For artist Kelly Gowan, painting is an all-encompassing love affair. If you go through her email, you will find reminder messages to herself with more than 100 ideas, processes and pieces of inspiration she doesn’t want to forget. It could be raindrops settling over the dogwoods, mist rolling over the lake by her home or the veining and cracks in a geode.
“I am constantly thinking of art,” she says. “I can think for hours on how a painting will be built. I take the final image I have in my mind, then start from the ground up, imagining layer after layer of paint, ink, resin and how I want to achieve the final look.”
Although Gowan lives and paints in her home studio in East Texas, surrounded by tall pines and overlooking Greenbriar Lake, she makes regular visits every month to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where she meets with collectors, designers and the galleries she shows in. She excels at collaborating one-on-one with customers to help determine size, understand the look of the space, and land on various styles and colors.
“Discussing what art means to someone is one of the greatest joys of being an artist and why I love getting to know my collectors and other artists in the community,” she says.
Gowan grew up around art and embraced it all her life—her father did pen-and-ink sketches, and her grandmother was an oil painter. In college, she created a massive watercolor painting of a sea turtle. In her 30s, she was busy raising a family, surviving breast cancer and running a staffing company, but her love affair with art kept growing. Eight years ago, she moved with her husband and children to Holly Lake Ranch in East Texas.
“We wanted to look at something beautiful when we woke up, to make time to enjoy the precious moments in time and find ourselves again,” she says.
Although they are far from retirement, they try to live each day to the fullest. “Till the last drop of sunshine,” she says. It is in this new environment that Gowan explored and found her true self as a professional artist.
“Once we moved out to the country, life just opened up,” she says about the change. “I made time to paint and discovered how much I loved it and that I could be successful at it. It is all I want to do now.”
Gowan painted dogwood and pine trees across canvases and abstract landscapes inspired by her hikes and the views of Greenbriar Lake from the family’s home. But rather than fall into traditional landscape work, Gowan infuses her own take on nature with modern and contemporary touches. Soon, her home was filling up with paintings, and her husband encouraged her to sell some to pay for supplies to create new artwork.
“I put my art online and started selling immediately,” she remembers. “But I was really blown away to have such a huge success at the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival.”
It was at this festival in 2014 that she entered as an emerging artist and sold out of her work. (Her husband had to drive back to the warehouse in their van to load up more pieces!)
“Since then, I have been blessed to stay continuously busy doing commissions and painting almost every day,” she says.
Today, Gowan is a full-time artist; her work is on display at a number of galleries, and she has collectors all over the world, including France, Germany, Singapore, Denmark and all across the United States. Installing art or meeting to discuss art in person with her customers are moments of new inspiration for her. “My collectors love not having to hunt all over to try and find exactly what they are looking for, such as the right size, color, style, etc.,” she says. “They can work with a single point of contact to design unique looks as we move through various rooms and design spaces.”
Getting to know the collector as well as seeing the space, styles they love and the lighting all help her to create the perfect custom pieces. These relationships often grow from one painting to another. “Not only is it about me enjoying the journey of life as an artist, but it is about my collectors enjoying the journey of finding or creating that perfect masterpiece,” she says.
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.