quote by Georgia O' Keefe | watercolor by Courtney Khail
"I found I could say things with color & shapes that I couldn't say any other way... things I had no words for." - Georgia O' Keefe
So true. Sometimes painting feels like the only way I can truly speak. (Which says a lot because I talk pretty much non stop. I'm even reading this out loud as I type to make sure it "sounds" like me haha)
"Claire de Lune" | watercolor painting by Courtney Khail
Art and Womanhood
It's been hard this past week to create. The country is harboring such a sense of sadness, fear, and hatred, that at times it can make painting seem trivial. And writing about painting? Even harder. I looked at this blank screen for what seemed like hours before deciding what I wanted to say.
You may have never read my artist statement- what exactly my paintings represent (or at least what I strive to make them represent) but I think it's incredibly important to what I'm saying and how a lot of us are feeling right now, so I'll share it again:
"Influenced by my Southern upbringing, my work explores the complexities of femininity as expressed through nature.
Combining traditional subject matter with contemporary compositions and techniques, I strive to display a balance among dualities– creating paintings that are at once both delicate and fragile, while simultaneously brazen and bold.
From afar, my works appear to consist simply of vibrantly painted botanicals. Upon closer look though, their true depth is fully revealed. Utilizing dynamic linework, I encourage the viewer's gaze to slow – guiding them throughout the painting so they may fully experience the nuances and complexities that first impressions (both in art and in life) so often miss."
I was raised to be strong. Not a strong woman, just strong in general. Strong and good. (And by good, I mean that in the sense that I was to be kind, compassionate, and open minded. That my character mattered most, and that I was to always stand by my word. A very literal interpretation of "say what you mean and mean what you say.") I was taught to protect the weak, the disenfranchised, the misunderstood, and to listen closely to the words of others (for those words are what let you see into a person's heart. You can tell a lot about a person just by listening to what they "fill the silence with" so to speak.)
It wasn't until I was much older (and no longer living under my parents' roof) that I felt the weight of "womanhood" and the contradictory spectrum a lot of society would like women to reside within. (i.e. smart, but not too smart; witty, but not too witty, etc.) Instead of being defeated by those contradictions though, I celebrate them in my paintings. Women don't fit easily into a box (nor do I think we should.) We can be strong, opinionated, and smart, while still being nurturing, compassionate, and accommodating. As much as people may try to make women an "either/or," I think women are best at being an "and." Strong and compassionate. Smart and humble. Ambitious and fulfilled. The "and" is why I try to keep my paintings from only being "one thing." They are bright, colorful, and modern, while still being soft, delicate, and calming. They're meant for you to reflect and explore. To really focus and notice the subtle color variations, the varying line work, and the abstraction of reality. They're meant to mirror each of us- complicated and pretty and messy and hard to describe in one word. But in the end, all of those dualities and contradictions combine into something that works- something truly beautiful.
Hand painted Christmas Ornaments | Atlanta artist Courtney Khail
That's right! my hand painted ornaments are back for another holiday season!
And while I'm a firm believer of not jumping over holidays, (poor Thanksgiving seems to sometimes get lost in the shuffle) I did want to make sure you all knew that the pre-order sale for my hand painted ornaments is now available at www.courtneykhail.com! (I made sure to wait until November though. I couldn't bring myself to send this to you on Halloween.)
This year, in addition to being able to pick your favorite colors, I'm also now offering ornaments in sets of 6 and 12. (But don't worry, you can still just buy a single ornament if you'd prefer!) My hand painted ornaments sold out within days last year, so don't wait too long or you may miss them.
And speaking of the holidays...
Holiday Commissions now open | Original watercolor and ink paintings by Atlanta artist Courtney Khail
My Holiday Commissions are open as well! With tons of sizes and prices available, you'll be sure to find the perfect one (as well as securing yourself the title of "best gift giver ever.")
Sometimes it's necessary to reteach something it's loveliness." - galway kinnell (watercolor by Atlanta artist Courtney Khail
This quote has been in the back of my mind since I first read it 10 years ago, so I figured today was as good as any to share it with you all.
change yourself | gandhi | monday quote from atlanta artist courtney khail
Fun fact- Gandhi never actually said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Or at least, no one can find any record of it. Instead, it seems to be the paraphrasing of these worlds- "If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him... We need not wait to see what others do."
