“It is my hope that when you view my painting from across the room, the large shapes make a strong visual statement that allow you to easily see what the subject is, then, upon closer inspection, you find yourself lost in the paint texture. I am always striving to elevate the scene I am painting in order to show the viewer the everyday beauty surrounding us. In each painting I aim to accurately represent the subject while allowing the paint to have an equal voice and a strong presence.”Kim VanDerHoek
Kim VanDerHoek was born in Southern California and grew up in the mountains of Big Bear City. As a child she spent her time climbing trees, riding horses, hiking through the woods, and sledding down snow-covered hills.
Since her childhood was engulfed by the wild beauty of nature, Kim developed an early appreciation for the outdoors and a fascination for urban environments, which she continues to explore through her art.
After graduating in 1993 from the California College of the Arts in Oakland with a BFA in Illustration, Kim worked as a graphic designer for eleven years. She realized the design field wasn’t for her, and quit her job.
Kim felt her previous design job didn’t allow her to properly utilize her artistic talents, she needed a more creative outlet. One Christmas Kim’s husband gave her an easel and suggested that she start painting again. A few months later Kim began attending plein air painting classes.
“I enjoy the challenges plein air painting poses. Dealing with the weather, changing light and other hurdles of outdoor painting has forced me to have a plan for each painting, to paint with commitment and to fearlessly experiment.”Kim VanDerHoek
Plein air painting beautifully combined her love of being outside, creating art, and studying from life. Through plein air painting, Kim felt she gained a better understanding of the effects of light and atmosphere.
An Interview with Kim VanDerHoek
Q. Is there someone who inspires you daily?
A. Almost every day I talk on the phone with my friend and business partner Kelley Sanford. Together we run an online monthly art competition called Art Muse Contest. Over the hundreds of hours we’ve spent talking to one another our friendship and mutual respect has deepened.
Kelley is a creative thinker and we often end up brainstorming about art or the art business even when we have no intention of doing so. Her encouragement and belief in my work has inspired me to follow the path I’m on.
Q. Is there a specific project, commission, personal creation, etc, that you are particularly proud of? What makes it so significant?
A. There is a Plein Air event in Sonoma, California, which is about 7 hours away from me, that I’ve participated in for 9 years. One collector that I met at the event years ago owns several of my paintings and she contacted me in 2016 about working on a commission for her corporate headquarters.
At the time I’d been creating a series of Los Angeles bridge paintings. Many of them featured the iconic 6th Street Bridge (which has been in many movies and TV commercials) that was scheduled for demolition. The demolition is what initially sparked my interest in painting the bridges of L.A. and from there my love of all old bridges began.
This collector just happened to visit my website during the creation of this series and it prompted her to reach out to me. She wanted me to paint the 6th Street Bridge showing the demolition process because it was her company that was contracted to tear it down.
It was a dream commission, working with someone I knew, who understood my work, on a subject I was already very familiar with and, I’ll admit, a bit obsessed with. It was an amazing connection plus a very enjoyable commission because I got to know my collector a lot more which was a wonderful and rare experience and I was present during the painting presentation where I watched as it was hung inside their corporate headquarters.
It was a treat to see where the painting was going to live permanently, something artists don’t see as often as we’d like to.
Q. What does it mean to be creative and how essential is creativity to making a successful work of art?
A. In order for painting to maintain its relevance in the art world, it must show the you something beyond what a camera coupled with Photoshop can do. It must touch something within, ignite a feeling and make a connection that bridges the distance between the canvas and the person viewing the painting. Creative license is the key to doing that.
It’s easy to simply record, to make an accurate representation of what the view looks like because the answers are there, in front of you, the mystery is solved. What’s much more difficult is elevating the subject beyond what it is and capturing its spirit. In my work creativity is what gives my work life.
Q. Which museum is your favorite to visit and why?
A. My favorite museum to visit is one that opened recently close to my home called the Hilbert Museum in Orange, CA. It features artwork from the private collection of the Hilbert family, many of which are California scene paintings from the 1930s and beyond. It’s a true treasure to have in my city which is often overlooked for projects of this kind.
Q. What serves as your artistic motivation?
A. The mystery of the painting process is what motivates me to get to my easel. Many people believe the artists have a specific vision at the start of every painting and we diligently paint our way towards that vision until it’s completely realized. Maybe there are a lot of artists out there who work that way but, for me, that’s not what happens at all.
When I start a new painting I like to have an overall general plan for a specific idea. What I mean by that is, I like to start with a drawing of a specific location on my surface. Often I will choose a color palette before I being mixing any paint. The color palette typically isn’t what I see in my reference image.
Then I begin mixing paint and applying it, pushing it around, forcing it to run and drip. I’ll scrape it off, let it dry, add more paint filling in shapes as I go. There are certain points along the way where the painting will loose some of its freshness because I’ve over-rendered an area trying to accurately represent it. That’s when I intentionally mess it all up.
It can be terrifying to do.
Imagine it, you’ve spent hours or days working on a painting and it’s not bad, some parts are quite good and everything looks like it’s supposed to – trees like trees, cars like cars, etc. Overall, it’s a perfectly fine painting, frame-worthy even, but, that’s not good enough. So, you drag a big brush through the whole thing leaving a wake of destruction as you go, knowing you’ll never be able to go back to what you had before.
For me, that’s when the most exciting things happen. That’s when other problems arise beyond my control and I must figure out how to make them work. It’s a giant puzzle without a clearly defined ending – a roller coaster ride that constantly has me asking myself, “Can I make this work?”
How it turns out in the end is a wonderful mystery to me.
Q. How do you sustain your ambition?
A. Clearly knowing what I want to get out of painting and understanding what my personal definition of success is what guides all my career decisions. Without that knowledge it would be very easy to spin my wheels traveling down a path that isn’t the right fit for me.
Q. Have you been faced with discouragement? if so, how did you overcome it?
A. The early days of my career were some of the most difficult. The days when I felt I could build a career painting, but family and friends had doubts. Receiving many rejection letters from shows I’d apply to, knowing my work needed more development, but not knowing how to get there. The art business has many epic highs and profound lows. The longer I paint, the more I realize that discouragement is actually a very important part of growing. It lights a fire within me that pushes me forward to make the work better, to break new ground, to make more personal connections with other art lovers and to aim higher in my career goals. But, the best way I’ve found to overcome discouragement is to get back to my easel and paint.
Q. In the beginning of your career, what was the best piece of advice you were given? Who gave it to you?
A. “Don’t sweat a bad painting, it’s just a stepping stone to the next one.” (Greg LaRock)
Available Works by Kim VanDerHoek at Principle Gallery
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