Artist of the Week: Kelsey Wong

Kelsey Wong is a Seattle-based artist who creates large-scale abstract oil paintings, as well as encaustic paintings.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?
Kelsey Wong: My love for art started as a young kid but really blossomed in high school. I took every art class possible with an amazing mentor teacher who really took me under her wing and fostered my love of ceramics and sculpture. Being able to form three-dimensional pieces was magical for me. From there, I went to Santa Clara University and double majored in Art and Art History with an emphasis on metal sculpture. Metal sculpture was great, but after graduating, it was not practical to continue doing. I decided I wanted to teach and received my MIT from Seattle Pacific University. After graduating from SPU, I taught art for seven years at Holy Rosary School in West Seattle. My husband and I then decided to start a family and ended up having twins. I decided to take time off to care for my kids. It wasn’t until a few years ago I started creating again and wanted a change. I started making encaustic paintings after really loving their texture, versatility and beauty. These days I have transitioned to large-scale abstract oil paintings as well as encaustic painting. It allows me to create sculpture and three-dimensional aspects on a two-dimensional support, which is super fun.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
The process for me changes with each and every piece based on the season or my mood. One constant in every painting is color choice. I choose my main color palette I’d like to use and go from there. That choice is the most valuable one and is the most time-consuming. I add layers of oil paints or wax, depending on which medium I am working on, and go from there — adding many layers and other materials ’til it feels right. Because my pieces are abstract, color is central to conveying the mood and feeling of the piece.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
My inspiration comes from the loved ones I surround myself with. They inspire me to always be a kid. Having fun and being passionate about making art that brings others joy. My parents have always fostered my love for art and, to this day, help me frame, hang, you name it, and they are there to help. My kids are also especially inspiring, and I think that’s why so many of my pieces are named by them or chosen in bright colors to bring a smile to their faces.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
My pieces are all inspired by nature. In each painting, viewers will always see a nod to a horizon, movement of water or the beautiful warm summer sunset. I love the earth tones and the juxtaposition of the fiery colors that fall brings, and try to incorporate all those colors in my pieces.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
The piece of artwork that means the most to me was not painted by me, but I inherited when my aunt passed away. It is a large-scale abstract in a Rothko style that has obviously influenced many of my pieces ever since. My aunt was an amazing woman who died far too young. Her love of art and collecting stays with me, and I will cherish and be forever grateful for her instilling that love of art at an early age.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
The greatest artistic experience of my life was moving to Florence, Italy for six months in college. I studied photography, art history, painting; but most importantly, fresco restoration. My professor was a giant in the restoration of historic Frescos in Italy. He not only introduced me to a completely new form of art but the rich history of fresco in Italy. We were able to get into churches and museums after hours to see restoration in action, talk to monks about their artistry as well as walk the Halls of the Medici Corridor. It was life-changing and so inspirational. It opened my eyes to more historic art processes like encaustic painting.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
I am currently showing at the Space Building in Fremont, Macrina Bakery in Belltown and have a solo show opening Nov. 4 at Domicile Gallery in Madison Park. I will be showing at Domicile from Nov. 4 through Dec. 5. Please stop by if you are in the area. I also have a website, I try to keep my website updated and am always open to commissioned projects as well.

What’s next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
Besides my upcoming show, my husband and I are very busy building an art studio in our backyard. We are building a DADU, so I will not take up our entire house with all my art materials. My hopes are that other artists will come create in the space with me, and eventually, I will teach classes in the space as well.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I wish I had a more interesting and fun response, but just black and lots of it!

About ‘Artist of the Week’: Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it’s also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at [email protected] And if you’re wondering just what constitutes art, that’s the beauty of it; it’s up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.