20 Kristy Gordon
"There is something unique and special inside all of us, something that no one else can offer the world. Our job is not to judge this gift, but to explore and share it."
"The antidote to fear is wonder."
Kristy is a powerful and versatile painter from Nelson, British Columbia in Canada. She's exhibited her work around the world, including China, Spain, and throughout the US. She's won best portrait from the Portrait Society of Canada (where she is a signature member). She was awarded a scholarship from the Portrait Society of America, where she's also a member, and three Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grants. She's been a finalist for ARC competitions and the Kingston Prize (twice).
Kristy's been an artist in residence at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China, Shanghai University in China, OCAD University Florence, and she apprenticed with Odd Nerdrum. Her work has also been featured in The Artist’s Magazine, International Artist, Realism Today, Hi Fructose, and Fine Art Connoisseur. Kristy worked as a teacher's assistant to painters Jeremy Lipking and Yuqi Wang. She now teaches painting at the National Academy in NYC, and Art Escape Italy (in Florence).
Kristy originally studied television animation at Algonquin College, and worked briefly as art director for Ren & Stimpy, a groundbreaking cartoon that used to air on Nickelodian. But, it wasn't for her. She writes in International Artist:
"I've always known I wanted to be an artist but I didn't always know that it was possible to make a living as a painter. Initially I studied and worked in animation and eventually found my way in through the back door into painting for galleries. Eventually I left my animation job to pursue painting. . ."
Kristy goes into further detail in this article she wrote for The Artist's Network (no date):
"I was working at an animation studio in Ottawa, which was owned by a well-known Canadian painter, Philip Craig. He was the first living artist I had ever seen or known personally who was making a living off of his paintings. Before I met him I literally didn’t know that was possible. He was teaching evening painting classes in his studio, which was located on the top floor of the animation studio I was working in, and I nervously started attending his classes. It felt great to be painting again.
"It was through my connection with this artist that I got into my first art gallery. The owner of the gallery was also taking the weekly painting classes, and Philip suggested that I casually start bringing in a couple of finished paintings each week to class and leave them around for the gallery owner to see. Eventually the gallery owner did notice my paintings, and I told him that I would love to show my work in his gallery. I could have fainted with excitement when the gallery owner set up a time the following week for me to bring my finished paintings into the gallery to chat."
'Passing Through II'
Kristy earned her BFA at the Ontario College of Art & Design, the same school as painter Sara Sniderhan. She then earned her MFA at the NY Academy of Art, where she also taught art.
Kristy is one of the few artists on this list, and in general, where you can see distinct phases in her work. She'll paint a series in one specific style, with a signature palette, and then completely change directions, tone, style, everything. She jumps around fearlessly, tackling all kinds of subject matter. She talks about this in an article she wrote for Realism Today (no date):
"Like many, my experience of growing up and being socialized taught me to bury my voice. I ignored my feelings and intuition so I could feel like I fit in. Like many of the people who come to my classes and online art mentoring program, I went through a phase with my art, and my life, where I felt very inhibited.
"I remember feeling artistically free and in the flow as a teenager. This love of art was fed with every kind of art education I desired, beginning with rigorous academic training. I loved this at the time and it was totally exciting at first. Eventually, though, the training became like a box. I went through my entire undergraduate and graduate degrees always preoccupied with painting “a good painting” and worried about what others would think.
"After finishing my MFA at the New York Academy of Art I finally started experimenting. Free from the judgment of my peers and teachers, I made it safe for me to be vulnerable. I carved out some time to experiment freely by taking almost a year off from exhibiting current works. I still posted on Instagram almost daily, but I was creative about ways to post so as not expose anything that felt too raw. By giving myself space to create without judgment I had a chance to trust and validate my gut responses."
One of Kristy's biggest shifts has been away from the more somber, intimate portraits that I've posted here first, and towards a more jovial, silly, but no less confrontational set of surrealist, allegorical landscapes, filled with wild animals and wilder people, that seem a contemporary reference to the worlds of Hieronymus Bosch. (scroll down to see).
BJ. Foreman wrote about Kristy's methods in this article (The Artist Magazine, 2015), that she generally paints in oils, but likes to experiment, incorporating spray paint, markers, oil pastels, and even glitter. She says, "I fell in love with oils as soon as I tried them. I like the way I can blend them and layer them, creating contrast between textures like thick impastos and thin transparent layers."
Kristy gives a lot of advice (Realism Today, no date) on developing your own style. First she quotes painter Enrique Martínez Celaya who said, “Make a lot of work. Look at a lot of art in galleries and then paint a lot.” Next she recommends setting goals:
"There is power and magic in goal setting. By taking regular baby steps towards goals we’re announcing to the universe that we are ready, willing, and able to receive our desired result. Our dreams won’t just come true on their own; we have to be a participant in the process. Get clear about what your goals are, write them down, and then break them into smaller steps that you can take action on regularly."
Next Kristy says trust your intuition:
"In her book Painting the Landscape of Your Soul, Damini Celebre describes a process for intuitive painting that has set me free. Get some cheap paper and paints. (I got a big roll of crate paper and some fun acrylic paints for kids.) Then tune into yourself and do the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t shut it down. It doesn’t matter if you make a good painting or a terrible one. It’s just paint. Maybe you feel pulled to put down a purple wash. When that’s complete, check in with yourself and see what comes next. Continue to follow your first impulse until your gut tells you it’s complete. Do not judge the way it looks. This is super fun. I’ve started doing a quick intuitive painting every morning. It makes me happy all day."
Kristy then recommends a student artist fill out this questionnaire she prepared:
"Answer these questions with your first gut response. Then go back and go deeper. Why did you answer the way you did? Look for an epiphany, something surprising about your answers. This is your point of view. Your point of view is so prevalent it’s hard for you to see. To find your artistic voice, show me how you see the world."
• When and where were you happiest painting?
• Which living artist do you admire the most?
• What’s your all-time favorite painting?
• What do you hate seeing in others’ work?
• What is your favorite painting that you’ve ever done?
• What recurring themes and techniques do you see in your past work?
• What do you wish you would see in galleries that you don’t see–what’s missing?
• What is your first memory of painting?
'This Too Shall Pass' (self-portrait)
'Collab with Chief'
'Lady of the Wild Beasts'
Kristy says of the painting above (Fine Art Connoisseur, 2013), “Moments before the explosion, one would have seen nothing, but then in a flash, all the potential that was within explodes into fruition.... It came about from a big ol’ ending in my own life, and was a recognition that endings bring new beginnings.”