GirlCrush.LA is a blog I've stumbled onto in the past, and I've found it to be a rabbit hole of really good goodness. Wendy Withers writes the blog, and it features interviews with a seemingly random cross-section of women who are for one reason or another, inspirational to Wendy and ultimately, to the reader as well. She asks questions that I always want to read the answers to, and shares pictures that offer a little bit of voyeuristic satisfaction.

I was therefore very flattered and a little nervous when Wendy approached me a few months ago and invited me to participate. It took me almost five months to get comfortable with my answers to her questions, but I finally did and you can now read them here.

10 Best L.A. Street Art Murals of 2014

Love a Top Ten list, and what a fun way to finish up 2014. Thanks LA Weekly, Isaac Simpson and Fredrik Lisdskog for including 'Ode To Bohemia' in your round up:

3. Kim West (Los Angeles) - Arts District

Kim West's gorgeous nature scenes have been bringing life to the Arts District since 2009's violent Welcome to Hollywood. The mother of two spent weeks painting this work, Ode to Bohemia, in March after being given the directive "do with it what you will." West, inspired by the corner of Seventh and Mill as a "literal intersection of the haves and have nots," sought to take viewers on on a journey across the physical length of the walls. "Conceptually, the piece begins in loss, and then becomes about memories, and the will to manifest from them a place to visit," says West, "a sort of daydreamed, fractured recollection of reality." 
-Isaac Simpson

Full LAWeekly article here.


website update out-take: the story of painting a mural in the company of a bird

The last post here was in September. So much for the resolution I made at the beginning of the school year to make a post a week. (Many moons out of school but September still seems like the beginning of the year to me.) At least I'm current (mostly) on instagram.

The other thing I'm very behind on is my website update. It hasn't been done since 2009. I'm almost finished with the tedious task of culling, organizing, and captioning all the images of work I've been making between then and now. The new site will up in a week or so, and will basically be the same, but updated with new sections, including one for murals. I've been writing some extended captions for these, small tid-bits meant to be maybe a paragraph or two. I got carried away when recalling the process for this mural, as you can read below these progress shots:

What Are Bubbles Made Of?  2012-2013
Private Interior Commission
Acrylic, Ink, Gouache, Mixed Acrylic Glazing Mediums. 
Dimensions Variable; Appx 40’x60’

Most of the murals I’ve painted have required some kind of scissor lift, my definite least favorite part of mural making. It’s really easy (and my preference) to get lost in the work of painting, to lose time, and to not be totally aware of what is going on outside of my head; i.e., not a great way to conduct yourself if you are a somewhat klutzy person standing atop a swaying platform 30 feet in the air. 

It was another situation altogether with this project: a mural to span the consecutive staircases of an open plan, 3 level loft space. Because neither scissor lift nor scaffolding would be feasible, a couple of articulating ladders placed on the stairs became the elevators of circumstance. Ironically, this plan left me missing the dreaded scissor lift, or at least its level surface and railing.

The project was exciting though. So, onward. Upward!

Since the completed mural would be viewed from 3 different vantage points, yet be mostly centered at the middle/mezzanine level, I wanted it to visually function as 3 separate but cohesive parts. From a drippy, washy bottom level, the background for the mid-level focal point of a figure blowing golden bubbles would emerge. There would be a super saturated color palette across the middle level, made up of layers and layers of more washy areas. As gold leafed bubbles floated up the staircase, they’d drift past more layered washes that became more delicate and more subtle in color as they rose. 

This composition and idea dictated that there would be gold leaf at the top height of the mural. Gold leaf application requires the use of both hands, so there’d be a few no-hands on the ladder moments. For the very highest no-hands bubble, the ladder would be set on the third floor landing edge and, as such, there were three unappealing (unlikely? potential? this is earthquake country!) scenarios I couldn’t mentally escape: 1) falling off the ladder and landing on the landing — though, just regular risk there, akin to a normal fall from a ladder extended over 20 feet;  2) falling from the ladder and bumping straight down the consecutive stairways;  3) slipping from the ladder and heading right over the side of the third floor landing balcony ledge and drop straight to the next floor of the space, some 40ish feet below. 

