Vol.99_Kelly Beeman

Kelly Beeman

Editor_Jihyun Yi


Please introduce yourself to MAPS readers.

I am a self-taught artist based in New York. Most of my work is fashion-inspired; I am intrigued by the way that clothing informs the personalities of the characters I paint and their narratives.


I found oriental mood from your illustrations at the first sight. Was it intended?

I see my paintings as a space in which everything that I have ever loved or been inspired by emerges organically. Only afterwards do I really begin to connect some of the aesthetic qualities to specific eras, traditions, or movements in art history. So the oriental mood is not directly intended, but it is definitely there.


Do you have your own muse or specific image of woman that you want to express?

There is a quote by Edmund Burke that I keep on the wall of my studio, it says “Between ugliness and beauty there is a sort of mediocrity in which the assigned proportions are most commonly found, but this has no effect upon the passions.” Often when I am drawing the figures for a painting, they begin as extremely exaggerated, disproportionate forms that I correct and modify to give them more naturalism, while preserving some of their more interesting, unrealistic characteristics. Ultimately I choose shapes and lines that allude to the true anatomy, but elicit a more intimate, subjective response to the subjects’ physical qualities.

So I do not really have a muse, per se, but a certain philosophy about what makes a figure in a painting alluring.


When did you define this drawing style? I am wondering what kind of drawing did you do before this style.

My subject has always been more or less related, but I took different technical approaches that were greatly influenced by conditions very external to my painting. I spent many years living in Argentina, and I had to be very careful about how quickly I went through my art supplies and paper because they were not that easy to acquire due to strict import controls. So during that time I began making very detailed work because it took much longer to create. After coming back to New York I found a lot of freedom to work faster and experiment and it allowed my work to evolve; I could freely create according to my ideas and inclinations, and worry less about the limited availability of my materials.


Do you have fixed working time? Is your studio separated from your house?

No, I do not have a fixed working time… I think it is important to remember that this is less a job than a passion, and I do not want to treat what I do as a job so I maintain my studio at home so that I can paint whenever I want without a specific schedule. Often I begin early in the morning and paint throughout the day until going to sleep at night.


What does your working process look like? I mean, from getting inspiration to making into an illustration.

It feels like a process with no beginning or end, I always have a stream of images running through my mind, so making a painting is like taking a picture of my thoughts. I do not feel inspired in the conventional sense, I have days in which making a painting feels easier, but inspiration for me is more of a commitment to capturing as much as I can out of a constant flow of ideas.

But to be more concrete, it usually begins at night. I fall asleep thinking of scenes and when I wake up in the morning I remember some of them. The fashion element comes later, when I have to find the right looks for the idea I have, and then I begin the painting.


Do you have your own routine for work?

No, I am not good at routine… I have a somewhat obsessive personality, so painting really does consume my life. Perhaps a routine would help me achieve balance, but that would feel very foreign to me… In a sense, I enjoy being at the mercy of my painting, it gives me a sense of purpose.


Artists always work alone. Don’t you feel lonely?

I do spend a lot of time alone, but I rarely feel lonely. Maybe artists are already inclined to solitude and learn to make it worthwhile by creating… Because I am painting so much, the hours I spend by myself are not idle, I am always busy and active, and therefore less likely to feel lonely.


What do you usually do in your free time?

I take breaks throughout the day (unless I am under a deadline) to read novels or the news, watch a movie, meet up with friends. I like to take long, aimless walks and listen to music.


You graduated high school on Oklahoma and came to New York. Is there any special reason to choose New York?

When I decided to move to New York I had never even visited, I was 20 years old and longing for adventure and excitement… It seemed like the place to be. That was many years ago, I have left and come back, and New York has changed a lot, but it is a truly wonderful, unpredictable city that can be very nourishing, especially if you’re an artist that paints people!


Also, you didn’t go art school but study sociology. Is there any reason for that?

I knew I would always be an artist no matter what I studied in school, so I decided to choose a subject that could inform my art practice intellectually, but allow me to maintain a totally empirical approach to art-making. So I chose to remain self-taught and honestly never imagined becoming a professional, I just did what I loved the most and never stopped. I consider myself very fortunate.  


You have started to draw since very young. Didn’t you have a slump? Like, didn’t want to draw anymore.

No, never! I have always loved drawing, and could spend hours and hours doing it every day of my life without getting bored. With that said, sometimes drawing (painting too) can be very challenging and frustrating because you are trying to push your work and are not satisfied remaining in a comfortable, pleasant place. These are the moments that I wonder how I can continue without being so hard on myself, how and when will I ever be satisfied? So it’s not a slump, more like moments of very unforgiving self-criticism… This is part of it though, the balance between loving your own work and seeing its flaws, knowing that you will never express your ideas perfectly, but a complete body of work made throughout a lifetime may come close, so there is always reason to continue. Every subsequent work is a step closer to expressing yourself fully.


Do you have Artist’s block? If so, how do you overcome that?

Sometimes I become exhausted after working so much, and I struggle to execute my ideas. When this happens, I have a few strategies. I’ll do something different entirely, like going out with friends and forgetting my artwork for a few hours. Other times I’ll try different media, sometimes the experience of making very simple drawings helps replenish your energy and reconnect with the essence of your work. And occasionally I’ll put the project aside and try something else.


You are becoming famous by doing collaboration with top designer brand. What do you think is the next step?

I am not sure. So far, people have mostly viewed my work in reproductions when I collaborate with brands. So I would love to start showing the originals in galleries so that people can really appreciate the paintings in their true dimensions, and see all of the textures, and details that tend to get lost in reproductions.


Not for inspiration, what is your favorite fashion brand for yourself?

I am not really into brands, but I do love my Loewe puzzle bag. It transforms any outfit into something stylish.


Tell me about your summer vacation plan.

So far I’ve spent the summer painting a lot and juggling many different projects, so I do not have a vacation planned any time soon. But in a few weeks my sister will come to New York for a visit, which I am really excited about.

Maps Magazine