“I made a deliberate decision to listen to my gut and become a full-time fine artist. Since then, I have never looked back.”
Originally from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Kris Rehring got her start at the University of Miami studying graphic design and fine arts. Afterwards, she worked as a graphic designer for 15 years in Miami and eventually pursued a Master’s of Fine Arts degree at the University of Tennessee.
Lexington Art League (LAL): What media do you work in and is there anything specific about your work conceptually that speaks to your creative process? If not, have you ever been interested in trying other mediums?
Kris Rehring: I paint primarily with oil paints and draw with graphite, charcoal and pens. The process of making a painting from selecting and preparing the substrate added to the process of translating what starts as an initial spark of an idea into a history of layers of pigments on the canvas is what it is all about to me. That process takes time. It reveals layers of history and cannot be deleted with the click of a button. It all adds up to what hopefully becomes an interesting, rich work. That said, I do enjoy and use other media if it is right for the concept I am exploring. For example, I have one piece floating around in my brain in which I could go into printmaking to execute. The designer in me appreciates all forms of expression.
LAL: What inspired/inspires you to create?
KR: I prefer to work from direct observation. And figurative work makes up the majority. I want to capture contemporary moments. Through narratives, intentional or not, I like to deal with real settings or moments people are in.
LAL: Who (artists, family, friends) inspires you? Why?
KR: Oh the list could go on and on. I have a wonderful, supportive family and local community of friends. I value them all deeply. I can't believe how much this has become a significant part of life, but I have to admit social media really helps in the day-to-day grind of otherwise very isolated studio work. Through Facebook and others I can get feedback or share things. But I must be really disciplined about it or it can eat up precious time.
LAL: What went into the creation of your piece for FEAST?
KR: Well, usually an idea sparks and considering the final piece I envision, I will either line up a model or plan whatever I need for reference material. In this particular piece, Diner in Solitude, I was fortunate. That moment presented itself right in front of me while traveling. It was one of those stop everything and excuse me moments while I quickly took reference photos. I do understand that it took my eye to recognize the concept in front of me that others would not necessarily see, but I do consider it a bonus that I did not have to actually stage the composition. The initial idea, strong graphic composition and immediacy of my paint-handling all worked together to capture the psychological particulars of that slice of time.
LAL: Does the rest of your artwork follow along the same lines as this piece? If not, what themes are typically exemplified in your artwork?
KR: I'd say it does. I am very much interested in people living their lives day after day, obviously from my small perspective. Even though trends change, news happens, we share commonalities that have been dealt with for generations. I find that really compelling—how outward appearances change, but inside issues may not.
LAL: What goal do you hope to reach every time you create something?
KR: Ultimately a piece is successful in my mind if I feel there was a relationship with it—a give and take, a conversation. This should be evident to viewers. It's that something that makes people want to look and engage. I may have a specific, very clear idea of what I intend to create, but I find that most of the time, while in the process of making it, the work tells me what it needs. There is an underlying dialog if I am lucky and that makes the most compelling work.
LAL: What advice would you give to new/ambitious artists?
KR: Work hard. Put in the hours. Focus. Show up even if you don't have an idea of where to start. Read. There is a place for your art. And don't listen to people that spread the myth that you cannot make a living as an artist. Find out what it is that you would regret not doing for the rest of your life and do it.
LAL: Are there any pieces that you are most proud of?
KR: Yes, Vintage Dress is a painting that was an exercise in sheer determination both physically and mentally to execute and I am immensely proud of it. Here is a link to it: http://www.krisrehring.com/too8bu559kj34kmz6vis77ny4w5yl3
LAL: Can you remember the first thing you created?
KR: I remember the first significant drawing. It isn't that it particularly showed exceptional skill, in fact it didn't, but it was significant in that it was the first time I got lost in the process of making art. This was a particularly challenging time in middle school after my parents' divorce. For a short window of time I lived with my dad. I remember having this great image of one of the famous castles in Rome, the Castel Sant'Angelo. I remember spreading out over the dining table with pencils and large sheets of paper. I meticulously gridded-out the image and spent all day totally lost in the act of drawing, to the point of getting a full-on low-blood sugar attack with shaking hands and cold sweats. Before I knew it, it was evening and I had forgotten to eat or drink!
LAL: Is there anything that you have always dreamed of accomplishing with your artwork?
KR: Oh I just want to keep getting better and better. Life is too short.
LAL: What helps you "get in the zone" when you're creating something? Music, food, etc.?
KR: Routine. Good sleep. Healthy food. I have a fantastic studio space that a mentor, artist friend handed down to me and I share that space with three close artists and friends. I smile everyday I unlock that door and walk in. I'll start the day with classical music and podcasts. Savvy Painter by Antrese Wood is a favorite. I'll rock-out later in the day.
LAL: Are you ever "blocked"? What helps you get passed that and start creating again?
KR: When that demon shows up, for starters I know not to listen to my really mellow music. Usually I have to walk away and exercise or do something totally different. It can get ugly but I have learned some coping skills. Addressing problems within the work in a pragmatic way helps if I can manage to separate ego from whatever issue I have run into.
LAL: Have you ever lived in a place where your artwork just flourished? What cities would you say are hotbeds of creativity?
KR: When I lived in Miami, it was just before Art Basel, and Miami Beach's rebirth. Keith Haring's art was the hot thing. I have to acknowledge the community I live in and all their support throughout the years. It's good to see the growth in Knoxville's art scene as well as our whole southern region. I'll tell you a dreamy, amazing hotbed of creativity that I am fortunate enough to be a part of this summer. I will be participating in the Masters Program in JSS in Civita Castellana, Italy. This is a summer art school led by artist Israel Hershberg. Ann Gale will be the guest of honor artist. This particular program will be an intense six weeks. There are many other workshops as well led by respected artists from all over. I cannot wait and am sure to be challenged and inspired.
Diner In Solitude by Kris Rehring