Interview with painter Stefanie Leigh Kirby

Stefanie began her creative journey in her late teens where she fell in love with the fluid and luscious nature of paint. She obtained a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in 1997 from the prestigious Mount Allison University School of Fine Arts where she was awarded the title of best drawing in 1994. Stefanie also is a Nurse Practitioner and holds a Masters degree in advanced nursing practice. She manages a delicate and rewarding balance between both her artistic and health care careers in her hometown of Ottawa. Stefanie has exhibited her artwork across North American and has been included in private and corporate collections globally. We have conducted an interview with her.

What is this 'movement' in painting that you appreciates the most, in the sense of an ebb and flow?

“Capturing it” meaning a point in time is paused for the viewer. Now having said this, it is not always easy to capture or translate this well as ‘movement’ per se. I see myself as a visual storyteller seeking to find the emotion and mystery in the painting that evokes a connection with the viewer. This can be a sense of tension, dynamic energy, or whimsy that is alive and organic.

Now this is personal to me as the creator/artist as it is my very own personal gestures, marks that are translated.

How unique is this discovery of visual metaphors of emotion to you?

I started painting figures and moved to abstraction, and at one point I combined the two. With these classic subjects we can easily see the emotion in the human face, the eyes, the tilt of the head and the placement of the hands. With abstraction in my early days I was quite drawn to Mark Rothko squares and the emotion and simplicity of them being so powerful in their large structures. As a young artist, I was also taken by the bravado of William De Kooning and Joan Mitchell lively gestural paintings that felt so bold, and raw emotionally.

As I started painting more loosely and abstractly I found myself moving around a lot dancing in a way in order to somehow capture the petals and movement of the flowers in the wind. Through this process I quickly realized that the flower as subject is not relevant. Moreover it is the energy and emotion that is going into the marks itself that is the subject and the emotion of the work.

This is where I realized that organic shapes and floral landscapes are as unpredictable, powerful, whimsical and delicate as our emotions and mirror on a much more rapid cycle our very own life processes. With this, I have been exploring the metaphor between our emotions, facades and the flowers bloom through the living life cycle.

What impact has it made on you?

The impact has been powerful, freeing, exposing, vulnerable in the sense that my emotions often get mixed in with it all on the surface of the canvas and it can be exhausting at the end of the day the artwork must take on it’s separate identity from myself and I need to respect what I have created and not change the artwork on any day to suits what I am feeling at that moment. This is often the point where I must stop and finish the painting as an observer or partner to the artwork. If I do not recognize this point in the process of creating the artwork the painting will change into something else and that is also fine too but I must accept the risks of loosing the piece that was just created. Sometimes this is intentional, as it was not working well or I perhaps I pushed it too far and pulling it back to that point of mystery can be difficult or even lost.

Do you consider via your artwork to 'express energy, tension and/or dynamic beauty' difficult?

Yes because my artwork process is very physical and I am never still or sitting while I work. I can spend 8 hours standing and dancing around a painting in order to capture the emotion of the painting be it with movement, energy, tension, humour, mystery and or whimsical application.

What is your artist process?

My process is very intuitive. I often do not look at the image I am creating. Instead, I am engaged with my tools, the paint colours, the expressive marks and the humbling physicality of painting. I want to be fully immersed and not influenced by my conscious. It is important that there is a sense of energy, tension and movement of paint onto the canvas that is deeply personal to my expression and communication as an artist.

What sort of recognition motivates you the most?

Recognition is always nice from colleagues, collectors, and supporters. On social media it is immediate and often genuine. More recently I was named by Saatchi Art as one of their Top painters of 2019, and one of my paintings “Panache” was chosen as one of their Top paintings of 2019. This is such an honour to have been selected among other international artist. I am humbled and very excited. It was a complete surprise and provides enourmous support and recognition from the curatorial team at Saatchi Art. Note: Links to these articles from Saatchi Art are on my website.

How do you turn off all the 'noise in your head' when you are creating a new art piece?

By focusing on the moment, the paint, the marks it all comes together. It is not that difficult with some good music and a locked studio door with the phone off. It is work! I need to focus and I love what I do so turning off all the cluster from other things is something I look forward to.

When is your next event?

My next event will at The Other Art Fair in Los Angeles at Barker Hanger, April 16-19, 2020.

Where can our art fans read or see more of your works?

Online at Saatchi Art, Los Angeles and Singulart, Paris. Also available direct on my website at You can follow me as well on social media @skirbyart on Instagram and Facebook.

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