Artist Kim Milan’s REWRITES

"Indochine Machine" by Kim Milan

Originally from Saint John, NB, and after extensive travels, and living in various cities across the country, artist Kim Milan now calls Waverley, NS home. In 2007, she took the first step in being able to devote to her visual art passion full time—she left her long time career as a systems integrator to complete studies at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). Since then she has been prolifically painting and drawing, among other creative pursuits.

From September 6 to 30, Milan will be exhibiting her new works in a show called Re-writes at the Paperchase Café in Halifax. AE caught up with Milan to learn more about the exhibition and her life as an artist.

As a kid, what are some of your earliest memories expressing your creativity in any form?
KM: As a young child I remember doing a lot of “doodle art” posters and paint-by numbers in oil. When I was 7 I remember getting out a library book on how to draw
portraits and I would practice these in pencil. I also spent considerable time writing short stories and poetry.

What was it like when you transitioned from your career as a systems integrator to pursuing studies at NSCAD?
KM: When I graduated from high school I remember wanting to study clothing
design. Being raised in a family with much more traditional views on education I was
veered away from this path. My job as a systems integrator was very consuming
allowing me to only create art in fits and spurts. When I had the opportunity to leave and pursue visual art it felt like the ultimate freedom. I also started taking djembe lessons at the same time so I was in a very creative space. I thoroughly enjoyed my classes at NSCAD. Being surrounded by such creativity, talent and open-mindedness was refreshing and liberating. I never regretted my decision.

“David and Goliath” by Kim Milan 

How have your travels and living in different places shaped the way you create?
KM: Much as Freeman Patterson said of photographers “the camera points both
ways” I believe the paintbrush, pencil, etc. do also. My style, what I choose to portray
and how I do it reflects part of me and my collection of experiences. To live in different
cities and travel all over the world requires an open mind. It also gave me exposure to a
wide variety of art both fine art in galleries and street art. As I spend more time creating
art I am using this open-mindedness in experimenting with different media, styles and
subjects and am really enjoying that. I am a very visual person so there are subtle
things that I notice when traveling—a colour, a shape or a pose that sticks with me and
comes out in my art. There’s also something about being able to walk the same streets,
see the same sights, be exposed to the same day-to-day as some of the artists who
have been influential to me that I find very inspirational and motivating.

What themes will be reflected in your Re-writes show at The Paper Chase?
KM: The majority of portraits in the exhibition are either real-life personalities that
are icons in the themes of power, oppression, human rights, civil disobedience and
peace. Although the portraits themselves come from different areas of inspiration, I have attempted to portray them in a manner that suggests either introspection or an
ephemeral moment of daydream.

What was the process like for creating some of these pieces?
KM: Sometimes I have a certain subject in mind and search for an appropriate
news sheet either based on a meaningful catch phrase for the subject or an alignment
of text and graphics that support the light and shadows I want to bring out in the image.
I always enjoy those times when I only find connections in the text after the piece is
done as in the “Unexpected Hero” piece which is a portrait of boxing great Jack
Johnson. I also find some subjects really need colour. I have drawn Gandhi many times
in charcoal and graphite but I felt compelled to use oil pastel on his portrait that’s
included in the exhibition. The newspaper started giving me inspiration for subjects.
Word clues and themes always seemed to springboard to another piece allowing me to
assemble a sizable and cohesive body of work. When I draw I don’t draw an outline of
the face or figure. I typically figure out where I want a certain facial feature or body part
to be spatially on the paper and then use conté or compressed charcoal and start
hatching or shading in a darker area. For example, the shadow under a nose, the corner
of an eye socket, shadows on a hand etc.. I sometimes do studies on a different sheet
to work out the size of the portrait for the sheet I intend to use.

"5 Reasons" by Kim Milan
What other types of works have you been working on or will you be working on?
KM: I have recently been experimenting with water mixable oils and have been doing some fun, bright, semi-abstract still-life pieces on paper and canvas. I also have some larger scale figurative pieces in the works including two based on portraits from Re-writes. I am also currently designing another cohesive body of work that I’m excited about. I don’t want to reveal the storyline yet but the pieces will be large scale figurative pieces, mostly paint on canvas.

When you’re not creating visual art, how do you spend your time?
KM:  I’m a mother of a very active 6 year old so between helping out at school, at the soccer field, running to the gymnasium and dealing with the usual acts of motherhood that pretty well speaks for my free time. Luckily my daughter is also very creative so I love working at very free-style art with her. As Picasso said, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” I find it a helpful exercise in loosening my style to work with her. She’s also my best critic and muse. My Picasso portrait “Becoming Young” in the exhibition was influenced by this.

Is there anything you would like to add?
KM: I am very excited to be doing a solo show. I had exhibited pieces in the Night Shift
group exhibition while studying at NSCAD but a solo show is a whole different beast. I’m
lucky to have the organizational skills of Deb Twohig at my disposal allowing me to
focus on the artistic side. It’s been an invigorating experience and I look forward to
doing it again.

An exhibition of new work by artist Kim Milan
September 6-30, 2014; Paperchase Café (5228 Blowers Street, Halifax)
Opening Reception: September 6 (6-9pm)

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