A CUP OF TEA WITH: STEPHANIE K KANE, ARTIST
Recently I discovered a brand new art gallery in Croydon. Ok this might not sound like a big deal but when you have lived in Croydon your whole life and seldom seen ANY form of cultural stimulation then believe me, this is a pretty big deal! As I wondered around admiring works at Rise Gallery from artists like Banksy, Dan Cimmerman, Mark Petty and more, I was drawn to a beautiful oil portrait of a young blonde girl. The colours immediately resonated with me, as did the portrait itself. I asked the girl working in the gallery who the artist was and she excitedly said 'That's my piece!' Meet Stephanie K Kane - distinct style, infectious cuteness and an enchanting technique. In this interview we chat everything from feminism to being an 'art school drop out'.
When do you first remember feeling like you were born to be an artist?
Tough question, I still have a little shyness in me when I call myself an artist sometimes which I think is weird, perhaps because sometimes people can roll their eyes when they hear you're a young artist. Some people think you just bum around for a lifestyle or can't function on a 9-5. The point where I officially called myself an artist was at my first exhibition and sold my first painting. I felt that was when I earned the title.
Where do you live and where did you grow up? Do they have any influence over your work?
I grew up in a really rough part of Birmingham where I had a really great childhood. I've been dotting all over the place for the past 5 years and constantly moving around. Where do I live? I don't know! I don't think I've ever felt particularly settled or 'at home', that must influence my work in some way. I guess from moving around so much I've met so many different people and faces which has kept my little library of faces fresh in my head.
Where did you study (if you did)?
I studied at Wimbledon and then started my BA at London College of Fashion but the course wasn't what I expected. A few people always tell me not to mention being an 'art school drop-out' but I'm really not ashamed of it. I feel that I've got a lot more enjoyment and knowledge from actually being in the midst of everything rather than stuck in a room. Continually practicing but being able to freely network and freelance. I think you learn a lot more about the business side to art, which is so important.
What materials do you use?
I love using the oil paints and finishing pieces of with crayons. Crayons are so carefree. I feel like when I use them my mind disconnects from my hand movements. Oils I guess are more careful in a way. I enjoy mixing to get the perfect colour. I love the smell.
Can you talk me through your process of creating a piece, from idea to finished article?
I always keep my eye out for faces, I can be walking down the street and I feel like I'm constantly looking at faces as if they were finished paintings I've created. I pick out certain colours and shapes in their faces and will be mentally colouring them in (I always get told off for staring). I always keep a notebook that gets filled with new concepts, ideas and phrases. I usually work quite quickly, I think mainly because Im on a tight deadline or because I can't wait to show it off to people. I'm definitely impatient when it comes to my work, but I don't see that as a negative!
How do you choose a subject or object to paint?
I don't think i can ever get bored of looking at the human face, I think it's always the colours that draw my attention. I always find it easier to paint people that I know, maybe it's because I've had a longer time to study them or i get to explore their character through paint.
How would you describe your art?
I've always love it so much when other people describe my work at exhibitions or even just online. My favourite description is my work being moody. I quite like that because thats not who I am in my personality so I think its funny when my work I've created is seen as that!
Do your pieces have any deeper meaning or make any statements? Or is it purely aesthetic?
I enjoy having meaning behind my work, even if it's not apparent. Saying that, sometimes I'm asked why I've used such colours and it's just because I wanted to make a certain colour that I felt.
I'm currently working on creating a series which pretty has not a lot of meaning behind the actual paintings but it's the titles of the pieces I want to make important. They're all named after things I've noted down or sentences that have been in heard in passing conversations. I easily get obsessed with repeating certain words or phrases. Within this new project I want to represent frame of mind, who I am.
I've found that I can look at other works that aesthetically I'm not particularly in love with but when I find out the context behind the works, I seem to fall in love with them that way. I guess its like the difference between having a beautiful life size human or an actual human who is so funny and has so much knowledge. (If that makes sense?)
How do you decide on colours for a piece?
