Creative Spotlight: Kristen Phipps
Wichita native Kristen Phipps is one of 28 artists featured in Mark Arts’ upcoming exhibition The New Cool: Emerging Artists Exhibition (Opening July 19th – September 21st). Phipps’ recent solo exhibitions include SHAKES add SHOTS at OSU’s Hopkins Hall Gallery and GHOST at Harvester Arts (where she also completed a fellowship program), each showcasing her extraordinary vision of the every day – humorous, uncanny, & honest – drawing inspiration from and attention to the so many little things we often overlook or take for granted.
I was born and raised in Wichita, KS, and live in Columbus, OH, as an MFA painting candidate at The Ohio State University. I received a BFA in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design and an AA from Cowley County Community College. Currently, I'm at an Artist Residency called Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Ireland until mid-July. Past Artist Residences include Alderworks in Dyea, Alaska, Harvester Arts in Wichita, Kansas, and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont.
My biggest influences are the artists I look to for reference. Those include, but aren't limited to: Dawn Clements, Wendy White, Lavar Munroe, Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Gauguin, Miriam Schapiro, Winslow Homer, and Andrew Holimquist. I have conversations with my professors regularly about influences in the work and having the chops required to back up those influences. Very often my tastes change. An artist I was obsessed with no longer holds value in my making process. I listed Dawn Clements first because I feel closest with her drawings, but that's subject to change when my work changes. I think it’s important to have a roster of all types of makers you’re looking at. I struggle with keeping three-dimensional artists in my space and it’s something I want to work on.
The beauty of grad school is that you’re expected to change your process. Strings connect processes even though my work currently seems tangential. I have the most fun putting caution to the wind. Since I am currently overseas for an Artist Residency I’ll describe that process in relation to my studio practice. Working with limited space and materials is a great and sometimes scary challenge. I can get comfortable in my studio on campus which has all my supplies and easy access to more if I need it. On this trip, I brought: Gouache, slow-drying acrylics, watercolor, 95 various markers, pens and pencils, 6 brushes, 6 sketchbooks, pre-toned paper, various loose paper.
I chose my supplies carefully. I will be in rural Ireland for six weeks and won’t have access or funds to get more. Water-based paints are easier to get through border customs. I’ve never had oil paints seized, but I prefer not to risk it. (If this is something you must travel with then have a typed list of all the materials present in the paint inside your suitcase with the paint.) The various markers, pens, and pencils are chosen so I have different tones, hues, tints, etc. in every color. I use alcohol-based markers and paint based markers.
My sketch practice is just as important as making the actual work. It is a form of timekeeping. Those decisions absolutely influence my practice as a whole (the last time I was overseas in 2015 I filled 4 sketchbooks over 9 weeks.) I’ve gotten a lot faster since then, hence the choice to bring 6. Unless you have the funds to ship large scale work, working small is the way to go. I’ve been worried about it, honestly. I’ve worked large scale for so long now and there is a comfort in scale and the ability to change that scale on a whim. The ‘what ifs’ can drive you mad. I can’t help but think about the materials I don’t have with me. If anything this proves I needed a change in my practice.
What Do You Hope to Communicate?
I hope to communicate that what we do as artists, creatives, and makers is hard in its own way. No one asks us to do what we do. I want to be as genuine as possible in my making and sometimes creating means being overly vulnerable. Vulnerable to yourself, to an audience, or even to a new material or method of making. I’ve learned to ask myself more questions during the process. Are those questions serving me a purpose to move forward or are they holding me back? Here are some general questions to stop asking yourself: 1. Will anyone like my work? 2. Can I sell this? 3. Does this look good? Even now I catch myself asking irrelevant questions.
Advice for Aspiring Artists
My advice for young aspiring artists is to go to every show, opening, and museum you can get to and don’t talk about yourself. Talk about the work you’re looking at. Put personal tastes aside. In those instances, it isn’t about you, but the work that is being shown and the artist showing. Being present in the community you wish to be a part of is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give. The era of loner artists is dead. We can’t expect Peggy Guggenheim to magically find us in our studios or in my generational case, on Instagram. Again, no one asks us to do what we do. You don’t need to be in NYC or LA to make it. Those kinds of cities help, but they aren’t the only solution. If your goal or career is to be a practicing studio artist expect to always have side hustles. The sooner you realize that, the more time you have to make work and stress less about monetary advancement in an art-making career that doesn’t have a weekly salary. This goes to my last point, price your work right. Pay yourself first.
Regarding the art-making, your best bet is to keep expectations low. If you make it once, you can make it again and probably better than the first time. I do not believe anything is truly at risk as long as you are making. Even if the work doesn’t turn out, you’ve gained new knowledge. The term ‘style’ is dead. Don’t have one and don’t trust anyone who says you need one to be successful. So what if the work looks different every other week? Don’t get stuck making the same thing over and over. Master one skill and then move on to another. Get good at drawing. If you can render from life you can do anything, both 2D and 3D. Take the word ‘juxtaposition’ out of your artist statement. This ties into going to art shows. You read a lot of statements and bios and information placards. You see what words are tired and overused. I don’t want to come off harsh, but I wish someone would have told me these things when I was still in my teens.
Lastly and most importantly, never lose curiosity.
See work from Kristen Phipps at The New Cool: Emerging Artists Exhibition at Mark Arts, July 19th – September 21st, on her website at kristenphipps.com, and Instagram at @krispheee.