Oh Joy

career day / a painter...
27 May 2015

Kim West

Kim West

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

In our newest Career Day, I took Ruby to visit the studio of Kim West, a painter living and working in Downtown Los Angeles. We came across one of her amazing murals recently, and after that I had to see and learn more about her. So one afternoon, I picked Ruby up from school and said "We're gonna go paint at an artist's studio! You can paint right on the wall, and it's okay if your clothes get dirty." She was more excited for this then the day that puppies came to our office.

The minute you walk into Kim's studio, the saturated colors, beautiful line work, light, and wit come through in her work and in every inch of her space. She's warm, kind, and as the mother of two kids...she armed Ruby with a paint brush, paints in every color, and gave her an afternoon to remember. Here's a little more about the life and work of this amazing painter...

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

What’s your background and when did you start painting? / I was taught to hold a paintbrush before I learned to walk or talk. Though she's semi-retired now, my mom is an art teacher and art historian, and as such, creative play and art education were a part of my daily childhood for as long as I can recall. And still, though I always found painting and making things to be as natural and necessary as breathing, I never labeled myself as an 'artist'. This changed for me when, at the end of my first year of a pre-law schedule at a Smith College, I decided to transfer to the painting department at Rhode Island School of Design. In every sense of the word, that choice was a relief.

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

When/how did you figure out your signature style? / My work is essentially the result of an on-going series of responsive investigations to what is happening around me, and so it’s continually evolving. In all of that, it is fair to say that strong, emotive color is a constant for me, and the use of it is a thread that connects disparate bodies of my work together. 

Kim West

Best part about your job? / My first summer job at age 10 was working on an assembly line in a fertilizer plant. Throughout college and for a while after, my jobs were mainly in restaurants and bars where I waited on lots and lots of tables. Most of these jobs ranged from truly terrible to blah, but the experience of them serves as a reminder to recognize that as a painter, I never feel like I am working a job. Although painting is work, and that work can be hard or stressful or frustrating at times, in general it’s also my sanity and without the ritual of its’ practice I am sad and lost.

Worst part about your job? / On a bad day, feeling like a teeny drop in the gigantic art-world bucket.

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

Favorite Day of the Week? / A Sunday/Monday crossover. I love Sundays with my husband and children - starting out lazy and then spending time outside with no agenda other than to enjoy the day and see where it takes us, typically for a hike, heading to the beach or a museum, or seeing friends. Mondays in the studio make me happy because even though the week is only 5 short days, on Monday it seems long and possible to fit so much into those hours.

Kim West

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

If there were two of you, what other type of business or job would the other Kim have? / At this point, I can’t envision being anything other than a painter. But I would definitely consider a clone.

Kim West's Studio

Favorite artist? / Forever and ever...Alice Neel, Cy Twombly, and Helen Frankenthaler. Recently, Mary Weatherford. 

Kim West's Studio

One thing that has happened in your career that you never expected? / I didn’t set out to paint murals; that was set in motion over a chance encounter regarding bathroom paper products.

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

One thing that has happened in your career that you completely expected and had hoped for? / I have always expected and hoped that at the end of each work day, I would feel satisfied with at least some of the day’s progress, and would leave the studio excited to return for more. I am grateful to report that happens almost every day.

Career Day at Kim West's Studio

At the end of the afternoon with Kim, we had to take off Ruby's romper since she was covered in wet paint. She walked to the car in just her undies and said, "This was the best day ever!" Thanks so much Kim for sharing your world with us!

{Photos by Casey Brodley for Oh Joy. All art by Kim West.}

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