So instead of paraphrasing him, I thought today I'd give credit to the actual words used. Either way though, these words are so relevant today. We cannot just look to see what everyone else is doing- we must demand better of each other (and ourselves) so that our world can be better too.
Atlanta artist Courtney Khail in the studio | photo by Elle Golden
I feel like this post should actually be titled "what not to do when taking photos" or "why having a great photographer matters," but I thought I'd keep it simple. Plus, I'm not sharing any of the photos of me acting like a moron because this is the internet and NOTHING goes away on the internet so that title wouldn't fit anyway. (Take note kids. That snapchat seems harmless now, but someone took a screenshot and it will haunt you in 30 years when you're trying to get elected or something. Hashtag, make good choices.)
Anyhow, off that soapbox. A little while back my good friend, LeiLani (of Elle Golden Photography) came over to capture some images of me painting. Aside from classes, I'd never actually painted in front of anyone before- much less when I was also trying to sit up straight, not make awkward expressions with my face, or do anything weird with my resting hand- so while excited, I was also a little nervous. (Of course, there was absolutely nothing to be nervous about. As soon as I got into my rhythm, it was just like any other time we'd hung out. Except you know, instead of eating lunch, I was painting and she was photographing- but pretty much the same.)
A few things though- I'd never been so acutely aware of how I hold a paintbrush or just how restrictive jeans are when you're painting on the floor. Because while I do occasionally paint in jeans, those are my comfy jeans. My painting jeans if you will. The ones I do not wear outside, that are hanging on by a thread, and practically fall off when I wear them so they barely constitute as clothing. Definitely not what I was going to be photographed in. In the photos though, I'd chosen to wear more flattering (read- tighter) jeans which made for a few interesting moments while I tried to find a comfortable position that also photographed well.
Atlanta artist Courtney Khail in the studio | photo by Elle Golden
*Speaking of picking out clothes, during a previous phone call where I may have been lamenting what I was going to wear, LeiLani joked with me saying that if she had to wear real pants to work, then so did I- i.e. my cheerleading shorts and paint covered, ripped UGA orientation T-shirt from 2004 probably wasn't going to cut it. (side note, I call them cheerleading shorts, but aside from a brief moment in my childhood where I was enrolled in cheerleading camp, I have never been a cheerleader and therefore probably should just call them "cotton shorts I wear when I don't want to ruin something I actually care about" but that just doesn't have the same ring to it.)
Okay circling back to the point. So LeiLani came over with all of her gear and after I put on some cool jamz (that's right. jamz with a "z." The only appropriate term to categorize rap and hip hop that spans from N.W.A. to Ludacris with just a sprinkling of one hit wonders like Sisqo and 2000's classics like Britney Spears' "Toxic") we both got to work- me painting, her shooting. These are just a few of the images she captured (I'll share more later.) I'm so thrilled with the end result. (Aren't they beautiful? I just love the moments she caught- the movement, the thought, the light- all of it.) And just geeking out a little here, but if you look closely, you can see how I change as the piece evolves. In the beginning, my clothes are looser, my hair is down, everything is more flowy. As I move to doing the line work though, I swapped my shirt- (an unintentional move, I just wanted something more comfortable and less precious) my hair is tied back, and everything seems a little stronger and pulled together. That duality is pretty much exactly the feeling I strive to express in my paintings, so it was incredibly exciting to see that LeiLani captured it so perfectly.
Atlanta artist Courtney Khail in her studio | photo by Elle Golden
*A note about working with a friend- LeiLani and I actually met in a professional setting and had worked together on a shoot before this, but this was the first time I was the client. Watching her transform from "friend" to "photographer" was a little surreal, but in the best way. I'm always humbled by people's talents and being able to witness that talent coming from someone I call a friend was just amazing. So thank you, LeiLani. Not just for capturing such beautiful images, but for sharing your talent with me. It was an honor!
