Thursday, January 29, 2009

Artist Interview: Megan Kimber

Megan Kimber is an amazingly talented artist that currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated with a BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her work is so beautiful and amazing that I wanted to share her thoughts and images with you.

Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, NY. lived there 18 years.

I understand you spent a lot of time in upstate new york with your grandparents when you were young. How has this shaped your imagination and how you paint today?
Good lord, it had a HUGE influence on my work. My grandparents spent their summers in a big old 100 year old house in upstate NY on their family's land, out in the middle of nowhere. i spend a good portion of my summers up there as well when i was growing up. There was no AC, no TV; a very simple existence. So i just ran around the woods, inspecting everything i could - moss, rocks, animal bones, animal tracks in the mud, ferns, fossils, etc......there is a waterfall there, about 50 feet high. The house was also right on the edge of a lake, with a pebble beach leading up to it. We would search for "lucky stones" which had holes in them, and watched the tadpoles hatch. I was very lucky to have this place to grow up in - it was like the background of a fairy tale - a GOOD one, not a frilly one.

I first found your work by seeing a skateboard that was painted for a benefit for UAB visual arts. I also found out after, that your paintings have been used by Yellow Brand Skateboards. How did that come about? That sounds like a very fun project.
Yea i was surprised at how that all came about. A close friend of mine who has skated forever was the first to suggest that i contact some skate companies. I kept putting it off because i thought my painting style was nowhere near what would look good on a board. my stuff has tons of brushstrokes and subtle balances of color and usually you see really strong graphic styles on boards. But Lucian Moon at Satori wrote me back and said he was starting up a side company, Yellow Brand Skateboards, and he wanted me to do some work for him. We were both really excited to bring in a new look to the arena.

A lot of your paintings to me tread in the beautiful invisible realm between reality and fairy tales. What is it that draws you to this place?
you know what? sometimes i have no idea. I just get these ideas on my head as to what would be a beautiful, fascinating reality to me, and i paint it. You know, actually the more i think about it, the more i realize that i think i go that surreal route because i get terribly bored with day to day life and people and what i see around me. i need more stimulus than that.
All artists to some extent like to remove themselves from a certain reality and make their own, and i fall into that category as well. Alot of human interaction is just wayyyyy too complicated and ugly, so i take myself away from that with my work. There is no room for that bullshit in there. its more about simplicity; about humans and their emotions stripped down to their core.
My mom also read tons of fairy tales to me when i was little and so my brain was stimulated with the excitement of a secondary reality from early on; one in which really amazing things happened. My dad taught me tons about nature, which in and of itself is like a fairy tale - so much that happens in nature, on a minuscule or massive basis, is sometimes seemingly impossible and fantastic.

Could you walk us through your process when starting a new painting?
I start with a sketch in my sketchbook or a random piece of paper, usually of a person. Sometimes i sketch someone i know and just warp their features a bit, other times its just a made up character. Usually while I am sketching, i get this feeling or emotion off the character, like it just formed its own personality .... and i kind of envision what they are thinking about. then i think about what sort of environment to put them in. I have tons of reference photos that i have taken over the years to help my inspiration along as well. I will sort through and find a nice pattern or color swatch or mood or environment that would match the character's story well. Next i either transfer the sketch to the board i will paint on, or i just do it freehand. I go over the lines with a crappy pen and ink and dont worry about shaky hands or mess ups. Then I think about what the main color scheme will be in the painting. I lay down washes of thinned out color that i want to be able to show a little beneath the painting. usually i do opposites in temperature - cool washes for a warm final painting, or warm washes for a cool final painting. Then i just go to town and build up layers of paint, shadows to lights.......I always use acrylic paint.

What other artist(s) do you admire?
oh man, there are many. Chris Berens is my latest art crush. I also love Andrew Hem, Jonathan Viner, Scott Radke, Edmund Dulac, Egon Schiele, Sally Mann, Derek Weisberg, Sterling Hundley, Kris Lewis.

I see you have painted a picture of Louis Schefano! What prompted this? He is an old friend of my husband’s. 2 years ago on new years eve i didnt have any plans, so i just went to Rojo just to get some food. Louis was playing there that night, i think with Taylor. Around that period of time, I realized that I have always just painted women and i needed more practice painting men. Louis was interesting looking and I really was surprised at how much I liked his music. So after his show I just asked him if i could paint him and he said yes. He was very cool to paint. he has these crazy good planes, angles and colors on his face.

What do you do when you aren't painting?
working my regular job. running errands. taking photos. listening to music, research random things online......

What brings you to and keeps you in Birmingham?
I was living in Savannah, GA for the 6 years prior to coming here. I got my Master's degree at SCAD in Illustration. I tried staying on there for a bit because I love the FEEL of that little city. It was very inspiring and spooky and full of stories and visual interest. However, in terms of jobs, there was little there for me unless I decided to go into the medical field or work at the stinky paper plant. A relationship was also in the process of crashing and burning so i knew it was just time to move. I chose Birmingham cause my sister lives here with her family and I wanted to be around my nephew as he grew up. On the other hand, I made the mistake of thinking that Birmingham was a bigger city than Savannah and so there would be more art jobs for me. FALSE! I dont know what keeps me here, I dont know how much longer i will stay here. I have the perpetual "grass is greener" syndrome.

Are there other artist in Birmingham you like? if so who?
Merrilee Challis, Wendi Flowers, Daisy Winfrey, Jonathan Purvis, Charles Buchanan, Pat Snow, Chris Lawson..... I'm sure i am leaving some out - im a flake, sorry.

Where can people see your work? web, galleries, etc.
my main site: I also now have my work up on a permanent basis at Matt Jones Gallery at 2830 6th Ave South, here in town.

What are some of your favorite blogs/websites?
you know, i really dont have any. anytime i try to find some cool ones, i get so many links to other cool sites that it becomes overwhelming so i dont even bother delving in. but i must admit, i am a bit of a nerd, i just started reading the Popular Science website lately. And i like the backlogs of the Daily Coyote.

What do you for fun?
well, lets see. i go through phases...... Honestly, I get stir crazy sometimes because i cant find different, original things to do around here. I hate to say it but I get bored alot. I guess I still dont know enough people to tell me the secret cool places to go. But this weekend is the Chinese festival! I like festivals......But for the most part i really do love exploring, like nosing through some abandoned place, or wandering through the woods.....I almost always have my camera with me....I love flying, I love going on trips.....i also hang out with my nephew, who is 4. we just have these hilarious, random, crazy conversations and make faces at each other. He's sweet and keeps my head in perspective. He's fun to explore with, too. Also I love eating really good food from different, faraway lands.
Things i want to do in the future for fun?
I want to learn how to fly a plane. i want to go to Thailand.

What is on your ipod right now?
hmmmm.....alot of Grandaddy. Explosions in the Sky, The Breeders, Devotchka, Elliott Smith, Arcade Fire, old Liz Phair, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Band of Horses ....and some random stuff that i put on there to get me inspired to go running and get healthy. You get a bad heart and a funny looking ass when you sit around and paint all day!


  1. wow! incredible talent, and wonderful interview! great questions!!

  2. I LOVE her paintings!! There's so much more to Birmingham than most people realize...
    (And I spot a Schefano!)