I first discovered Kari-Lise Alexander’s work this year and was immediately captivated by the sense of storytelling and surreal beauty that she captures in her paintings. Her paintings of figures in gardens and natural surroundings, interacting with the plants, insects, animals, and sky, are magnetic in how they draw you into the scene and create a mystery. Kari-Lise was kind enough to tell me a little more about her inspiration and process.
Thank you, Kari-Lise for sharing your thoughts! Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jessica: How would you describe your art?
Kari-Lise: My work is rooted in the exploration of identity and the natural world. I focus on capturing the fauna and flora found around my home in the Pacific Northwest. Combining that love for the natural world with a focus on the female form I strive to create realistic interwoven pieces with a surreal bent that often reflects a deep internal monolog.
Jessica: What was your journey like in becoming an artist?
Kari-Lise: About 10 years ago I decided to pick up a paintbrush after several years of not doing art. I had to start over from scratch. It’s been a long journey. Many ups and downs but I’ve worked hard and never gave up.
Jessica: What influences your artistic aesthetic?
Kari-Lise: I’m influenced by many things and I make it a point to surround myself with those things. Many, if not all of my pieces feature flowers. I’m a passionate gardener and take any moment not in the studio to be out in my garden. I’m also influenced by my friends and fellow artists. Having a good and trusted group of artists that support each other is vital help you grow artistically.
Jessica: What kind of challenges have you faced and overcome as an artist, internal or external?
Kari-Lise: You’re always going to face one obstacle or another. It doesn’t matter how far you move up in the art world there is always challenges, rejection, and hurdles to overcome. The most important part is staying the course and being true to your own work. Doors will open, it’s just a matter of when and often they’re ones you weren’t expecting.
Jessica: What drives you to paint?
Kari-Lise: I ask myself this question often and I actually don’t know. It’s something that I have to do. It’s unexplainable to me. If I take a break from painting it soon happens that I start feeling the pull back to the easel. I find myself irritable, feeling a bit crazy and I just have to get back to creating.
Jessica: What are a few of your favorite supplies and materials to use?
Kari-Lise: My favorite paints are from Daniel Smith, Gamblin and Williamsburg. I love painting on panel, but have been branching out to canvas when working on large pieces. One of my favorite things I use in the studio is an oyster shell for my mediums when painting. They’re free (just ask your local seafood restaurant) and biodegradable!
Jessica: Do you have other hobbies or interest that are parallel to your artistic practice?
Kari-Lise: All of my interest revolves around my art. My garden is an example of that, it’s where I grow the flowers I paint. I also throw extremely elaborate tea parties once a year for a group of creatives from all fields. The tea parties are surreal, and it feels like one of my pieces coming to life! I also own a business with fellow artist Redd Walitzki called Moth and Myth. This business was born out of Redd’s love for moths and I came on board with the same passion for Lepidopteras.
Jessica: What is your painting schedule like? Do you have any tips for artists on creating a studio practice?
It varies. If I’m preparing for a big show I will paint 5-6 days a week for 10-12 hours a day. If it’s just a normal painting schedule I paint 7 hours, 5 days a week. I think the main thing for creating a studio practice is constancy. That might be the time of day your working, how long your working for or something as simple as if you light a candle every time you sit down to work. If you’re able to create constancy it’s easier to work and focus on what you’re doing.
Jessica: How do you know when a painting is finished?
Kari-Lise: When I go through it close-up and nothing sticks out as incomplete. Then I stand back and if I feel the same way from looking at it afar I know it’s done!
Jessica: What are some long term goals or projects you are excited about?
Kari-Lise: I’m actually starting a long term series call Venerate. Venerate will be a series of large-scale portraits of women working in the arts today. The focus is to highlight each of them emphasizing the role of women in shaping the future of art. A loud declaration that our work will not be minimized or ignored as our predecessors. These portraits will also work as an homage, each inspired by the past works of women artists from history. By looking at both the future and the past, Venerate will seek to encompass the value of women in the arts throughout time. The goal of this project is to celebrate the women artists working today and to educate the viewer about the amazing women whose roles in art history have been diminished, undervalued, or forgotten.
Jessica: So amazing! What are some other artist’s work that inspires you?
Kari-Lise: I’m really inspired by all the women artists who have come before. They faced overwhelming obstacles, such as lack of education, sexism, absence of opportunities, etc.. Many of those through the centuries beat the odds and were able to have amazing careers! Some of my favorites are (there are far too many to list) Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun, Violet Oakley, Cecilia Beaux, Leonor Fini, and some many more!
Jessica: What do you hope your work says to the viewer?
Kari-Lise: I want the observer to come to their own conclusions about my work. Everyone has there own story and when you look at a piece of art it reflects your own experiences in some way.
Jessica: Tell us your most inspiring place you’ve ever been.
Kari-Lise: I’ve been many places in the US and internationally and I think the place that inspired me the most was seeing Georgia O’ Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. I never understood O’keeffe’s work until I went to her home and saw first hand the trees she painted, her courtyard she made several pieces about and the lifestyle she cultivated for herself in a very remote place. To understand an artist’s motivations and to put yourself in their shoes is a truly remarkable thing.
You can see more of Kari-Lise Alexander’s work at https://kari-lise.com/