Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley, a mixed media painter, an illustrator and has won the award for being the Best in Show Mixed Media 2-D in the Spokane Art Fair in 2011. She has had her work published in, Underground Culture in all parts of the World , Studio Visit Magazine, and Spectrum Fantastical Arts Annual.
Tell us about your life, where are you from and how did you start as a painter.
I grew up in Northern California, the part of the state which is coastal, foggy, rainy and filled with enormous Redwood Trees and few people. I grew up as an only child, taking care of goats, chickens, horses, rabbits, dogs and cats. My mother, who made beautiful stained glass windows, always encouraged me to draw. I graduated from CCAC (California College of Arts and Crafts) in Oakland, CA in 1997 with a degree in photography, but having lost my love for photography because of it’s reliance on technology and toxic darkroom chemicals, turned towards drawing and pursued illustration jobs. People kept saying that my illustrations looked more like fine art; I was offered a show at a gallery, which was successful, so that was the start of me being a painter and I’ve been doing it ever since.
When did you first discover your painting talents?
I never thought I would use paint as I always enjoyed making very detailed, psychedelic black and white pen and ink drawings only. Then I got an illustration job which required the use of watercolor. I was scared to attempt it and never thought I would like, but eventually figured out how to make it work and realized you could make things very dark and rich with watercolor if you wanted to. The more I got the hang of it the more fun it became. So basically I was forced against my will to learn watercolor, and it turned out to be a good thing in the long run.
Who is your role model or anybody to look up to as far as painting is concerned?
I think James Jean is very good. He’s young and incredibly prolific and his colors, line quality, subject matter and overall mood are beautiful and seem like they would come from someone much older. Every time I see his work I’m shocked at how young he is and I feel like I should just give up on being an artist already!
Caspar David Friedrich was a German Romantic painter who often painted lovely dark scenes of people in quiet contemplation of nature.
Jess Bronk has a great mood to her landscapes.
Some of my favorite artists are not necessarily painters, but illustrators like Wayne Anderson, Chris Van Allsburg, Maurice Sendak and Gustave Doré. Their works never cease to amaze me.
What role does an artist or his paintings play in society?
Artists should make life a little less monotonous and routine. They stir things up and hopefully show you something you’ve never seen before. They should expand your eyes and your brain at the same time.
Which is your favorite art work?
Impossible to pick one, but Vicissitudes by Jason deCaires Taylor is pretty amazing. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before; it’s haunting, it’s gorgeous yet shocking with so many people standing underwater looking like a confounding shipwrecked treasure or Stonhenge-like alien creation; it’s a mysterious image you could wonder at for a long time and I love the idea of coming across it unexpectedly while scuba diving.
Any words of advice for the budding painters.Also tell us about any of your works that you like the most.
This is a hard one. I have mixed feelings about advising young people to pursue the life of a full time artist. It’s hard to make a living as an artist, and it has become harder now (at least here in the US) because of the downfall in the economy – art is a luxury, and when times are harder than normal, it’s even more difficult to sell your art. People need food and shelter; they don’t ‘need’ art to survive. I used to think adults were being a stick in the mud when they advised us young aspiring artists to ‘have a back up plan’ in case it didn’t work out, but I think they were right and I might pass that same advice on now, even though it makes me feel a bit sad to do so. If you do decide to be an artist, I would say to follow what truly speaks to you rather than making your art conform to what’s trendy or what you think you ‘should’ make. But then, what’s trendy often sells better. So it’s difficult to say. Sorry!
“The Wisely Undisclosed Inlet: This painting is inspired partially by a very old engraving of the islands in the coastal British Columbia region. I like to imagine the creatures lurking in the woods and in the sea not usually seen by the human eye (or possibly not really in existence) so I put some in there.
“Ruan Lingyu & the Octopus”: I feel like this is one of the more successful and realistic portraits I’ve done. It portrays Ruan Lingyu, who was a famous silent film actress in China in the 1920′s, in a pensive moment. I think it captures the silent, lovely yet sad feeling that the old photos of her impart. She seemed like someone stuck in the wrong world, and I think I paid tribute to that here.
