Monday, December 28, 2009

Talking to Kelly Kilmer, Mixed Media Artist

I first met Kelly a couple of years ago when I signed up for one of her collage classes at my local stamp store. I instantly loved her style of teaching and I thought her approach to collage really made it accessible to any artist, including me.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly. I want to thank her for taking the time to speak with me.

Q: What attracted you to mixed media and how long have you been creating collage pieces?

A: I've been making art since I was very little. It's funny to look back and see so many pictures of me with pens or pencils in my hand drawing. I've kept a journal in some form off and on since I was in 4th grade.

When I moved to Los Angeles, it was only my husband and I. I had no friends or family here. I was bored and a little lonely. I was drawing and writing in journals. When my son was born I started making scrapbook albums for him. I remember walking into a Judikins stamp store in Glendale and seeing Acey Deucy rubber stamps and thinking, "THIS is what I want to do." That was 1997.

I started making cards and things to sell through a local shop. It wasn't much and it was a ton of work, but I would stay up very late at night working on cards to sell. A local employee asked me if I would be interested in teaching. I said that I had never done it before but that I would love to try it. I started with basic card classes that really didn't fly, nor was my heart really into it.

I taught myself how to make and bind books. I taught myself collage learning design and composition techniques. I jumped head first into working with acrylics. I had found true love when I combined all three mediums. I started teaching classes, which were VERY hard to sell in 1998 because nobody in Southern California was really doing this kind of thing in the stores. It was even harder on the East Coast (I would often go back to Massachusetts to visit family). It took a few years before people caught on.

I love the freedom of mixed media. I love the "play" aspect of it. I tell my students that it's important to learn the rules and then learn how to break them.

Q: What was your first mixed media project and what was the most valuable thing you learned from that first piece?

A: I honestly don't remember. I've made so many pieces over the years. I love looking back at my journals and watching the progress and the changes that have occured not only in my artwork but also in me. It's amazing to be able to document my life-and my family's life in the pages of books. To be able to go back and see the good and the bad and to see how I worked things through. I really and truly believe that journal keeping has kept me sane and happy all these years.

Q: From taking a few of your classes, I know that you use a lot of different supplies in your art. Are there any supplies or tools you just cannot live without?

A: My must-have supplies are my journal (I make all of my journals by hand), a favorite glue stick (I like anything labeled permanent. One of my favorites is Coccoina, an Italian glue stick that smells Heavenly), some favorite pens (I have a whole list of pens on my blog. A few favorites are Sakura Gelly Roll Glaze and Souffle, Latte and Sweet pens, Sharpie waterbased poster paint pens, to name a few), collage ephemera (anything paper that I can glue down). I also love my Caran d'ache Neo Art Watersoluble Wax Pastels for adding color to the pages.

I also love alphabet and number rubber stamps, a good black ink pad (like Versafine), decorative and masking tape (I also have a list on my blog of some of my favorite companies), and acrylic paint (Nova Color in Los Angeles is where I buy my paints).

Q: You have been teaching mixed media classes for over 12 years. What is your philosophy when it comes to art and creating in general and how does that influence your teaching?

A: I strongly and firmly believe that everyone is an artist. We all have different talents and outlets that are creative. We all have things that we can do that are unique to us. If I can do this, anyone can do it. Some people are painters, some are great on computers, some are cooks, some love to build things, etc... You just have to find what that passion is and develop it, nurture it and let is blossom.

I don't believe in critiquing art. I have never ever told a student that what he or she is doing was wrong. Who the hell am I to tell another human being that? There's no wrong way to do something, there's only different. I love commenting on what I love about a student's artwork. If a student isn't happy, I will ask them what they don't like about their work. I will offer suggestions and ideas. I offer what I think might work and then I love it when the student figures out what they need to do. After all, they're the artists and I'm only the teacher.

Q: Now to turn the last question around a bit, how does teaching influence your personal art?

A: My students push me. I have a core group of students who take my classes again and again. They are the ones who are pushing me to come up with new ideas, new techniques and new things that I can offer in a class. My students are the ones who keep me grounded.

Q: You travel all over North America doing classes. Do you create art on the road?

