I first came across Kimberly Mathews on Instagram and after scrolling through her feed of beautiful watercolors I knew I had to follow her journey. Kim’s ability to showcase fine details within a medium many consider to be uncontrollable is astounding.
Awestruck over her work, I wanted to learn more. So I reached out to Kim, invited her to share more about herself, her work and her drop dead gorgeous studio with us and I’m beyond thrilled she said “Yes”.
On with the interview and studio tour.
What is one thing you love about your space and why?
I love my space for many reasons. The number one, however, being the location of the studio within my home. I like the flexibility of my day and the ease of taking a short break yet getting chores done during that time. I also appreciate the size and convenience of everything I need in one room.
In my previous home my studio was in the basement and my desktop computer and printer were located on the second floor office. When my husband and I moved into this home, I had the opportunity to design the space that would be the most user friendly for me.
The second highlight is the wall of windows. My desk faces the city and although I spend most of my time looking down at my paper, the sounds of the city traffic motivates me to be productive and the incoming light creates a perfect working environment.
What inspires you to create?
Beauty inspires me to create, or quite often, the need for beautification inspires me.
When did you get into watercolor? Did you paint with watercolor as a child? Did you start off with a different medium and worked your way to watercolor?
I picked up a watercolor brush for the first time about four years ago. I was motivated by the desire to challenge myself to loosen up my style. Since I was young I have gravitated toward mediums I felt in control over such as pencils and pastels. I was drawn to the simplistic, delicate beauty of great watercolor paintings and since watercolor has a reputation for its lack of control and is known to be difficult to master, I decided to see what it could teach me. Something resonated within me from the onset, and although I have a long path to travel in regards to loosening up my style, what I have taken away so far is monumental.
Your work is amazing. Incredibly realistic and so highly detailed. Could you share a photo of one of your pieces and tell us what was challenging about it. How long it took you to complete. The actual size of the piece and what you love about it?
This piece, entitled "Fortuitous Companions", is 22"x22" (32"x32" framed.) It took approximately three weeks to create. It was a tedious piece due to all the detail in the centers of the peonies, so the biggest challenge was finding my way back into the piece after taking a break. Because of this, I did not allow myself to step away too often, afraid that it would take much longer than it needed to. My goal was to add as much variation of color to the center of the flowers while still maintaining a soft, delicate feel. We certainly feel Kim accomplished this.
You stated you spend quite some time on your pieces and that its so relaxing that you often don't realize how long you've been working on them. Do you find you focus like this in other areas of your life or is this the one space that pulls you in like this?
Yes, I tend to get lost in the present moment and thoroughly enjoy whatever is directly before me. On the downside, I tend to lose sight of the big picture and can easily be too perfectionistic with things that should not hold that much importance. Over the years I have strove for balance in every aspect of my life, but I am definitely not there, yet!
Do you have a secret tip on organizing your space that you would be willing to share with readers?
I’m a very organized and neat person. Clutter distracts me and messy spaces often cause mishaps with finished pieces, so my biggest organizational tip is “everything has a home”.
I designed my space with that in mind. It has lots of cabinets, drawers, and a big closet, and since I designed my studio from an intended bedroom, I have the bonus of a connected bathroom with a sink for keeping things clean.
I mentioned that our condo is on the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and it is captivating and inspiring to watch the numerous daily barges carry their goods up and down the river. Between the river and the sound of city traffic I am reminded of how everything and everyone needs to work together to produce and create and it inspires me to play a small role in that big picture. The parallel of working with water as the vehicle for my paint while living in a river condo was completely coincidental, but it seems appropriate. I’m hoping my progress as a watercolor artist will be as swift and productive as the Mighty Mississippi River.
ADVICE FOR NEW ARTISTS
I was given this advice and only partially adhered to it, causing much frustration and a slower pace to begin with.
Use the best quality brushes, paints, and paper that you can afford right from the beginning. The technique and feel is drastically different from one level of supplies to another. The brushes will hold different amounts of water and distribute the paint differently on the paper. The paper will absorb differently and the paints will appear more or less vibrant. I am upgrading my brushes now and in some respects it is like starting all over again. That said, one should definitely experiment with types of paper, brushes, etc., but know that the quality will make a huge impact on the outcome and that there is a big learning curve between beginner and professional supplies.
Also, I always check the archival properties of my papers and the lightfastness of my paints. These attributes will affect the longevity of the work. I also frame under museum glass. I paint mostly florals, at present, and my desire is to capture the beauty of the flowers before they fade and wither and I want my paintings to capture that beauty for many more lifetimes.
We would love to hear your work goals, travel dreams or inspiring words for someone who may feel like giving up or who is just starting out
Over the years I have taken on a variety of commissioned jobs and volunteer work. For me it is easy to follow through when there are restrictions and deadlines. What has not been easy is my childhood dream of becoming a professional fine artist. The self confidence and motivation needed to push through a piece of work that has no outside parameters has been my biggest personal accomplishment.
It was always my default mode to look at my work and my life in a critical light. And in so doing, I limited my progress. Yet life and art are made up of a series of colorful layers. Looked at individually, the earliest layers can often be distasteful and unappealing. In my formative years, I tended to linger on the imperfections and define the whole work in light of them. This created numerous discarded, unfinished, and meaningless sketches.
Now my perspective has shifted, which has changed everything. I now truly believe that to become a masterpiece, one has to develop the courage to look back, analyze, and embrace all the layers of life and only through continuing to work through another layer does the beauty of life and art begin to emerge.
Your space is so beautiful and we love all your pretty tools and accents. What tools do you use and recommend?
White surgical cloths (huck towels) - These are lint free and super absorbent. I wipe excess water/paint off my brushes constantly with these towels. Couldn’t do a painting without them. (BONUS - the blue huck towels are perfect for washing windows and mirrors. I use the blue so I don’t confuse my cleaning towels with my painting ones. I never have to use paper towels!)
Paper - Fabriano Artistico Watercolor paper, 300lb hot press. Someday I will experiment more with cold press, but for now, I can achieve the detail and fine lines that I like with the hot press. I use the heavy weight paper to keep it from buckling as much from the water and stretching isn’t necessary. My paintings will still buckle some, but I always lightly wet the back side of a painting after it is complete and weight it down over night.
Paints - Sennelier French watercolor tubes
Brushes - I use a mixture of sable hair and synthetic brushes. Currently a few of my favorites include
Red Sable Spotters from Jackson’s - https://www.jacksonsart.com/en-us/brushes/brushes/brushes-for-watercolor/brand/jacksons/hair---type/red-sable,
Black Gold 311 Quills found at https://www.thebrushguys.com/cgi-bin/sc-v4/proddisp.pl?client=firesaleguys&catid=2&PRID=2492
Escoda Prado brushes
Paint Tray - I use flat, porcelain, white trays from Sur La Table -https://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-2584910/Porcelain+Serving+Platter?cat=TCA-258137_Platters+%26+Trays