I always make my base marks with magenta straight from the tube. I once had an exhibition with about 8 works showing. Someone turned and asked me if I really love purple, I think it didn't help that I had just dyed my hair lilac. It was all a coincidence with my latest hair colour but magenta is always included. I use quite a restricted colour palette, I find it strange when people comment saying my work is vibrant as I don't see it as that at all. Colour interests me so much, what the colours symbolise and the physiology of colour - the thought that the person next to me can be looking at the same thing but seeing it as a green instead of a blue. It's so interesting. I love mixing a tasty colour just how I envisioned it and wapping it down on the wood or boards.
Who or what influences you most?
Colour! I don't know if this is going to sound really 'teenage angst-y' but I've noticed I create majority of my self portraits when I'm feeling quite melancholic towards boys haha.
What is the biggest lesson (technically) in art that you've ever been taught?
Probably my mum saying 'paint what you see.' Because made me not look, then made me look at more than what I first saw.
My sixth form art tutor was obsessed with Magenta and was first to introduce me to it to use in my works. I can defiantly say that is where my love for using it came from, I think my style changed an awful lot during the time I was taught by her.
What is the biggest life lesson you've ever been taught?
Working with integrity always pays off. The art world is murky. It's an unregulated market where you can pretty much get away with anything. I once read up on one of the youngest female art dealers, I thought it was going to be so inspiring but she gave the advice of 'Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty.' It was so disappointing to read!
I like working hard, seeing progression and results, but I also like to have a good nights sleep. The only way I want to get my hands dirty is with paint.
Who is your favourite artist and why?
Tracy Emin, Quentin Jones, Polly Morgan, Hammershoi, Freud, Anselm Kiefer - especially his sculptural works. People have created so much beauty. I feel like I could list so many more male artists than I could female. I feel quite strongly about the representation of female artists in galleries, it seems you're more likely to find out about female artists once they've lived their life and at the end of their lives. Male artists you seem more likely to follow them through galleries from their early ages.
Can you tell us about a great up and coming artist that you think we should know about?
I've recently been going to as many art degree shows and I've seen so much new talent. This is my favourite time of the year and I can only recommend going to any you can get too. Much more fun and buzzy than your usual galleries visit. What's coming out of Goldsmiths truly impressed me this year, especially Riikka Hyvönen whose work explored the beauty of bruises. My friend did ask me if I just liked her work because it was pink and was of a bum. Probably was.
If I had to name one that Ive really been shouting about recently is Marcelina Amelia. Nice, nice, nice! Her work that she pumps out is crazy. I think her work holds an edge of darkness amongst quite innocent references which always draws me in. I met her through a group exhibition we were both in that was curated by Somewhereto_ and Kay Davis (another fab artist).
Where do you want to go with your art? What's in the future for you?
I'm really excited by sculptural art at the moment. I'm going to be experimenting with that, I want to see how that will translate. If people will be able to tell if I've made it. I don't want to ever stop making and creating. My hands are so important to me.
I'm in the run up to open my own emerging artists gallery called STUDIO14 which will home artist studios and a bar. I really want to invest in new fresh artists and be able to teach, share and give opportunity. I want to create an environment for the artist, their network and the neighbourhood.
Do you have any upcoming shows or places we can see your art in person?
In August my work is flying out to LA with UTTERCOUTURE who are a platform for emerging fashion brands, so you can check out my work in their pop up stores across Hollywood Boulevard, Beverly Hills and Oakland. Also I'm taking some works to Amsterdam with me over the summer. I've gone international! I wish I could say the National Portrait Gallery! That would be a dream, and to be in their BP Portrait Awards. It's on my list of things to do.
If you could be transported back in time, where would go?
New York galleries in 1985 only 1 female had a solo show, in 2015 that number has gone up by 4. It makes me so angry. I don't understand those figures at all, so I would be transported back through every year and filter in a mix of artists.
And probably back to 1998 just to have a strawberry jelly Panda Pop drink and a few Anglo Bubbly bubblegums. Nostalgia.
Are you available for portrait commissions?
Yes, everything can always happen!
How can people buy your work and what formats are they in?
Contact me! I've got a shop on my website with digital prints
If you could name one celebrity who you'd love to buy a piece of your work or commission a portrait, who would it be?
What is your favourite era or style?
I love Art Deco. It's so simple and clean but with so much sparkle. The architecture, hair styles, dance moves! I also love the tackiness of the 90s.
Lastly, what's your favourite motivational / life quote?
'Knock and the door will open.'
To read more interview from my 'A cup of tea with' series, click here!