The Champaign-Urbana community hosts a wide variety of events to entertain and educate its inhabitants. Past music festivals, farmers markets and museum exhibitions have enriched the lives of students and family, and the upcoming month of April promises to do the same through the Boneyard Arts Festival. This year marks the 13th anniversary of this festival, which has become an annual occurrence.
The Boneyard Arts Festival represents artists of many mediums, including painting, photography and music. Due to the extensive, creatively rich pool of participating artists, 40 North (the arts council in charge of the festival) has a difficult time deciding upon the signature image for the festival.
This year’s signature image is Pop, a painting created by watercolorist Kelly Eddington. From the age of 14, Eddington displayed an interest and passion for realism, often spending a large portion of her day in her high school’s art room. Given her talent and the large scale of the festival that she is participating in, it is only fitting to learn more about the artist behind the signature image.
buzz» Can you tell us more about Pop?
Kelly Eddington» I was very happy when I learned that Pop had been selected as Boneyard’s signature image this year. When I paint something shiny or sparkly with watercolor, my viewers seem to think something magical is going on, and they always want to know how I did it. So I like to challenge myself with still life compositions that include lots of shine. Pop features sixteen gumballs on a piece of aluminum foil. I liked how the gumballs reflected my lighting equipment and the colors of their neighbors, and watercolor is uniquely suited to achieve that effect. I found the foil particularly rewarding—I formed it into little nests to keep the gumballs from rolling around, but it quickly became my favorite part, providing bonus areas of pure abstraction and even more reflection and shine.
Pop is one of my most cheerful watercolors. I painted it during a stressful period where I found myself reaching for bright colors again and again. The pinks and reds were almost medicinal. The repetition of the round shapes comforted me, and it was soothing to be in control of these colorful little worlds during a chaotic period that was thankfully brief.
buzz» Have you ever presented work at the Boneyard Arts Festival before? If so, what was the experience like?
KE» I’ve shown work at four different venues before, including the Urbana Business Association, and each one presented a unique challenge. Trying to figure out ways to hang paintings in spaces that have limited wall space…well, that forces you to do some creative problem solving. Everyone I’ve worked with has been unfailingly adaptable and appreciative. Boneyard transforms so many parts of Champaign County. For most artists, the weekend seems to blow by very quickly, and I always wish it could last longer than a few days!
buzz» Can you describe the works that will be showcased at the festival?
KE» I paint portraits and close-ups from nature but, for my little show at the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau, I’ll display still life paintings featuring lots of shine and reflections. That’s something I’ve explored a lot over the past five years. My subjects will include jewelry, glass gems (used in floral arrangements or aquariums), metallic bows, marbles, a collection of Andy Warhol pins and gum balls, of course.
buzz» What are some pieces that will be showcased that are most meaningful to you?
KE» I’m going to include a small self-portrait called She Is One of Us among the still life paintings. In this painting, I am reading to my baby niece, Belle.
buzz» What was the inspiration for those pieces?
KE» Belle is the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen (after her mother), but during her first few months of life, that’s kind of all she was: an adorable little creature. But her personality really started to emerge when she was four months-old. I snuggled up beside her on the floor, held a book above us so she could see the pictures and she was transfixed. She stayed that way as I continued to read three more books to her, and that’s when I knew that Belle was going to be part of the tribe of Eddington Readers. And this became a painting that I’ll always treasure.
buzz» What other festivals have you presented at?
KE» I don’t really take part in other festivals, but I do enter as many competitions and juried exhibitions as I can afford. Entry fees and shipping costs add up in a hurry. Recently I’ve shown my work at the Illinois Watercolor Society’s national exhibition, Missouri’s Watercolor International and Quincy’s Quad-State Biennial. One of my paintings was accepted for the upcoming Splash 16: Exploring Texture, which is an annual international competition that culminates in the publication of a book. I’ve had the extreme good fortune of being invited to display my work in one-person shows across the region, including the Decatur Area Arts Council, Jacksonville’s Strawn Art Gallery, Culver-Stockton College and Quincy University.
buzz» What artists inspire you?
KE» I was an Art History minor so I have so many, and I’m the crazy person in the museum who stands in front of paintings with tears running down her face. Artists who have made me weep include Giotto, Masaccio, Rembrandt, Goya, Durer, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, Hopper, Warhol, Vermeer, Picasso, Rothko, Bellini and de Kooning.
But, and not to sound too precious about this, my biggest inspiration is nature. The colors and shapes I see in this most boring of landscapes blow my mind sometimes. I’ll gasp at a stubbly, harvested cornfield in afternoon light. Or swirly snow drifts by the side of a ditch after a blizzard: There is no better sculptor than the wind. Color combinations you see on birds, shapes created by wilting flowers… I feel like I must annoy my husband whenever we take a walk in the fall because I can’t see a red tree without pointing it out to him. It’s kind of a problem.
buzz» Watercolors seem to be your forte. Have you worked in any other mediums?
KE» Before I began painting full-time, I was a high school art teacher for 17 years. I taught at Oregon High School in Northern Illinois and Unity High School here in Champaign County. Art teachers are trained to be proficient in all mediums, or at least as many as possible, so I’ve done everything from painting, drawing and sculpture to advertising design, calligraphy and even basket weaving. But watercolor has always been my first love.
buzz» What other creative mediums do you use?
KE» It’s mostly just watercolor now, but I’ll do the occasional pencil or ink drawing. My secondary creative outlet is my YouTube channel. It’s called Art Food Kitty, and I demonstrate watercolor techniques and narrate my painting process (along with the occasional recipe and cameo appearances by my cats). The channel has nearly 90,000 subscribers and over four and a half million views, and that’s where I earn the bulk of my income. I spend a lot of time promoting my work online through any number of social media and crowd-funding outlets including Patreon. I also work as an illustrator and writer for @U2, which was named “Best Music Fan Site” by Entertainment Weekly.
buzz» What is it about watercolors that you find so appealing?
KE» Absolutely everything. I love how simple and inexpensive the supplies are: a piece of paper, tape to attach it to a board, about a dozen colors, a few brushes and a cup of water. I don’t need special equipment like a printing press or a kiln. The paint itself looks delicious. I love the way watercolor paper smells when it’s wet. If you’ve spent any time painting with watercolors, you’ll notice that all other kinds of paint seem ridiculously goopy and sticky. More than anything else, I’m fascinated with the way the paint flows and blooms over a wet surface. I try to harness it and make it do what I want and, I think I have fair amount of control over it, but ultimately watercolor is full of beautiful and challenging surprises.
buzz» You went to U of I. Can you tell us about places you visited on campus or the subjects that you would paint?
KE» I lived at Sherman Hall in a tiny dorm room and, during those years I worked on brightly-colored, miniature abstract paintings. I didn’t need to use a special studio space—my desk was sufficient. I walked from Sherman Hall to the Art + Design building many, many times and, since I didn’t have a car, I took the bus many, many times. I’m from a tiny town in Western Illinois and, the University of Illinois’s size overwhelmed me at first, but I eventually found places in campus town that I loved. I don’t drink coffee because even a little bit of caffeine makes painting precise lines difficult, so I became addicted to the orange juice at Espresso Royale. I lived at That’s Rentertainment, Record Swap and Record Service… I was so sad when I returned to the area in 2004 and discovered that Record Service had closed its doors. They had posted a sign that said, “We can compete with big box stores, but we can’t compete with free.”
Eddington’s YouTube channel can be found at http://youtube.com/user/pupedd.