We had the good fortune of connecting with Christine McKee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Christine, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
Many people believe that artists are born with an innate artistic talent, unaware of the study necessary to reach a high level. It requires a combination of years of practice, numeous art classes and workshops, as well as the willingness to keep showing up and sharing an inner part of yourself on canvas. For every painting of mine hanging in an exhibit, there is a myriad of paintings in various stages, lining the walls and floor of my studio. Some have been there for more than a year, unfinished for one reason or another. They may suddenly spring to life as I have an inspiration, or they may finally be painted over. Any one painting may have layers of paint and/or other paintings underneath that the viewer sees glimpses of, but does not realize that it is often the foundation, as well as the soul of the painting. Another misconception is that abstract art is easy. As a realistic painter you at least have a place to start, but as an abstract painter, how do you begin? How do you put down lines, colors, shapes, that discloses to the viewer a feeling or a message that you want to convey? These answers vary with each artist, but I can attest to the fact that it is easy to make a mess. Picasso is quoted as saying “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary”. What can you take out that will leave an interesting, thought provoking painting? For me it is a dance between feeling, intuition and hard work along with the application of artistic principles. I find this process amazing and I never tire of it.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have a BA and MS in the biological sciences. I loved to draw as far back as I can remember. I would always treat myself to art courses alongside my science curriculum. After I graduated and started working, I continued to take classes on the side. It wasn’t until I left my career to become a stay at home mom that I started to pursue art with a renewed passion. After moving to California, I took an extensive series of art classes at Bakersfield College, rented a studio, and started to exhibit my work. A turning point came when I was granted the amazing opportunity to become a participant in the year long Creating Community program at the Arts Council of Kern. I joined a few other artists in creating exhibitions designed to educate the public on topics pertinent to the local community. We researched each topic and partnered with like minded nonprofits, donating part of the proceeds to their cause. This totally changed my thinking as to the role art can play for enhancing the common good. I later continued in that vein for a solo show about military families. The purpose was to bring to light the difficulties they face, while at the same time applauding their sacrifices. On opening night, visitors were given the opportunity to write postcards of thanks to service members which were subsequently sent to troops in Afghanistan. My early work was mostly figurative. I felt the need to paint in a more abstract manner over time in order to more clearly express myself on canvas. The thread that remained throughout, however, was a feeling of a sense of movement and energy connecting all organisms on a deeper level. I am fortunate to be in the unique position to be able to draw upon both my years of art practice and my scientific background to expound upon this theme. I have been fascinated by environmental issues since taking my first ecology class in the 1970’s and subsequently worked in the environmental field. As a graduate student at the University of Arizona I collected, pressed and dried algae samples found on the reefs of La Jolla. In some of my latest work I incorporate photo transfers and enlarged projections of this algae as a basis for my abstract paintings. My intent is to focus on the importance of algae as it produces the bulk of our oxygen in the rapidly changing marine environment.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would definitely take my guests down to San Diego to visit Balboa Park, and later go for a cruise around the harbor. A favorite fun spot for dinner would be Cafe Sevilla . Since I live in North County, I would spend an afternoon at our great beaches. Brunch would be at either Naked Cafe or Shorehouse Kitchen in Carlsbad. The Campfire restaurant is a great spot for dinner. I always take my guests for dessert at Gelato Love, which is, in my opinion, the best gelato outside of Italy. As an artist I love to take my guests to visit the exhibits at Lux Art institute in Encinitas. Afterwards, dinner at Blue Ribbon for pizza is a must. Another day, coffee at Revolution Roasters in Oceanside would be in order, and then a stop at the wonderful Oceanside Museum of Art – another North County gem.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am indebted to my friends and family, who have been so supportive of me along the way. Chalita Robinson, art teacher at Bakersfield College taught me to draw with my soul. Nicole St. John, working at the Arts Council of Kern influenced the direction of my art. My focus was changed to creating exhibits that revolved around local social issues. I realized how art could be created to enhance and educate for the common good. Upon moving to the San Diego area, my art was supported by the Artist Mentoring program at Art on 30th with Kate Ashton. Taking classes from Allison Renshaw at Lux Art Institute in Encinitas further widened my skill set and thinking. During the pandemic, switching to online classes, such as Art2Life with Nicholas Wilton, was a lifesaver and kept me learning, focused and inspired.