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Meet the Artist Interview Series - Kris Idarius

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Will you give us some insight into how your journey as an artist began?

Although drawing what I see came naturally to me for as long as I can remember, and is my first love as an art process, it was when I was 14 years old and creating a large three-dimensional construction of a dragon that I first experienced that state of mind known as optimal flow, coined by positive psychologist Mihály Csikszentmiháyi. Flow state occurs when one is so immersed in an experience that time ceases to exist, and self merges with the environment and the act, in this case, of creativity. It was my “aha” moment, and my self-identity as an artist was born.

Untitled, 24x30”, Graphite on Gessoed Paper

I went to college for a BFA and then worked unhappily as a graphic artist for about eight years. My discontentment with the world of commercial art led me to finding the profession of Art Therapy. It was while in graduate school for a Masters of Arts in Art Therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) that I learned about Csikszentmiháyi and optimal flow experience. Art therapy was a perfect fit for me, as an artist who is fascinated by people, behavior and the mind. It has been my profession ever since, though being an artist remains the deepest, truest part of my identity. I was also lucky enough to study painting at SAIC with some wonderful artist/teachers. My subsequent growth as a painter led me to the next phase of my life.

Alpine Meadow, 30x23”, Acrylic on Paper

I moved to California in 1998. I had been ready for a change from my home and place of birth in Chicagoland, and I decided to give myself the gift of getting an MFA in pictorial arts from San Jose State. Although I had family and friends already here, I figured I would stay about five years and return to Chicago. Ha! 22 years later here I am.

Do you feel you need to have a degree in art to pursue an art career?

Although I do not believe that getting degrees in art is what defines or makes a person as an artist, I have always loved the structure and discipline of taking classes and learning from fellow students as well as some wonderful teachers. After years of focusing on helping others using art, turning my focus entirely to my own artist self for three years is something I have never regretted.

(L) Leap of Faith, 36 x 66” (R) Blue Horse/Falling, 30 x 63”
Oil and Raw Pigment on Ceramic

Left: Leap of Faith, 36x66"

Right: Blue Horse Falling, 30x63"

How has your art changed over time?

My art process, subject, content and medium have evolved a great deal over time. I began with figure drawing with dry materials and painting with acrylics through most of art school. This was followed by seven years of intaglio printmaking and mono-printing, after which I returned to painting (oils) again, along with a brief three-year fling with ceramic sculpture. At that point I came full circle back to painting, where I have been for the past 15 years.

Drought, 35x70”, Acrylic on Gessoed Paper

Memory Cartwheel, 30x22”, Acrylic on Paper

Until about eight years ago my subject/content had always involved the figure—often in a dream-like setting or psychological state and involving the act of remembering and the passage of time.

Motivation to create has often, in the past, been reflected or nurtured by my work as an art therapist and my interest in psychology. Although I have always believed my art therapist self is separate from my core artist self, in more recent years, I have been more conscious of the divide. My current motivation to create includes a purposeful attempt to let go of my art therapist self and allow my most authentic artist self paint what feels most nurturing. I paint, put simply, what feels good.

Artist at Work

What other life experiences have had the biggest impact on your art to date?

A turning point arrived ten years ago when I moved into a studio space outside of my home.

With this separation from home to a more solitary, neutral space, I found myself gradually

letting go of the figure and finding a different kind of narrative in the natural world. I felt

impelled to lose the heaviness of figurative content and seek a kind of peace and joy while connecting to growing things. I use my camera to help me find passages of light and shadow that strike an emotional chord, and I use my own photographs as reference when I paint. Grounded in a particular moment in time, I hope that my images of grass and other growing things allow the viewer to connect to the same sense of inner peace I felt when finding them with my camera and translating them with paint. 

Beach Grass1, 14x14" Oil on Birch Panel

This brings us to the political chaos and fears of 2020, the pandemic, lock down, and finding ourselves in a world we could not imagine a year ago. I had been feeling the tug of the figure wanting to return to my images for some time, and this year it has appeared as a shadow in the grass. Shadows appear when the sun is bright. In my current series, a shadow becomes a projection of an upright person standing on the living, breathing earth. The shape of the shadow contains all the power and potential of the moment in which one lives.

Shadow Grass 2, 14x14" Oil on Birch Panel 30x22” Oil on Birch Panel

Do you have insights for those thinking about making their own art?

I believe that anyone has the potential to express themselves through the arts and gain value from that experience. The biggest obstacle for anyone, myself included, is dealing with our

“inner critic.” The voice of that inner critic can stop many people from even beginning down the path of art-making. I was lucky in that I had a knack for drawing what I saw, and received positive attention for it. I was also lucky to have been born in a family that was supportive when I wanted to go to art school. However, my inner critic led me down a few false roads and detours as an artist, even though I can see in retrospect that all of it was necessary to my growth and development. I never stopped experimenting and trying new art processes to find my way. The biggest takeaways for me were learning to trust my intuition, and continuing to push past self doubt via self knowledge.

Persistent Growth, 30x26”, Oil on Birch Panel

Some words of the advice that I received from my many wonderful teachers that really stuck with me are:

1) “Peel your eyeballs!” i.e. look and look—and look harder—at what you are seeing, whether it’s your subject, your art process, or whatever it is that you are trying to create.

2) Draw/paint every day, or as much as you can; don’t filter your choice of subject and you will find what interests you; know “they all can’t be winners,“ so just keep on creating.

3) When you are struggling or feeling stuck, dialogue with your artwork. Ask it what it needs, what it wants from you. It sounds a bit strange, but it really works!

What’s your take on the purpose or value of art?

We know that people have been making art since at least the times that they found pigments to draw or paint with on cave walls. I am not sure that the core motivation to create images has really changed so much. From stenciling their own hands (self-identity, presence in the world), to depicting the animals, hunters and the act of the hunt itself (understanding their world, their interactions with it and ability to impact it), our artist ancestors seemed to believe in the power of the act of art-making and the resulting images. In the present, artists and people who are drawn to making art feel surprisingly similar drives and needs. Though art can run the gambit of the most superficial, beautiful or decorative to the deeply personal, mysterious or difficult to access, I believe that we create to reveal ourselves to ourselves first, in the hope that we can reach and move the viewer at the same time.

Shadow Grass 1, 16x16", Oil on Birch Panel

For more information on Kristine and her artwork, please visit Kristine Idarius.

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