The Wonders of Watercolor
BY TRACY RISUCCI
Young, fun, talented and hip…. Kyra Kendall. A Toronto based artist specializing in watercolors of pop icons. Another artist we discovered on Instagram and have been loving her posts ever since. Kyra strikes us as being pretty low key and flies under the radar, so we were especially happy when she graciously agreed to answer our q&a for this feature. Her responses are delightful, honest and her world seems perfect: colorful, fun and with a beautiful dog at her side 🙂
We love her art and we love her! Rock on Kyra.
BB: Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? What are some of your interests and hobbies?
Kyra: Hi. My name is Kyra Kendall. I live in Toronto. I am passionate about painting. However, I also love snowboarding and cocktails.
BB: What do you like most about being an artist? Is it your full time job?
Kyra: Painting is my full time job. I am blessed with enough people that love my work I can do it for a living. Being an artist is the best. I like the freedom and the creative exploration.
BB: Was there a particular person or experience that gave you the confidence to pursue your art?
Kyra: My mother was a sculptor. So I guess I credit her with showing me the joys of a creative life. My grandmother was also a painter and fashion designer. I have been blessed with having a lot of creative examples around me. However, I want to temper this answer by saying, I also saw a lot of mental anguish that can be involved with being an artist. The cliches exist for a reason. My mother struggled with mental illness that sometimes produced beautiful works … and sometimes left her despondent and unable to work at all. My grandmother was a very talented painter, but life didn’t present her with the chance to pursue it full time which was always something she was understandably resentful about. But, to answer your question – these two women gave me the confidence to pursue my work.
BB: We see a theme in your work i.e., celebrities, models, rock stars and lips! What’s the motivation behind your choice of subjects?
Kyra: Oh, I just paint what I find interesting. I love the exercise of figuring out how to represent someone. It’s fun to paint something that other people can relate to. My Instagram feed is just the things I want to paint in between all the custom work I do.
BB: We notice a few subjects appear several times in your gallery? Are you especially drawn to certain faces or are you simply playing with different colors?
Kyra: The answer is both. I love painting even the same image over and over again. I think its funny how it never works out the same way.
BB: Have any of your subjects purchased our commented on your work?
Kyra: Yes, often. Which is gratifying to know that I see someone in a way they resonate with.
BB: Your work has a touch of caricature. Do you agree? Does a caricature artist always have a sense of humor?
Kyra: I don’t actually agree with that. But, I am not in charge of how others see my work. So your opinion is absolutely valid.
BB: You seem to keep a low profile (without compromising your privacy!) What’s one thing most people would be surprised (or interested) to hear about you?
Kyra: Thank you. I don’t think I personally should be the focus of my work. Well, since you asked, I am a retired graffiti artist. I used to paint rail cars with a giant stencil of pink lips. I only stopped a few years ago. (BB: Graffiti art?! LOVE IT! Do you have any images we can post/see? Kyra: Nope. No images I can show you. I just literally did it as a fun secret / game. And also because it scared me to do it haha.) I would walk my dog at night with a can of bubblegum pink spray paint and hit up rail cars in a rail yard by my house. It was a lot of fun but really dangerous and obviously illegal. (BB: Is your dog still with you? If so, what type of breed and what is his/her name and is he/she still apart of your creative process? Kyra: My dog that I graffitied with is gone. Part of the reason I always took him was because he was old and would just stand beside me while I worked in the dark. I have a new puppy now and she’s insane. Her name is Olive and she eats a lot of my art supplies.)
BB: How long does a typical watercolor take to create? And your oil paintings?
Kyra: Ah, all my work take different amounts of time so it’s hard to answer. Sometimes it all comes together quickly. Sometimes something sits half done for months.
BB: Do you have a favorite artist? Who inspires you? (historically and in modern times)
Kyra: I have a few artists I love. I love the work of Marlene Dumas. Also Janet Werner’s work is amazing. Both those artists are alive and still working. I love Pablo Picasso for his energy and determination in solving visual problems. Also Richard Diebenkorn’s work I adore.
BB: Has Instagram helped your business grow? What’s the most interesting comment on your feed?
Kyra: Absolutely. Instagram enables me to connect and build relationships with people that like my work all over the world. There have been a few comments that have stuck with me…
Reese Witherspoon told me that she enjoys how I see her, and other people she knows. Which was of course so nice to hear.
Naomi Watts mentioned my work in an interview once saying that was interesting how I painted ‘her, but also not her’. Which resonated with me because that is how I see every portrait I do. It is the person but also totally not them at the same time. Kourtney Kardashian loved my work so much she asked me to paint a book of watercolors for Khloe Kardashian’s birthday gift. Which was fun and also an honor. Dove Cameron told me that she often watches my insta stories of me painting and talking to myself as a calming meditation, which was really nice to hear.
I guess generally people tell me that they enjoy my work and that when they see it in their feed they like to guess who I’ve painted before reading the caption. It’s nice to know my work is a lowkey game.
BB: What is your dream project?
Kyra: I have 2.
1. I would love my work to be used as packaging for some beauty company. I really feel like I’ve made it when that happens haha.
2. I have a general dream – I want to have the Art Gallery of Ontario eventually buy one of my pieces and put it on display. I want to be an old lady that gets to go visit her work there. I guess my dream is that my work is relevant enough that collecting it means something in 50 years.
BB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? In life? In art?
Kyra: I think the best advice i’ve been given is something I read on a sports motivational poster outside of my gym coaches locker in grade 9. It was something like ‘winning or losing pales in comparison to having the courage to race’ It was awful like that and had a picture of a bunch of swimmers on starting blocks. Anyway, it hit me then that it was absolutely true. The idea that you are not in charge of how something is received (in my case a painting, but it can apply to anything) but you are in charge of having the courage to make something and put it out there. And doing that is better than doing nothing. I think when I read that lame poster I silently adopted that as my personal m.o. for life. To just be brave and try.
BB: Any upcoming exhibitions we should know about?
Kyra: I don’t do exhibitions. I just sell everything on my website which is kyrakendall.com. (BB: Have you ever considered exhibiting at the Affordable Art Fair in NYC? We bet your art would be a huge hit. Kyra: Thank you for the vote of confidence.)
BB: If someone is interested in your work, or a commissioned piece, what is the best way to reach you?
Kyra: You can email me anytime – [email protected]
Mental health issues are prevalent and the ramifications can be far reaching. If you or anyone you know struggles with mental health issues, don’t struggle alone. For more information please visit: https://www.mentalhealthfoundation.net/maintaining-a-healthy-mind