Artist Interview conducted by Abend Gallery's Associate Director
Lindsey Kustusch is an oil painter based out of the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been exhibiting her artwork nationwide since 2009.
Abend Gallery is proud to present Lindsey Kustusch's Solo Exhibition "Feather Dust and Flowers" that emanates the full vibrancy of the natural world.
"'Feather Dust and Flowers' invites the viewer to enjoy the endlessly enchanting rhythms in nature by exploring the whimsical positivity found in both flora and fauna as well as the exquisite dark drama that connects us with all living things." -Lindsey Kustusch
Why do you focus on moths, butterflies, and animals of flight in your work?
Lindsey: Maybe because there’s something unobtainable about animals with the gift of flight. They live in a world we’ll never experience, and because of that hold a sense of mystery and magic. It’s the same for aquatic life. There are alien worlds within our own, and I find the creatures that live within them to be endlessly fascinating and romantic.
You paint animals, cityscapes, landscapes, and floral still-life’s.. do you think there’s any subject matter that you steer away from?
Lindsey: Yes, I’d say people. I genuinely like people, but I just don’t have a desire to paint the human form. There’s a rebellious side of me that acts out in different ways, and I think it’s a bit of that side refusing to do the thing that’s expected of you as an artist. I think that’s also why I gravitated towards cityscapes early in my career. Not only are they endlessly challenging and immensely satisfying to paint, but as a whole I think they’re categorized as more masculine vs. some more “feminine” subjects such as flowers or animals. So there’s that partof me again that wanted to take on a subject that would be unexpected. But as my career grew, so has my confidence, and life is much too short not to do what you love and continue to evolve. My love for animals and nature is a special part of who I am, and I’m looking forward to connecting more with those things closest to my heart.
Outside of your role as an artist what other roles do you play in your life?
Lindsey: At home, I’m known as the “details” girl and my role is usually to “organize the chaos”. I LOVE an hour spent with a messy junk drawer or a tool shed that’s become a nesting ground for “I’ll deal with it later”. Organizing seriously soothes my brain, and I know for a fact this has played a major role in how I paint. I love creating a puzzle to be solved. I love the messy part and the cleaning up. So often I’ll throw a color down completely out of harmony with the rest of the composition just so I can find the necessary steps in tone and value to piece it all back together again. Or I’ll use a tool to scrape away a finished area, just to do it again, but this time starting with a healthy amount of mess. The true magic happens when we embrace the chaos!
Wassily Kandinsky believed that artmaking is a “spiritual act” and that it transcends academia and logic. What do you think?
Lindsey: Absolutely. There’s a beautiful book titled “The Soul of an Octopus” that describes something called “Octopus time” that I feel correlates with this feeling perfectly. It’s written from the point of view of a researcher who volunteers at an Aquarium to study the aquatic animals and she describes what it’s like to connect with a Giant Pacific Octopus. To reach your hand inside it’s icey cold water, and watch as this incredibly inquisitive animal uses all of it’s senses to figure you out. Time begins to warp and reality slips away, as seconds, minutes or even hours pass. It’s a magical moment of transcendence, and for me, this is the exact feeling of being in the “zone”. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does, there’s no experience more impactful when creating a work of art.
What are some of your rituals that assist your artmaking?
Lindsey: Drinking coffee and watching my friends get into the same old daily shenanigans! “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “Veep” and lots of other comedies from the 90’s play on repeat in the background of my studio. There’s something about the sound of silliness and a good story that calms me down and really puts me in the zone. But when it’s go-time and I need to finish up a painting or add those high energy marks, the music turns up, the feet start to dance, and the paint starts flying!
In Fine Art Connoisseur you mention that you have several staple mark-makers in your collections: what are they? Anything unusual?
Lindsey: I do! I love finding new textures through application and removal of paint, so I’ve tried almost anything I can get my hands on. But my favorite tool of all is a rubber printing block found in the ink section of the art store. They come in a variety of sizes, and are meant for print making, but they make the perfect flexible “palette knife”. I usually start with a giant slab and hack it down into smaller pieces to use for applying and removing paint. They’re wonderful for glazing and layering and have so much more versatility than a brush or other tools meant for this purpose. And the beauty is, they never make the same mark twice, but have just enough predictability to help carry out a vision. I’m never without a messy stack of rubber blocks on hand!
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Lindsey: My environment and also other works of art. Whether that’s paintings, film, books, or architecture, it’s hard not to be constantly influenced by what you experience on a daily basis. When I lived in San Francisco, all I wanted to paint was the city. I loved everything about that place and would draw endless inspiration walking to and from my studio every day. Since then, I’ve moved around to several different places in the world, and am always surprised at what ends up in the inspiration tank. It’s often not what I expect, which is why I feel it’s so important to constantly explore, see the world, and get out of your comfort zone!
What is something that people don’t usually know about your practice?
Lindsey: I’d say the amount of work that goes into a painting, but not necessarily the painting part itself. There is so much prep work that’s unseen but is vital to the process. For example, I use photoshop for my initial “sketching” phase. I’ve never been a sketchbook person, no matter how hard I tried. Instead, I collage images and ideas together in photoshop and work out my concepts digitally. This is true for my animal work, but also my cityscape paintings as well. A camera can only capture so much and then it’s up to the artist to take you there. So much of what we experience is based on more than just our sight. It’s the feeling of the place as much as it is the way that it looks behind a lense. So my preliminary process is mostly spent playing around in photoshop, manipulating images, and adjusting them the best I can to match what I remember from the scene or what my vision is for the piece. Perfecting the reference image is about 80% of the painting process, and for me the most important. Because when you’re halfway through a painting, and your brain starts to click into autopilot, it’s important to make sure that you’re vision is already there. Now all you have to do is paint!