“Sea Cats”: I wanted to create an Art Deco inspired fantastical underwater scene with graceful cats in it and I succeeded in making something I wanted to look at for a long time.
Unfortunately someone bought the original soon after I painted it, so I never got to look at it for that long. But hey, I can’t complain too much about that.
“Lobsters”: Again, I wanted to make an Art Deco inspired under-the-sea piece. Lobsters are fascinating to me, as are crabs and coral and kelp and sea urchins, everything you see in here. What’s about to happen between the lobsters and the crab? Is it an epic battle to the death, perhaps a twisted love triangle…? I will always wonder.
As you have mentioned on your website that you like the interaction of the opposites, is there any specific reason behind it?
Life is not all good or all bad, things are not all serious or all funny, nature is beautiful and also ugly, as is the human race. I enjoy watching a fine opera and I also enjoy laughing until I cry at fart jokes; life requires all those extremes to be complete and they all interest me. I like to see what happens when you braid contrasts together in an artful way.
What role do your paintings play in your life?
They allow me to pay the bills and they take my mind to a different, more interesting place. They illustrate what I wish my dreams were like.
(Many people ask me if I base my paintings off my dreams, but in reality I rarely dream, and when I do, it’s usually quite boring).
Your website says that your paintings are inspired by your childhood experiences; tell us more on that, what kind of experiences?
Childhood memories I’ve worked into paintings include my pet rat riding our dog, taking our goats on walks through the Redwood Forest, my father swimming in his pond with his dog in front of his airstream trailer, the beach I grew up running through piles of storm-tossed Giant Bull Kelp on, the endangered California Red Bellied Newts that spent the summer in our pond, and various images seen when backpacking through SE Asia with my father when I was 14. Everything becomes more hazy and magical in the distance of memory.
Tell us about your interests beyond the world of paintings.
I love gardening in my yard, spending time with my partner and my goofy dog, traveling, going to parks/arboretums/botanical gardens to wonder at crazy plants, eating good food with friends, doing things that increase the laughter in my life.
The animal world looks like an essential inclination, is this your love for them or anything else?
I spent a lot of time while growing up in the company of animals and they always fascinated me.
I find animals in general more likable than humans and I love to watch the interactions between them.
What in Victorian era and mythology excites you to paint it?
I love the ridiculous over-ornamentation the European Victorians went in for. The obsessively detailed nature of many things from that era combined with the facade of perfection, also the asian influence they mixed into some of their designs and their interests in plant collections and aquariums.
What do you like and dislike about art world?
Hah! What do I dislike about the art world? How much time do you have…? Hmmm… let me see… the galleries who treat artists badly, the tedious ongoing popularity of very bad hip unoriginal quickly cranked out art which often sells better than truly good art, the rich people who just buy what their interior decorators tell them to buy rather than trusting what they like, the pretentious meaningless art talk…
There are some genuine cool things going on in the art world I suppose but when I experience it, it often feels like a
What are you working on nowadays?
I just finished a commission painting for someone who lives on a tiny beautiful rugged natural island off the coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.
It’s of her dogs interacting with the various aspects of the environment there:
Next I’ll be working on a couple new private commissions, as well as a painting of my dog Otis in a jungle of Lotus plants and snails.
This spring I’ll be showing at the Spectrum Fantastical Arts event in Kansas City,
Your first name, Kamala looks like an Indian one, is it so? If yes, then how?
It’s funny- in the last year at various art shows, Indian people have approached me with variations of “You have an Indian name, but you are not Indian; what’s up with that?!”. (I’m pretty darn Caucasian and American, alas). When my mother was in college she babysat a Burmese girl named Kamala whom she liked a lot, and my parents also liked the book Siddhartha, in which the character Kamala is a courtesan who teaches the protagonist the ways of physical love. Voila(!)
What do you think about India?
I am intrigued by India. I have been to Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Italy, Greece, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Japan, but never India. Every time I see the images and hear the stories of friends who’ve travelled there, I want to go more. I hope someday to make it over there!
Interviewed by: Isha Bajpai