Not many people jump into their art feet first with a style that is so playful and true to themselves, but Kelcie Howren is one of them.
Her art has this delicate balance of spirituality and joy that is so full, overflowing with life. Seeing her art is like meeting her in person. She is a creature of the sun, a wild spirit roaming among us.
Let's talk to her a little bit.
“She is a creature of the sun, a wild spirit roaming among us.”
Kelcie, can you talk a little bit about your background? How did you get started painting?
I’ve always been creative – I learned later in life. I took an art class in second grade and loved it but then forgot it. When I was a kid it was like I was asleep, but in high school I took my first sculpture class and loved it. I'm a very tactile person, and I loved the feeling of the clay in my hands. I was like, "holy moly, this is amazing!" So I was going to be a sculpture major in college, but I think the professors were kind of on an ego trip, so I dropped it. Later I picked it back up again when I was working in an art gallery. Just watching someone paint can be the biggest way you can learn. I was really grateful for that experience. Working for that art gallery brought out my own ideas.
That’s definitely been the common thread in my life – whether it’s setting a table, creating a meal, getting dressed, I’m always striving to live artfully. It’s more enjoyable. I’m naturally a creative person. If I’m putting food on my plate, it’s going to look beautiful - that’s just the way I am.
Who are your biggest influences?
Mother nature as a whole is my biggest influence. The fibers, the textures, the colors, just everything that’s organic. I’m naturally drawn to using more earthy materials. As far as artists go – every artist I meet I draw inspiration from. Every artist is a conduit and allows creative energy to flow through them - that's inspiring.
“I'm always striving to live artfully.”
My second grade teacher was obsessed with Georgia O'Keeffe and had her art all around the room. It had this subconscious effect on me that I didn’t notice until I got older. I find I’m drawn to the desert, bones, these soft tones. Since then Georgia has been following me throughout my life.
And Zilia Sanchez her artwork is so incredible – the way she uses these subterranean forms and stretches them over the canvas. When I discovered Doze Green it was like divine intervention. All of his pieces have meaning to this spirit realm and our true purpose on earth.
Do you think every person is a creative being?
Yeah, I think we’re creative beings- we are co-creators of our own life. I think every single person on this earth has a spiritual tie to the spirit world – whatever that may be to you – I think we are tied together by this universal cord, and we can all tap into it, but some people don’t remember how and get in their own way.
Do you have a particular “client” in mind when you’re making your work?
That’s what I struggle with – actually getting my art out there – getting people to interact or get it in their hands. My ideal client would be somebody who definitely has an emotional response to my piece. Someone who appreciates why little details were done in certain way.
I do love getting commissions, where someone says "here are the colors I love and the dimensions I want. I love this piece, and I want something like it." Then when I go to make it, I want to know their birthday, their struggles, what they love, what they're passionate about, and want to create that piece around that person and include these movements or hand gestures or constellations in the background – it’s fun.
I know you use a lot of different mediums - fiber, acrylic, resin... Did it take you a while to find the right fit for yourself?
At first I struggled with not having a cozy niche. I felt like I needed to have one. It would be easier for people to understand. It’s easier for people to put you in a box. One day I thought: Screw that. I don’t fit in a box.
“One day I thought: Screw that. I don't fit in a box.”
If I see something that looks really cool, I’m going to try it. Recently I've been using resin, wood, fibers, acrylic, watercolors... I gravitate more towards the fibers and woods because I'm so tactile. I don’t have a kiln, so I don't use clay anymore, but I love it. There is something to be said about just being able to paint and just pick up a brush and scribble just because I want to feel it.
Also with dying and weaving, it feels like a tie to our ancestors, because it’s such an old form of art and textile. Having that lineage, it feels like you’re kind of one with this other historic community of women which is really cool.
What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses in your work?
I’m able to do any project in a creative way – my mind does that, it’s automatic, it’s immediate. My weakness is doing it too swiftly. Sometimes I’ll just got for it without practicing it. You know you need to practice – do a small version to test out everything, but sometimes it works better when I don’t.
I’m definitely a cut twice measure none person. Which definitely gets me in trouble. But if it turns out bad, no worries. I’ll just keep going until I get it.
I love all color, but I definitely love working with chartreuse and Prussian blue. Lately I've been called more to the earth tones – terra cotta, oranges, yellow.
There is a person I follow named Vyana Novus (@vyana.novus). They do these foraging workshops where they go out and forage for earthen materials. They're always making these pigments, and they’re so beautiful. I'm definitely into natural pigments and natural dyes.
What are your long term goals for your work?
I need to get myself online consistently. As much as I want to create the art. I would like to share it with other people. I need to just do it. I get so distracted, and I need to have some... boundaries.
When you see someone online whose work is amazing, it's easy to automatically think that they’re this badass that doesn’t need to practice and is inherently amazing, but the reality is the majority of us are practicing. We’re good because we do this frequently. You’d be great too if you did it and kept doing it.
I think having somebody to bump ideas off of, or just have someone listen – that’s huge. That’s one thing that I’ve started to do more social through social media – be more supportive. I want to tell you and other artists what you're doing is amazing and to keep going.
Kelcie Howren is an artist based in North Carolina. She has an Art History minor from the University of Houston and a Bachelor's in Marketing. She's an event coordinator, art teacher, and fantastic chef at Storks Rest Farm. Follow her on Instagram @kelciehowren