Mixed-media artist Kia Neill is all about having fun with art.
Neill describes herself as a "super-high energy" person who's constantly active. She says she never stops working, so she appreciates her time at the Tin Shop because it gives her a chance to step away from her freelance deadlines and enjoy a studio that's empty, rather than filled with unfinished projects.
Last year, she brought a beach theme to the mountains by creating coral reefs, sea crustaceans and oyster shells out of epoxy clay and gold leaf, rhinestones and various fibers. Upon completion, they looked almost like the real thing.
She also painted with puddles: She begins with a glob of paint thinned with water, then moves it around with a blow dryer. When she first started this technique, she intended to allow the puddle to dry on its own, but her impatience led her to use a hair dryer.
"It's hard to control, and I have no idea if it's going to work out," Neill said.
Neill always knew she wanted to be a fine artist, even though her own artistic parents tried to steer her toward the world of commercial arts. She didn't want other people to dictate how her creativity came out; she wanted to explore it on her own. After studying oil painting in college, she switched her major to ceramics.
"I liked clay because it is so tactile and sensual and a very meditative medium," she said. "Something was coming out of me, and something was coming out of the clay."
From there, she played around with found objects, ripping apart toys she found at garage sales and creating Frankenstein-type creatures. Then, she took a fancy to nature, depicting it through fake plants, gold-plated shells, silk flowers and wallpaper. She experimented with large-scale installations but realized they weren't easy to sell because of their size, so now she works on what she calls "fantasy artifacts."
But this month, she'll be working on a collaborative large-scale project that's very feminine in nature; one of her artist friends is sewing river-tubing tires into "female forms," while Neill makes crystal-endowed blankets and drapery to incorporate within the cavities. She'll also spend her time at the Tin Shop blow drying puddles of paint around, but these days, she's masking the paper before letting the paint move around, then adding thin graphite lines with pencil, which results in a shell-like or topographic feel.
This year, she leads a workshop in painting with watercolors on Yupo paper, a synthetic, 100-percent recyclable, machine-made (and therefore not made from trees), paper often used to make menus and maps. She said the paper is essentially plastic, which "doesn't absorb pigment like regular paper." As usual, one day when she was experimented with the paper, she wanted the paint to dry more quickly, so she began blow drying it, forgetting that the dryer would push the paint around. Once again, she found a new way to play.
"The workshop is really about experimentation, mixed media and doing abstract painting and what-not," she said.
"Kia's work as a conceptual artist is always evolving," said Jenn Cram, Breck arts district coordinator. "It will be great to have her back to the Tin Shop and see what she comes up with next."