A: YES! I have a constantly changing bag filled with a stash of mixed media stuff-glue sticks, pens, journal and papers. I can't not leave home without my journal. I'd go nuts. In the plane. In a car. On a train. In the courthouse (hubby had jury duty). At the racetrack (yup, I made art while hubby and son watched the races). I've made art in many a places!

Q: You have an online monthly class called Prompt-a-Day. Can you tell our readers more about that?

A: For 2009, I had an online monthly class called A Prompt A Day. I set up a website where students can access the prompts, a ton of information, share their work, see other students' work and more.

For every day in a month, they would receive (posted on the board) 3 prompts: painting, collage and journal. Together those prompts would make a journal page. Separately and combined in different ways, the information is endless.

I also worked along with the prompts. I created 365 journal pages for 2009. I developed over 1, 095 prompts for the whole year. It has been extraordinary to see what people have done with these ideas. My jaw drops every time I go to the site to see what students have done with the ideas.

I have put the class on hold for 2010. I may bring it back in the future. I am keeping the board up-so if anyone signs up for December's class, they will receive full access to December's board and information. I also have pdf and word files available for each month from January through December 2009 that I can send via email. The class is $25 a month. 8.

Q: A new year is just around the corner. What amazing things do you have planned for 2010?

A: I have lots of in-person classes scheduled for 2010. I'm still working on my calendar for the new year. I usually teach every single weekend be it locally or nationally. You can see my workshop blog here -

I also am debuting a new class in January called A Life Made By Hand. I have been trying to keep my in-person and my online classes very separate entities.

My new class is a very special deal. It runs January 1st through June 30th, 2010. It is a journal class, yet it's similar to all of my classes. They're not just techniques that you can use in journaling, but in every mixed media art. I'm not focusing on painting in this class as I've noticed that there are a lot of mixed media painting classes available right now.

I'm taking this class in a different direction. It's a hodge podge of a class - a mix of this and that. I've set up a group for it. My students will receive a prompt every single day-something that they can take that idea and create a page (or even an atc or canvas or any kind of mixed media project) in 15 minutes or less. The site will be loaded with information, ideas, tips, tricks and techniques. I will be having occasional videos and demos on the site. I will have tutorials on the site. I am also going to post a free monthly collage sheet for students. I will also have pdf files for students to download. I also encourage students to post their pages and what not on the board. It's going to be a wealth of information.

It's journaling but also will have collage techniques, demos and instructions on it. The collage ideas that I like to offer are design and composition tips, tricks and ideas disguised as FUN collage pages. The journal prompts aren't your average run of the mill writing prompts. They are designed to make you think and to dive deep. I want them to relate to everyone and not just a handful. It's meant to be a fun class that anyone can do and that everyone should have time to do a page a day, or to even take the ideas and have a fun play for all on a day when they do have time to make art. It's not meant to be hard or to have any pressure. It's meant to inspire, nurture and encourage. It's $50 for a six month class.

You can sign up or find out more here:

Wow, your new class really sounds amazing, Kelly! Thank you so much for stopping by Gingersnap Creations and letting us all get to know you and your art better!


  1. What a mind blowing article and interview. Simply superb. I wasn't expecting anything so wonderful immediately after Christmas.

  2. Amazing interview! Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful artist--can't wait to go check out her blog!

  3. Fabulous interview! Kelly's work is amazing. And, I think this may be the start of a new addiction for me - decorative tape!!! Oh yes, and perhaps a tiny little journal for all of those little scraps of paper and ephemera that are just too pretty for me to let go (wine and beer labels, anyone?)! Thanks for a wonderful read!

  4. Terrific interview. Kelly's is one of the first blog's I found when I started art journaling. It has a lot of great information there. I took her A Prompt a Day class last year and learned so much. It's great because there are no classes offered in my area, at all on art journaling. I'm taking the new online class, A Life Made By Hand and am so excited because Kelly is doing videos. It's almost like being live. Kelly is such a kind hearted sweet woman and I'm so glad to have found her on the "net".

    Thanks for the interview and I'm glad to have found your blog too.

  5. What great art and a wonderful interview! I must go check this out even further...


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