I'm sitting on our back porch listening to the Civil Wars and watching the wind blow through our old oak trees as the sun sets. It's officially fall, and I for one am stoked about it. I love cold weather (and sweaters, and Halloween, and football, and bonfires...and pretty much everything else fall brings) but even more so I love the stillness the fall begins to bring to life. Most people associate the fall with being busy (school starting, the holidays fast approaching, etc.) but I'd disagree. Fall is for cuddling up, reading a book, and eating lots and lots of soup.
Speaking of the Civil Wars, if you haven't heard them before- go fix that now. (And if you hate them, don't tell me or you'll break my heart.) They broke up a while back and I am still upset over it. I loved that duo. Their voices meshed so well- interwoven together to create something so perfect. You know when you pour cream into coffee and for that second before you stir, the black coffee almost hugs the cream? How the colors begin to blend together naturally before becoming one? That's what Joy and John Paul's vocals always reminded me of- that moment just before the cream is mixed in. A beautiful dance.
And I bet with that description you might be thinking "dude, this girl loves coffee." In fact, I do not. I actually only prefer Cuban coffee- and only from specific places. I always wished I liked it. It smells amazing, it's cozy, and (depending on the day and what study you want to read) it's good for you. But the biggest reason is just that I've always thought artists should drink coffee. It just seems like that's how it works. But alas, I have tried over and over and I just can't develop a taste for it. So I drink apple juice in the mornings. (Mixed with water because I'm an adult and care about my sugar in take duh.) My husband thinks I'm a robot, but i remind him that a robot would never be so emotional about a music duo they do not personally know splitting up. Nor would a robot talk this long about coffee for absolutely no reason. It just wouldn't be logical and we all know if nothing else, robots are logical.
"We plan, God laughs" - watercolor by Courtney Khail
I am pretty sure most people have heard this quote before. (So much so that trying to credit someone was ridiculous because it seems like at some point everyone has said this.
For those who know me- or maybe even those of you that don't know me in real life, but have followed along long enough to recognize this- I'm one who likes to be in control. I calculate, strategize, and balance pros and cons; I'm the one who researchers the hell out of trips so I can actually relax once it begins (luckily, I do have the ability to do that. my anxiety to be in control pretty much drops off about ten minutes into a road trip or as soon as I am at my flight's gate. Not before though. I'm a ball of anxiety in the security line. Pay attention, take out your liquids, and remove your shoes, people. This is not new information. No, they don't care that you just bought that water. You need to drink it or throw it away. #endrant)
To put it simply, I'm a planner. (And people have gotten very comfortable with my role as a planner. Example: when I made the announcement that I was no longer going to grad school for Medical Illustration you would have thought I had announced that the world was in fact flat, the sky was falling, and life as we knew it was over.) But the thing is, life can't exactly be planned out. Or you could plan it all out, but likelihood your plans will fall through and what was meant to be will just be. Jobs, friends, addresses- they can all change. But you just have to roll with the punches and assume that everything will be okay (and how it's supposed to be) in the end.
(And if by chance you think I'm wrong and you want to argue that "things don't happen for a reason," well don't. Or at least don't argue with me. That belief is seriously the only thing that keeps me sane when things don't go according to "my plan." That said, this is coming from someone who just put a rudolph stamp on her water bill because she didn't plan for enough stamps when mailing out Christmas cards last year and had to buy a whole new sheet for the few she had remaining. Good thing I love Christmas. Also, enjoy the Christmas cheer Dekalb County Water Department. And congrats on being joining Instagram- even if you STILL have yet to figure out how to collect automatic payments so I could stop writing checks and mailing them to you in Christmas themed envelopes.)
"with the new day comes new strengths and new thoughts." - Eleanor Roosevelt | watercolor by atlanta artist Courtney Khail
It's refreshing to me that every day I get another opportunity to start fresh- or at least as fresh as possible. I have a tendency to sometimes focus on things I could have done differently/better/etc. so this is a constant reminder to me. New day, new strengths, new thoughts. Leave yesterday in the past and focus on what can be done this day (and this day alone.)