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Meet Kelly Neidig

Interview with Kelly Neidig

Abstract Painter. Hair Stylist. Working with ARTSTRA to expand Vancouver’s art scene.

You graduated with a B.A. in Integrative Arts, when did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I drew a lot as a kid. I remember visiting my grandparents and just was happy sitting next to them drawing a way. When I was in first grade I won one of those competitions, you know, the ones where they’d give kids a sheet of paper with  an american flag in the middle… but I won $5 with my picture of a lighthouse! So that was pretty cool. And there was this one time I came home with a picture I’d drawn of a bird, and now, as I’ve gotten older, I realize my mom was probably messing with me, but she said, “No. You didn’t draw that, did you? I think your teacher probably did that.” And I was like, “No Mom! It was me! I really drew this!” But, as I got older I didn’t really think about it. The school I went to didn’t have enough funding for things like art, so I didn’t even consider it as an option until completing two years at Penn State for a degree in Landscape Architecture.  I realized I could change my major to art if I wanted to, so I did!

Do you think the lack of funding your school had for art impacts your passion and current work with ARTSTRA and the Columbia Arts Network?

Absolutely.  I want anyone who has a desire to make art to be able to. 

Were you painting or drawing landscapes before Penn State?

I think I only drew one landscape as a child.  Mostly I drew dogs and horses. Then my dad got me a kit that taught you how to draw portraits. My first portrait was of David Niven. 

How long have you been in the Portland area?

Well, I grew up in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, then lived in Phoenix, AZ for four years after graduating, then moved to Portland in 2005,  then moved into Vancouver suburbs in 2016. 

How did it feel the first time you were featured in a gallery?

It was surreal. I felt like I was at a party I wasn’t invited to.  But no one else knew I didn’t belong there. 

What inspires you?

When I sit down to paint I try to think about what is happening in the present moment. Did I read an article that made me angry, do I feel frustrated about something I need to get out, or I like thinking about outer space, I love space, and I love thinking about quantum physics and molecular structures. The weather is also something else that inspires me a lot. I was just sitting here in my studio the other day with the windows open, feeling the breeze coming out and watching the white pillowy flowers on the trees blowing around with the sun shining through. I could hear birds chirping-sometimes I want to show that feeling but how do I convey that when I don’t want to paint a bird?  So I use color and abstract shapes. Instagram is another “happy place” for me to find inspiration, or sometimes frustrations, like, “oh no, I don’t like that. I need to go paint now.” 

You are also a hair stylist, is that a creative outlet for you?

Definitely. However, the color part isn’t as creative -I compare hair coloring to ceramics. You take time applying the color, but you don’t know how it will actually turn out until you wash it out and take a look. It’s like glazing. You spend all this time adding the glaze, getting it how you want it, then you pull it out of the kiln… you just don’t know. There are too many other things at play. You don’t know how often the person dyes their hair, if they’ve bleached it beyond repair, or even their medications can change the dye…

Cutting hair I compare to sculpting because you have a shape you are trying to put it into and you can have fun- take a little off here, or if you snip it like this it will do this- But cut and color combinations are really fun. It’s nice to see the final product cut and styled all nice.


Kelly has graciously donated five paintings for us to use 100% proceeds towards mutual aid projects. See what is available at nwlocalart.com

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