Kelly Puissegur knows the value of a good eavesdropping session.
The Los Angeles-based painter and illustrator jots down strange phrases she overhears or random thoughts that pop into her head before transforming these snippets of conversation into vivid, playful vignettes. In celebration of Women’s History Month, we partnered with the world’s leading online art gallery Saatchi Art to commission Kelly to create works inspired by the phrase “Refuse to be the muse,” which speaks to women’s historical role as subjects, rather than creators, of art. Here, we caught up with Kelly to learn more about her creative process and her take on gender equality in the arts.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started as an artist?
I live in Santa Monica, California with my husband, daughter and my dog that looks like Falcore. I went to college with no direction and eventually took an art class. I was hooked! That’s when I decided I was going to be an artist. Although today when people ask me what I do, I cringe every time I say I’m an artist. I’m not sure why.
You studied fine art in college so we must ask. Art school– is it overrated or underrated, and why?
I always think school is a good idea as long as you don’t have to get yourself into debt. School is definitely not a necessity but it’s nice to be around like-minded people and get the support you need while developing your skills. The problem I have with college is the expense. Young people get in so much debt before they’ve even started a career. That can be stifling. An artist may not have as much freedom to choose an artistic path when they graduate because of money.
How has your practice evolved over the years and how did you come to develop your signature style?
I’m never satisfied with my work so it’s constantly changing. I’m always experimenting with materials and subject matter. The humor has always been there but I feel like my work has evolved into something that’s more “me” over the years. I think that’s what I’m after–I want my work to look and feel like a genuine expression of myself. It sounds easy but it’s actually incredibly hard for me. I’m currently working on still life photography with words. I have no idea what I’m doing but that makes it fun.
Your works have such a fun vibe and you’ve said you love art that is “funny, genuine and doesn’t take itself too seriously.” Does this mentality transfer over to your everyday life?
Definitely. I probably spend too much time photoshopping funny photos together of friends and family to make them laugh. My daughter and I have daily dance parties and I’ll do anything to make her smile. My husband and I don’t take anything seriously…..maybe to a fault. I am hard on myself and my work at times but I do know when to give myself a break and just laugh it off.
Speaking of the day to day, where do you get inspiration for your works?
I keep a sketch book and I write down words and phrases that pop in my head or that I hear strangers say. Sometimes I hear things on podcasts or even movies that end up in my work. Words are the main influence for paintings. The words don’t always describe the imagery perfectly which I feel keeps things interesting.
Animals are also often at the center of your works. Do your own pets ever make cameos?
I love animals and they’re fun to paint. My dog Winnifred is the most unique boxer/terrier mix you’ll ever see but for some reason she’s incredibly hard to paint. I guess when I don’t know an animal I have no expectations on how they should look so I enjoy painting them. With Winnifred, it’s hard to do her justice and I don’t want to betray her beauty so she’s rarely in my work.
You created two original works inspired by the concept “Refuse to be the Muse” in celebration of Women’s History Month. Can you tell us a bit about “Roger Worried That His Hair Style Was Out of Fashion?”
I wanted the work to have a strong feminine quality but also be colorful and fun. I started drawing women and the composition just kind of happened organically. There is no actual Roger in my life and I wish all the Rogers out there no harm.
The slogan “Refuse to be the Muse” refers to the depiction of women in the history of art–they’ve typically been sequestered to the role of subject in these works rather than canonical artists we learn about today. What does this phrase mean to you personally?
I’m happy to be living in a time where men and women can create art freely and hopefully be appreciated equally. Maybe I’m foolish but it seems like gender equality is better than any other time in history. But then again I don’t get out much so what do I know.
You released your book Drawings Made While Breastfeeding which “includes strange and humorous drawings of random things that popped into my head at 2am.” What can we expect to see here?
All kinds of crazy, random imagery and words. It doesn’t tell a story like a book. Every page is its own thing. I figured I would be productive while I was up in the middle of the night anyway. It’s a really fun little compilation of weirdness.
On a related note, does your little one ever factor into your creative process now and serve as a source of inspiration for your works? Kids are so imaginative and truly say some crazy stuff!
She’s just starting to talk a lot so I’m sure she’ll be a major influence soon. She’s the loudest person at the park and she’s always laughing at something so I’m sure her strong personality will be a major influence in the near future.