On Creating Narrative Art > “I have a genuine enthusiasm for the awkward, strange, and oddly interesting things I experience in life,” says Kelly Houghton.
Narrative Art: What Eyes See Aright
BY KELLY HOUGHTON
O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight!
Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright?
– William Shakespeare, Sonnet 148
I have a genuine enthusiasm for the awkward, strange, and oddly interesting things I experience in life. In particular, I am drawn to anything and anyone with character. Observing people offers up an endless carnival of inspiration for me. My work is often a response to fashion, friends, daydreams or current obsessions. I employ a narrative of symbolic images that references stories of personal growth and maturity.
To capture ideas that inform my work, I keep a sketchbook and camera with me. These tools enable me to depict a fantasy or inner experience, not necessarily in a realistic, but rather in a playful, evocative way. Exploring the world and meeting people is integral to studies for my paintings. From my references I often go on to build props, sew clothes, or create an environment to further form a clear representation of my ideas.
I am interested in the modern mythology of it all. What deep repressed memories can be imparted visually to symbolize the whole of our human experience? Where are we in our connection with technology? How do we inform ourselves of our passions and escape the monotony of our modern repetitive existence? What are the symbols and stories beneath our individual and social development?
My first love is drawing and it is what I trust to access the flow of consciousness in my efforts to produce something unique. I will often redraw an image multiple times to memorize the parts I find beautiful until I feel I have perfected an imperfect flourish.
Narrative Art: The Space Between Drawing and Painting
I then translate my drawings into oil paintings while endeavoring to stay as loose and open to change as possible in the process. I have spent years determining the space between drawing and painting, to the point where my drawing informs the movement of my painting entirely. I equate the experience of drawing to a passionate and emotional dance, like salsa or tango. I love a dance with bold and inventive expression. When I paint, I use a similar technique, which allows me to keep the paint loose and suggestive until forms find their balance. I intentionally make a point of not being too strict about how the drawing “should” be. Instead, I draw to study and examine shapes, leaving massive room for experiment and changes.
I willingly give myself over to the experience of learning something new every time I start painting. Admittedly, it is often a battle between my tense and relaxed sides. In this vein, I experiment with different materials until I determine how my idea can best be translated. I am always searching for a balance between deliberate exaggeration and rendering my reference accurately.
I love the idea of allowing myself to purposefully create imperfection. This practice is common in cultural craft making. Amish quilters left what was called a “humility block” of colors in their quilted blankets, which did not repeat the predominant pattern through-out. The “Persian flaw” was left in carpets because only Allah can create perfection. The intentional error is also rumored to occur in Native American beadwork in the form of what is called a “spirit bead.” Interestingly, these deliberate “mistakes” are often addressing humility, and by leaving a trace of imperfection, they insert a point where “spirit” can enter or leave the work.
When I draw it is with quick, decisive marks and very little erasing. I keep my pencil on the paper, building the form without measuring and deliberately leaving lines that present multiple choices. In my work, the line between beauty, realism, and rendering is blurred by the emotional response of my intentional choices.
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Additional Narrative Art Works:
ABOUT KELLY HOUGHTON
Born in New York’s Hudson River Valley in 1973, Kelly grew up in American suburbia and eventually attended a number of art schools in New York City. Family sailing each summer and evening slideshows of her parents’ travel adventures cultured a bug for travel from childhood. She has since traveled the globe and lived in many international cities, working as an artist and museum professional, handling precious jewels and artifacts, and installing exhibitions. Early in her career she painted scenery for Hollywood studios. Kelly is a 1998 Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She is a lifelong student of Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Art, and Natural History.
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