IVINS — From a coyote framed in shimmering silver leafing to birds at a dinner party, this artist’s paintings have been featured in exhibitions all over the world.
As the sun shines through the large window panes of Kimberly Beck’s Kayenta home, the vast red mountain landscape appears larger than life. A chipmunk curiously approaches as a chirping bird echoes in the distance.
“This mountain looks like a little boy lying down with his hands on his tummy,” Beck said, pointing at the sandstone mountains through the window. “You can see the silhouette at night and it just helps you go to sleep.”
Beck’s 13-year art career began in Michigan, where she attended college with a major in English Literature. That’s where she took her first formal drawing class as an elective. And it ignited a fire.
“By the time I graduated college, I really wanted to do art,” Beck said. “I loved it. I’ve always sewn and been a maker and somebody who loved to do things with my hands.”
She continued her education at the California College of the Arts in Oakland. After taking an animal drawing class, she became excited about drawing natural subjects. Sketching taxidermied animals at the Natureal History Museum, she began to understand the anatomy of animals and birds.
After finding herself impatient with drawing, she took to a big brush and a bigger canvas, which allowed her to get her message out faster. She worked for The Nature Company in Berkeley, California, creating artwork that was repurposed as posters, greeting cards, t-shirts and umbrellas. Her work included garden birds, hummingbirds, insects, raccoons, owls and large cats. At that time, she focused on painting with watercolor and drawing on top with colored pencils.
After a move to Chicago, she began oil painting in 2011. Living downtown allowed her to paint figuratively in an art space that provided live models every day of the week.
“It was a very different landscape and lighting,” Beck said about her 30 years in Chicago. “The Midwest has this gray sky light. It’s kind of like a cool, sheltering kind of light.”
She moved to Kayenta, where she became inspired by another artist who used gold and silver leafing. She began adding gold and silver leaf elements and backgrounds to her oil paintings to elevate the stature of the subjects and add reflective light to the surface. In some pieces, she uses the leaf conceptually to represent something symbolic such as a road, a body of water, or a night sky.
“People just love it,” she said. “I think it’s because it’s contemporary, and it puts more focus on the animal. But it also elevates nature a little bit, much like gold and silver being used in medieval times for spiritual subjects.”
All of her animal paintings come from images she photographs herself. She currently has over 16,000 of her own photographs to work with which are organized in albums by animal species. She pieces together different images to create something new. For her, it’s about the story of what she saw and how she can express the behavior of the animal subject.
Many of her paintings represent man living side by side with nature, how the two intermingle and how difficult it can be. Instead of painting humans, she paints symbolic representations, such as a bird perched on top of a rusty pipe.
“It’s this unusual idea of the bird molting just like the metal is changing and we have to adapt,” she said, pointing at a painting. “We have to learn how to live with each other. And that’s one of my favorite paintings.”
Right after she started oil painting, she applied to the international exhibition “Birds and Art” – an extremely difficult show to get into. Out of thousands of applicants, the winners were narrowed down to 100, and she was one of them. The show confirmed that she could specifically be a wildlife artist and combine her passion for environmental concerns with her artwork. It also gave her a name and credibility, launching her oil painting career.
“I am personally renewed daily by my experiences in nature,” Beck said. “I hope you can feel my passion for the beautiful creatures with whom we share our world and that you are inspired to do what you can to protect their habitats and ensure their presence for generations to come.”
For more information on Kimberly Beck’s Fine Art, visit her website. Follow her work on Facebook and Instagram. Art can be seen inside Sunset Framer at 929 W. Sunset Blvd #2 in St. George. Printwork and cards are available at Juniper Sky in Kayenta at 851 Coyote Gulch Court in Ivins.
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