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Margaret Crowley Kiggins

Artist's Interview

How long have you been creating?
Short answer: about 30 years (started as a kid) The story goes like this: I have always loved drawing and coloring- I can remember how I loved the way crayons smelled, I loved reading their names as soon as I learned to read. I remember when Socrates, our boxer, ate my box of crayons and how sad I was upon discovering the slimy dog drool wreckage and how elated and fascinated I was a day or two later when his poopees were loaded with bright multi-colored crayon chips! Oh yeah, you asked me about painting... I tend to ramble. My first "commission" came to me when I was 12 as I was already established as the kid who can draw stuff. My mother's friend bought a wood plaque, a paint brush and a set of cheap acrylic paints and gave this all to me with $12 to paint a pinto pony on the plaque for a gift. I did it from an encyclopedia picture (I don't know what a pinto pony looks like!) and I guess it was what she wanted because I got to keep the money the paints and the brush. Then my mother decided to let me have my dad's paint supplies- he died when I was 9. I was really touched and sad all over again. The paints were dried up and the brushes were pathetic and my dad painted as a hobby so he never really got to be all that good, except I thought he was DaVinci at the time. He liked to set up still lifes with his guns and flannel hunting clothes. He also painted from the "American Heritage" series of hardcover periodicals. He gave away most of his work so I only have a few things of his.
What other artists and movements inform your work?
When I was young I loved to draw with pencil or ink. I loved Escher. As a teenager, I began to work with fabrics- dying- silk screening- sewing etc., I appreciated my grandmother (her beautiful quilts and clothes). In high school I continued to draw but music was my focus and I played jazz guitar was in a band (ever so briefly) and studied theory and composition in special courses. I liked Kandinsky and Klee then. My senior year was a turning point- my mother died violently in a plane crash before my very eyes- I still had my hand in the air waving goodbye as I was screaming from the depths of my soul without even making a sound (Edvard Munch- the scream). I stopped making music- it hurt too much. I withdrew and drew stuff- all day and all night. I haven't ever stopped. Then, I enjoyed Norman Rockwell and Edward Hopper- both deal with people but one is light the other is dark. I also loved Maxfield Parrish- his work was dreamlike to me. When I went to college I wasn't allowed to like Norman Rockwell so I became interested in the Impressionists- particularly Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot because they were talented women succeeding in a man's world. I was more curious about the women artists' lives then their work.. Although, I remember a magical moment when I went on a school trip to Washington DC to see the Impressionist Show at the National Gallery and I was closely inspecting one of Cassatt's paintings when I saw what must have been a strand of her hair entombed forever in her painting- captured DNA.... wow..... I don't like Rodin and I am protesting by not ever buying any of his work for his treatment of Camille Claudel! And I adore Artemisia (Gentileschi)! I like Van Gogh's story better than his work and I used to love Paul Gaugin's South Pacific series of paintings- he is actually buried over there somewhere- he was kind of a jerk though, he was obnoxious as Van Gogh's house guest AND he left his family and set up shop with all those exotic half naked island women! I guess this brings us to my 20's and I became involved with an artist's cooperative in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and my influences at the time, were the other artists' in my group- there were about 75 of us. That was a real exciting time in my life, ascethically speaking. By my 30's, I was married with kids and still painting but I gravitated to watercolor because it is not smelly or messy and less toxic. So the artists that inspired me were Homer (I saw his watercolor exhibit in DC one year and I was stunned, his oils stink IMO) and Sargent. Whistler also had some very nice watercolor studies. I have gotten involved with local groups as well as some national groups and I now try to follow the work of various contemporary watercolorists, like Jean Grastorf, Paul McCormack, Dean Mitchell, Jeanne Dobie, Judie Morris, and several others that have slipped away from me, as I myself try to break into that ever elusive clique..
How would you describe your work?
