Heather Kerley grew up in Columbus, Ohio in the United States. Where she studied art at Columbus College or Art and Design for two years before transferring to Ohio State University to study English Literature. Later on, she came back to the art scene and took advantage of the many continuing education programs around Washington DC, where she was living and working at the time. Heather Kerley has shown her work around the Washington area as well as New York and was a visiting artist at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia. Currently she is living in Germany where she have found some great opportunities to showcase her art as well as teaching.
How did you get interested in art?
I think I became an artist because I was obsessed with drawing animals and especially horses when I was young. As I got older, my equestrian interests faded, but my passion for art remained. As an adult, art has been a huge part of my life. If I don’t draw or paint something every day, I feel like something is missing.
How would you describe your style?
I started out doing hyperrealism, but for the past couple of years I’ve painted mostly abstract art. I incorporate a lot of different mediums and elements into my work, including watercolor, ink, gouache, collage, and even embroidery. I would describe my work as reminiscent of abstract expressionism but with a contemporary twist. Color and marks are very important in my work because they can express so many ideas and feelings which cannot be put into words.
What are your sources for inspiration?
I look at nature a lot. Even just seeing the weather outside my studio window can influence what I make that day. I am also a regular yoga practitioner and I try to meditate regularly, so often the colors and forms in my work are an expression of connecting to my deepest self.
How is the creation process for you?
I like to get up early in the morning and just sit with my coffee until I am inspired to make a mark or pour a color onto the paper. Then I just build and build until it becomes something. There’s often a stage in the work where I feel like I’m working a puzzle, trying to make everything “snap into place” visually. Often, the finished image serves as inspiration for a larger piece.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I’m in love with water media. Everything from watercolor, to ink, to water-based markers. I love to play around with layers and spontaneity and these media seem to be the best way to do that. I enjoy combining several mediums in order to get the most variety and depth in a single image. Lately, I’ve been working a lot with synthetic papers, so the colors tend to pool and flow across the surface, making the results more unpredictable.
Who are your favourite artist?
Lately I’ve found myself very interested in Paul Klee and Jean-Michel Basquiat. I’ve also found inspiration in the work of women from the abstract expressionist movement and its offshoots, including Jay Defeo, Joan Mitchell, Ethel Schwabacher, and Helen Frankenthaler. Of artists working now, I really enjoy the work of Kindah Kalidy, Rachel Rossin, and Keltie Ferris.
What do you do besides being an artist?
I work in a library serving mostly families, teens, and kids and I love it, even though it takes me away from the studio. I get to plan and run a lot of art programs for the community including a teen “art club” and a weekly drawing class. It’s a lot of fun!
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
“Remember all effort leads somewhere.”
What are you most proud of in your life?
Choosing to follow my own path and not giving up.
Do you have any new projects going on?
Right now I’m getting ready for a show in March. It is for my artist group, “mata+,” and it will be in Trippstadt, Germany. The exhibit will be centered on square works of two sizes, either 40x40 cm or 100x100cm. We have one contemporary dancer in our group who is choreographing a unique piece for the opening based on the idea of the square format, so it should be pretty interesting!