability to make someone so happy that they cry. Allowing the beautiful precious little fur baby to speak to their beloved human, once again, taken from my own experiences is magical. The best compliment that I ever received is when someone said, "I can see your heart smiling all over this portrait." That made me cry. Nothing in the world can compare to having the ability to make someone's heart smile as big as mine. Incredible!
Have your paintings been featured in any exhibits, galleries or noted publications? If so, share a few noted venues you've participated in.
I was blessed to be a part of the Just Animals art show at the Liz Long Art Gallery in downtown Chicago last year. My art was featured for a month and one of my pieces sold… I was beyond elated. Also this year, I was honored that I was chosen to be featured in The Writers and Readers Magazine which is published world wide. I was further surprised and shocked that they chose me again and published my works in two consecutive months. I am so very grateful – a dream of mine came true!
I am hoping to have more great opportunities like this in the future.
I also have my work displayed in a local vintage antique mall in my home town. I have my own booth space, so that's a lot of fun. Time permitting, I'm also hoping to get involved in future art shows, and I currently have an active art page on Facebook called "Kelly's Creative Images."
I often ask guest artists whether they believe creative people have a deeper, more sensitive soul? Instead, I'd like to know if you believe pets have a special soul inside.
Absolutely! Without a doubt, I do believe animals have a soul. They connect with you deeply, which is compassion. Their love is unconditional, they are true in their affections, loyal and grateful. They have feelings and their feelings can be hurt. We humans are their entire universe. Again, animals make us better human beings. I love the quote from Anatole France, "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."
How do you navigate the social media battlefield as an artist? Do you find it competitive? Does it help you gain additional commissions?
Social media has been a huge blessing for me. In Linkedln, I have over 9,000 connections who are mostly artists. I love supporting artist and seeing their creations. I also have a Facebook page for my art titled "Kelly's Creative Images" which has been very successful with people sharing and referring all of my hard work to others. I also use Instagram. I think social media is extremely competitive, however, but it has not affected me personally.
As an artist, what would you like your legacy to be?
I would like my legacy to be the artist who has the ability to show love, life and emotion in my portraits. I want to be remembered as someone who can make your heart smile as big as mine when you look at a portrait that I've created.
Any additional skills, hobbies, or interests you'd like to share with the audience – fascinating statements about the artist known as Kelly Armitage?
I am a positive person with an oversized heart. I love to repurpose things and do anything creative. I am an outdoor person and love all of God's creations. I look for the beauty in everything and everyone. I love gardening, home projects and doing anything with my family, grandchildren and beautiful Husky beasties. I appreciate anything and am thankful for everything!