Ecclectic, Immature, Realistic. I chose "Ecclectic" because I get bored with the redundancy of painting the same way all of the time so I will experiment with different subjects, styles, mediums and so on. I picked "Immature" because I truly believe that a part of me is emotionally arrested at 17 as a result of my mom's death, therefore, my artwork regresses from time to time. Also, I was told that an artist whose work has not found a "style" is "immature". So there you go. I chose "Realistic" because this is how I began and what I always come back to- I have a watercolor portrait painting business that keeps me financially lubricated.
What are your motivations for creating?
I don't know. I had a psychologist friend say to me "Pretend you know. NOW, answer the question".I suppose you could say that it is a very spiritual thing to do, to create something. Make something from nothing (well, from not much anyway). I think that this is what it means in the Genesis book of the bible when God makes man in his own image- the image is the act of creating. What other animal does it? (I don't want to argue the fine points of this because there are big gaping holes it this story if you start to study it). Superficially I am motivated by money. I like to bring money into our family so I don't feel like such a consumer! I also get a big feeling of validation when someone wants to buy something I have created.
How, if at all, have the events of 9-11 impacted your art making?
Well, I suppose I had a bit of post traumatic stress disorder- since my mom died in a plane crash that is the theme of most of my nightmares. I could not even imagine being on one of those planes- I could almost vomit thinking of it. My husband is an American Airlines pilot and flies the same plane that plowed into the trade center. We visited the top of the trade center when we dated as he is from NYC. We still have a difficult time with all of the repercussions that we continue to feel as a result. My artwork tends to become cheerier and more colorful in these dark times. I actually don't like that I escape this way. I have never dealt with any of my demons using my artwork. I suppose that is rather chicken sh*t of me.
What do you find stimulating right now? How does this influence your creative process?
Color Color Color. I have been exploring color in various subjects, like butterflies, flamingos, geisha, fantasy flora and fauna, and other ideas that will be showing up on Ebay in the near future- that I won't divulge here...(mystery and intrigue).... To the untrained mind, it might appear that I suddenly have an interest in ornithology or entomology, however, it is really just my interest in color and I research the subject so that my painting is true and won't annoy those who have more than average knowledge on the subject matter.
You have been in numerous exhibitions and publications, with work in both corporate and museum collections. What advice do you have to offer for the artist just starting to branch out into the brick & mortar art world?
I think every one takes their own path and my advise may not apply to others as easily. But heck, I 'll take a stab at it. If I were to do it again I would have chosen "education" instead of "commercial design" as my major in college. It would be nice to have a teaching job in the art field. This is good if you have this option, but I think my door is closed. If you can write, and judging by the message boards most of you are up to the task,- I would definately recommend knocking out some articles for art magazines- especially the ones that publish monthly- they are starving for new material. I wrote an article for American Artist Watercolor magazine and submitted it. They called me within a month, maybe two, and we edited the snot out of it over the phone and via email- they cut it down from 6 pages to around 3, I guess, and used almost all of the slides in MENSA (high IQ society), Intertel (another high IQ society - top 1%), and of course, EBSQ! I have had artwork featured in the various publications belonging to some of these groups because I sent it to them and asked them nicely to consider it. Then you get to brag about it! Having so many memberships may seem nutty, but I deal with people alot and they are more easily swayed if I have tons of documentation. It is a big scary step for some folks to commission an artist to paint a portrait. They choose their cars or homes with less consideration, so every little bit helps!
What would you like your fellow EBSQ artists and collectors to know about you and or your work?
I suppose it is important to know that I am conscientious and a bit of a perfectionist. I work great under pressure and have fire in my belly when I work on a project- whether it is a portrait commission or mural. I can procrastinate if I sense that there is no urgency. For instance, I have a commission to paint a watercolor of my client's home and I have been sitting on it since last October because this person told me to "take (my) time, there is no rush". So, shamefully, it has taken the back seat to every other project that has come to my attention. I am human, after all.

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