Michigan-based artist, Kimberly Kelly Santini, has been painting a dog a day since 2006. That's over 700 dog portraits. She is also a wife, mother of three, and an editor at Art Career Experts, a site devoted to marketing and career advice for artists by artists. I am inspired by her ability to manage all her passions with drive and a sense of humor. I think you will be too.
1. How did you get started as a dog artist?
Growing up, all I drew and painted were animals. Even through college, I would sneak equine and canine pieces into my portfolio whenever I could. When we started our family, my studio got packed up to make way for a nursery. For about 7 years I took a sabbatical from making art to focus on raising my family. When I started painting again, it was second nature to paint a dog -- besides, I'd been promising my brother a portrait of his for years. The first piece I did was a canvas of his Ebony, lifesize. After seeing Ebony's portrait, one after another, friends and family started asking for paintings of their own. I seem to get dog requests the most, although I am not complaining -- they are very close to my heart.
2. What is your favorite medium and why?
I love acrylics for the same reasons many dislike them -- their short drying time. I am a quick painter, and if my surface stays wet more than 5 minutes, I get mucky colors. I do not have the patience to slowly lay down purposeful marks and wait for areas to dry. I have been working in oils this last year, and am starting to recognize the value of having a wet surface to work with, but I still prefer my acrylics.
3. How would you describe your art?
Like the smile of a dear friend.
4. What are your 3 your favorite pieces?
Usually, whatever's come off the easel most recently. I can share 3 pivotal pieces, though. I am sentimental about pivotal pieces because they represent to me a turning point in my abilities.
Tribute, 12" square, acrylic on board. Many people see this empty collar and immediately read it as a loss. I prefer to see it as representing the cycle that all dog-lovers go through of love and loss. It is heartbreaking for one small piece of the circle, but we choose to repeat the path because of all the other wondrous moments leading up to said heartbreak. Additionally, this particular still life setup translated onto canvas exactly how I saw it in my head -- a small victory for me!
Rest, 6" x 12", acrylic on board. I love the quiet emotion in this piece -- it translated wonderfully to a tribute to a dearly loved dog who has crossed the bridge.
Doggles, 4" x 8", acrylic on board. This is the sort of painting that oozes smiles -- I think work is successful when it immediately evokes an emotional response.
5. Tell me about your studio; is it how you want it to be? Plans for reorganizing? Wish list?
I love my studio. Despite its chaos, it is my safe house. In my studio I can do anything, or at least that is my mindset. Just the mere fact that I have a studio, or the realization that painting is my job, is enough to send me into a happy dance. It is a mess, but it's my creative vortex, and I need this sort of scrambled collection of objects and snippets of paper to feed and generate new ideas.
Studio Disaster I: My Grandfather's Desk
Studio Disaster II: Opposite Wall
The wall opposite of the desk and computers holds all my painting supplies. Canvases, boards, paints, brushes, mediums, etc. They are all literally piled up, although there is a method to the madness. The shelf above is used to store paintings in process, and the plastic bin clipped to the underside of the shelf is one space I can set up a small still life in.
Our home is almost 100 years old, and my studio is the only room we haven't yet gutted. There is old wallpaper so hideous it is lovely, incredibly bright turquoise deep moldings and trim, and the ceiling is stained and cracking. But I have the most fabulous light fixture (had it built especially for the room), have beautiful northern and western windows with great light, and the scale of the space is perfect.
I'm considering shutting the studio down for several weeks this summer, giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, adding more book shelves, actually organizing the closet (instead of opening the door and dumping whatever object I'm trying to hide), and refinishing the floors. I'm considering it. It would be more fun to instead work on a mural proposal for the local bark park....
Ideally I would love to have a separate space where I could greet clients and discuss their projects. Right now that happens in my living room (adjacent to the studio), but there is a need for a dedicated space where I could rotate artwork on the walls depending on who was visiting, have a flat surface for sketching or spreading out reference materials, and comfortable seating so that we could linger over tea, cookies and artwork.
6. Upcoming projects or goals for the future?
I know that the Painting a Dog a Day project will not last forever, and that's ok. I am searching for my next big wave, but making certain that this search does not take away any energy or momentum from the daily pet portraits. Meanwhile I am writing catalogs that highlight each year of the daily project (the first book is published already, titled Painting a Dog a Day - the First Year, and is available at blurb) and laying the groundwork for publishing video shorts of select daily paintings. I also am building a curriculum so that I may begin teaching workshops, both locally and nationally. I also just started as an editor at Art Career Experts, a site devoted to marketing and career advice for artists by artists.
Thank you Kim, for letting us take a peek at your paintings and your process. Wonderful!