Interview: Kelly Vivanco


Not only does she have an amazing style, an incredible amount of mediums she is skilled with, but she also has a great sense of humor, that helped make this the longest and most enjoyable interview I have done so far.


CM: Can you tell us a little bit of what got you started in art, any schools you have gone to or specific training?

KV: I have been drawing and painting and making stuff since I was little. I would make a nest of paper, crayons, markers and other materials wherever I sat down. I used to draw subterranean cities and space warrens at home and in class and was fed by praise I guess because I drew well. I have a BFA in fine arts from the Laguna College of Art and Design. They are a small, classical, core skills oriented school with a lot of focus on figurative drawing for their fine art majors. I also did a semester in NYC before graduation and that was an eye opener.

CM: You have a very consistent feel in your art, What are the main things that inspire you? Are you inspired by things that happen to you, or what you observe from life?

KV: That’s funny. I used to think my work looked a bit schizophrenic. It took an effort to eventually congeal. I am inspired by old photos, vintage things, quirkiness, decay, animals, colors and moods…if that makes sense. I try to get a certain feeling going in the look and atmosphere of a painting so I naturally gravitate towards art that echoes likewise, even if it has an entirely different effect. I am seeing gobs of exciting work being produced by people today and I am always inspired by past masters like Hans Holbein and NC Wyeth, pre-raphaelites, Van Gogh and so on.


CM: I notice that some of the figures from your work seem to reappear in other works, are these girls self portraits or a fictional character?

KV: I noticed this too. Tell her to stop stalking me. No really, I realized this a couple of years ago. The same fictional girls would reappear and I would do it completely unintentionally. I would look at one painting up in my studio and then across to another earlier painting and see the same girl at different ages. I don’t use models or try to portray anyone in particular but the same ‘characters’ keep coming up unintentionally. I am sure a psychologist would have a field day with that, but tell them to keep their findings to themselves. I prefer the mystery.

CM: Your main painting gallery is filled with both oil and acrylic, is there one that you prefer over the other, or is one used for a specific type of feeling your going for? I also noticed that you have almost a different style for each medium, such as the outlines that you use to surround the figure when painting in acrylic, is there a reason for this?

KV: I switch off and don’t prefer one more than the other. When I get tired or find myself getting too rigid in one medium, I use the other for the next piece. My oils tend to be tight and rendered and my acrylics layered with washes and bold outlines. Of course this changes depending on the support, canvas or panel. I have been doing some more rendered, small acrylics on panel recently so, I suppose there is no use defining this sort of thing.


CM: How did your comic “Patches” get started? Have you had any art shows were the paintings from this comic were shown?

KV: Patches got started as something silly with no expectation of being well done. There has always been a commentary of weird things in my head that had no other outlet so Patches was the solution. I was participating in web forums that centered around other web-comics at the time Patches was birthed, so you could say it was the encouragement of that community which kicked it off too. At first I didn’t think I could do the same characters over and over without them varying wildly from day to day but it hasn’t been so bad. Even if it is that bad, who cares? They are cartoon rodent-like creatures scrawled on kraft paper, but I love them so. Patches is an entity to itself so there really isn’t a crossover into my ‘regular’ art. Maybe there could be…

CM: You draw comics, paint in oil and acrylic as well as linocuts, are there any other type of medium you would like to work in? Or something different, music, clothes design, bee keeping?

KV: So many interests, so little time. I had to make a conscious cut off to getting to wildly fragmented in my creative interests. There are just too many things that look like they would be fun. If I had time and sewing skill I would try to sew the clothes I come up with in my paintings. Some of the dresses and hats would be killer in real life. I would like to get further into sculpture as well. I did a custom vinyl recently for a show in San Diego and it was quite satisfying. I would love to make some figures like the girls in my paintings.


CM:When I draw, it’s not very elegant, something I really need to work on. Is there any area as far as art goes that you would like to be better in? Any area that you are too good in, and need to be stopped??

KV: It’s all about expectations and doing what you love to do. Do it for yourself. If you draw or paint to please other people, you will always be dissatisfied and unsure. One can never really know what anyone else will think. If you do it for yourself, and avoid the fear of ‘looking stupid’ or ‘doing it wrong’ you will get lost in the process and then the amazing stuff happens. I would like to be better at doing larger oils. I lack patience sometimes :)

CM: Who are some current artists that you like, and would like to maybe share gallery space with? Any artists from the past you would like to be shown with?

KV: Current artists I like are Joe Sorren, Mark Ryden, John Currin, Jeff Soto, Jonathan Weiner, Odd Nerdrum. There are tons of amazing artists I adore, a lot of them are on flickr and I enjoy seeing their work on a regular basis. Showing with an artist from the past (like those mentioned in question 2) would be like having lunch with Lincoln. A weird gobsmacked sandwich experience.


CM: Sometimes an artists work gives a hint to what the artist may be like, what they believe in, entertainment they fancy. Is there anything about you that would be surprising to know, if someone only knew your art?

KV: I guess people are surprised that I don’t have some elaborate back-story for my paintings. They take shape spontaneously and organically and aren’t full of fancy meaning. I like to paint and see where it goes. I often don’t have answers to questions posed by my finished works. People ask me what a painting is about, I just ask them what they think it’s about. Their answer is as valid as mine, in my opinion. Also I think people would be surprised that I make a hastily drawn web comic about rodents after looking at my paintings, or maybe not.

CM: I have some art buddies that do some weird things while working; some end up with paint on their face, grind teeth etc. Do have any odd habits while you paint?

KV: Not particularly. I don’t like to discuss a work in progress, or hear anyone’s take on it. I feel oddly superstitious that way. Like talking about it will take something away that I need to finish the piece.


CM: Lastly, just some random questions for you:
A. Do have specific brands of supplies you use, or whatever the store has in stock?

KV: Fumes give me headaches so I use Artisan water soluble oil paints then coast in with a surgical strike of Liquin to coat it when it’s all dry. They behave a little differently than traditional oils but I have gotten used to them. I use Liquitex soft body acrylics and mediums. I like their consistency and colors and they aren’t prohibitively expensive.

B. Any music you are embarrassed that you listen to?

KV: I think soundtracks have some stigma to them but scores by Thomas Newman are awesome. That’s Thomas Newman, not Randy Newman. That would be embarrassing.

C. Would you be more flattered if someone tattooed you work on them, or was so influenced by your work that they painted very similar to you?

KV: Tattooed, definitely. I would feel quite surly if I knew someone was intentionally copying me.

Well that’s all for this interview. Make sure you head over to Kelly’s site and look at the rest of her work, also check an see if she will be having any work shown at a gallery near you.

Kelly Vivanco Homepage

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  • Reply
    ephemeral mists
    Nov 25, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks for the great interview. I just discovered Kelly’s work through her last solo show at Halogen. I’m a huge new fan :)

  • Reply
    A Conversation with Kelly Vivanco | Hi-Fructose Magazine
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