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“What would you do if you were not afraid?”

Artist Christy Kinard has the answer.

By Carolyn Males

Standing in a room of Christy Kinard’s glossy floral paintings is like walking deep in a sun-lit garden, exuberant with color, texture, and passion. Bouquets radiate across canvas in a kaleidoscope of hues, drips, layers, and patterns. Little surprises –– pencil marks, scraps of fabric, and polka dots pop out like wildflowers among the blooms.

Carolina Camellias

And there vying for your attention in the midst of all lush blossoms sits a large painting of a tipsy birthday cake, its candles tilted at crazy angles while origami-shaped stars, flowers, hearts, and triangles dance on its slanted rainbow layers.

I didn’t choose art. Art chose me.”

It’s often said that one of the biggest fears artists face is confronting the blank canvas. In Kinard’s case, this is not a problem. The 42-year-old Hilton Head artist has carved out a routine that keeps her creative spark ignited. The night before she paints, she gathers inspiration from publications, social media, and photos she’s taken of flowers. Using this process, she decides on an idea and a dominant color. “If I really want to get out of my comfort zone, I might pick a color I don’t usually use and build a palette around it,” she declares.

“I love to get uncomfortable and get out of my comfort zone and embrace fear, pressing through its barriers. I have so much passion for what I’m doing that I feel that fear is not an option. I’ll get an idea in my head and it will lay on my heart and if feel like that has to be done, I’ll pursue it.”

The following day she preps with an affirmation. “I tell myself I’m going to create something that is wonderful and uplifting –– something I’ll love. I keep negative thoughts out of my head.”

Then with classic rock as background music, she strides up to her easel, sets a timer for thirty minutes and goes at it building layers with acrylic-loaded brushes, graphite pencils, spray paint and stencils, all the while collaging in scraps of fabric and paper she’s laid out on her worktable.

When the timer chimes, she stops and puts the canvas aside, turning it toward a wall or moving it to another room to clear her mind. Minutes later she begins the process anew, either finishing up a previous piece or starting another. As a result, she may have five works in progress at any one time.

Most days, her studio is her screened-in back porch overlooking a lagoon and the 18th hole of the Ocean Course in Sea Pines. She shares this space with her husband, artist Jon Davenport, whose mixed-media pieces build on iconic American advertising and Hollywood images. Not surprisingly, the couple meets the challenge of a dual workspace in a unique way.

Carolina State Of Mind

“When we both have a show going, we have to draw a line with a little paint and paper or anything we have lying around. It means: You cannot cross over. This is my space. If you’re coming over to bother me, you have to ask permission,” Kinard says with a laugh. On inclement weather days or when pollen threatens to add an unwanted patina to her paintings, she retreats to a guest bedroom she’s converted into an alternative work area.

Kinard’s boldness and her love of color are embedded in her DNA. In fact, the Dalton, Georgia, native admits “I didn’t choose art. Art chose me.” Her first “studio” was the family kitchen table where her mother encouraged her and her sisters to paint and do simple crafts like sculpting from flour dough. Her colorist bent came from wandering through her parents’ and grandparents’ gardens. Soon she would have a small plot of her own planted with sunflowers, wildflowers, or any kind of seed she could get her hands on. “I would daydream about coming home from school to see what bloomed.”

Teenage forays into nearby Chattanooga to study works by favorite and fearless artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat, then art school, a stint in England, marriage, and three children followed. Through it all, Kinard painted and pushed to get her work into galleries. Nothing stopped her. And certainly not rejection. Today her work is in galleries in Boston, Napa, Charlotte, St. Simons, and Bluffton’s Red Piano Gallery.

The latter was the fulfillment of a childhood dream. As a girl vacationing on Hilton Head with her family, she would drive past The Red Piano (then on Cordillo Parkway) and vow “someday my work will be hanging there.” Determined, she first approached the gallery when she was eighteen. “Not ready,” they told her. Undaunted, she tried two more times with the same result.

Let Them Eat Cake

Last fall, armed with a portfolio of vibrant floral paintings, she approached Ben and Lyn Whiteside, now owners of The Red Piano. Taken with her originality and brilliant use of color, they began displaying her work in a dedicated section of the gallery. Collectors were immediately smitten. A recent collector, delighted by Kinard’s rich palette and free-flowing design, plucked one to bring back to her Midwestern condo, declaring, “I just wanted something joyful.”

Recently, Kinard and Davenport have branched out into textiles, taking details from their paintings for designs on household goods like pillows, aprons, towels, rugs and even women’s leggings. Wallpaper might be the next frontier they tackle. Who knows what other new worlds they’ll dare to conquer?


To view Christy Kinard’s work, go to christykinard.com or redpianoartgallery.com