Boulder-based artist Kelly Degnan doesn’t shy away from the use of color or bold choices. Next Generation Abstract Expressionism: This is how she describes her paintings best known for their vibrant and eye-popping palette. We sat down with Degnan to hear about how her large scale, sophisticated work takes shape.
Do you feel that your artistic style has evolved throughout the years?
Now that I’ve been painting for many years, I realize what a gift it is to be able to paint and create for a living. I try to bring that gratitude to my practice every day, by being more accessible to my clients and pushing my work in new directions. My process of creating has become more specific and disciplined over the years. With dedicated daily studio hours, I’m finding that my style is able to develop quicker and I’m able to bring an increased level of professionalism to my work. And I adore my studio, which I share with girlfriends, so being in there daily means I’m creating more, and even happier paintings!
You seem have a signature style and use of color. Do you define it as abstract and if so, has it changed throughout the years or always stayed the same?
Bold use of color is the common thread in my paintings. If you compare my early work to my paintings today, you would have no idea it was the same artist! However, I have consistently used a bright palette and created work with a lot of energy. Today, my work is all abstract, but since every client and every space is different, the styles will still vary. Pops of bright colors and raw, handwritten text appear on almost all of my paintings, but I am constantly experimenting with new styles, which keeps my practice fresh and exciting for me.
How do you go about beginning a new piece?
The bulk of my work is commissions, which I love! If I’m lucky enough to work with a local client, I will start with a visit to their space and discuss color, style, surrounding elements and the ‘feel’ they want to create. Then I put together a digital board of examples to further narrow the concept before I begin. Once I start the painting, I will send images for review and arrange studio visits for feedback. It is a very interactive, fun process until we’ve both decided the final piece is exactly where we want it to be.
What influences your work?
My work is heavily influenced by the Abstract Expressionism movement, and specifically by the work of Cy Twombly, Joan Mitchell and Willem de Kooning whose paintings have taught me how to loosen up and experiment with different types of strokes. But my inspiration for each piece comes from the client or space. Every painting is a new adventure directed by the energy the client brings to the process.
How did you transition into a working artist?
I grew up learning to paint from my oldest sister, who is an art teacher and fine artist in North Carolina. But I didn’t think I was ‘supposed’ to be an artist, so I instead went into advertising and publishing and kept art as a hobby. When I had a painting framed at a local gallery as a gift for my now-husband, the gallery owner asked if I would begin showing my work. That kicked off 10 years of my back and forth struggle between wanting to paint but feeling like I ‘should’ do something else! Finally, after my youngest started kindergarten, I gave myself permission to paint full-time and I’ve never looked back.
Is there anything you’re working on with your current pieces?
I create vibrant abstracts in bold color palettes. These are often based on a word or a feeling (amour or joy) and I let the lines and textures build from there. My goal is to create work that lifts the energy of a space. My hope is that when someone walks into a room where one of my paintings is hanging, they can’t help but smile and feel happy.
“Pops of bright colors and raw, handwritten text appear on almost all of my paintings, but I am constantly experimenting with new styles, which keeps my practice fresh and exciting for me.”