Before any actual work had begun, I had completely come to terms with the no-hands on the ladder/ladder on the stairs situations. I’m careful. It would be fine. But near the end of the project, I changed my mind. I did not want to paint the last bubble — the one that was smallest, but significantly higher than the rest. 

Because there was a bird. A “somewhat aggressive” bird, I had been told. 

As the work began to wrap up, the physical distraction of the bird  — a rainbow parrot who had free reign of the loft space, and full use of his wings — started to become problematic. At first he seemed mostly to prefer perching on the chandelier over my supply table, were he could both easily poop into my coffee cup, and hover over my brushes and jars. Though not productive, we eventually came to an understanding — when not sipping, I kept a napkin covering my coffee. And when I required access to my supplies, I would simply stand at a distance, wave my arms frantically, and shout until he moved. 

The coffee cup poops I didn’t take personally, but my perception changed when he started buzzing the tower*. I'd be on the ladder, on the stairs, paint brush in hand, and out of nowhere a rainbow-ed blur would head towards me, a terrifying squawk preceding and accompanying his flight. As the fly-bys became more frequent and incrementally closer to my personal bubble of ladder working space, I held on tighter with my one free hand, and my inner debate about the necessity of the last, highest bubble became more heated.

I was counting on the idea that after so many layers, so many drips, and so many bubbles were finished, so too would be the piece. I kept at the work and continued to negotiate with myself about the potential last bubble. Did it really need this last bubble? Yes, probably. There was a sliver of a window carved out of a recess at the top of the ceiling, above the top staircase landing, and, it just made sense — the highest bubble should suggest that it might keep on floating. 

I cleaned up almost everything over the course of two days — removing all the tape and protective paper from the stairs (which took hours), touching up here and finishing touches there, packing up almost all of the paint, jars, brushes, rollers, extenders and trays. I did this while studying and looking to really make 100% sure that this last bubble absolutely needed doing, and trying to convince myself that it didn’t. 

The piece was working. The color was good. The composition was right. The thousands of layers and drips made from straight up opaque paint and paint mixed with a variety of translucent thinning and glazing agents were all doing their jobs - I was told it looked lit from within. I agreed. It looked good. But it also needed that last fucking bubble. And the stupid bird would not leave me alone.

In retrospect, there are at least a dozen, more well thought out strategies that I should have/could have employed. Instead, at the time, resigned, I only waited for a moment when I thought the bird seemed calm and distracted on the first level of the loft. When he seemed so, I quietly, feverishly went to work on the ladder with a bare minimum of gold leafing supplies in my hands. 

You know where this is going, right?  

While standing on the top bit of the ladder (that had been extended to over 20 feet), and which also (remember?) was set on the 3rd floor landing edge at the top of the consecutive staircases, and while I had no-hands holding on, the sound of thunderous flapping wings and a deathly screeching squawking flew at me. I heard him before I ever saw him. More horrifically, I felt him before I saw him. Actually, I guess I never saw him. Luck can apparently accompany klutz though, as I managed a cartoon stunt-worthy grab on/slide down/jump off from half way/land on my feet type of move. The heart was racing, supplies were strewn, but I was in one piece and on the landing — things were basically fine — except. THE BIRD WAS STILL ON ME. Pecking at my neck, shoulders, and hair, yelling at me, and clinging to the back of my shirt. Which, obviously, I tore off and threw onto the floor.

I stared at my shirt on the floor. The lump within the shirt was not moving. I totally killed the bird. I began to freak. (Hello, I’m finished with the mural! Do you love it? Fantastic! Oh! And I’m so sorry, but I killed your bird.) Maybe I could I buy a replacement bird and they’d never know? Poor little pretty bird. 

In my prickly, sweaty panic, I noticed a little flicker. And then something like my shirt sort of hopping. Maybe I just broke it’s wing? Or something else repairable? At that point, the terror changed a little — if the bird was fine, he was going to be crazier than ever. Also he was still in my shirt. And if something was broken, that was still very far from ideal.  And the bubble still wasn’t finished. 

I gently dragged the shirt/bird into the closest room with a door. The bathroom. The door was the pocket kind and I closed it almost the whole way. With the longest paintbrush I had, I stuck my arm though the cracked door, and flipped the shirt off of the bird. Who was, of course really, really mad and totally fine. Totally fine!!! He immediately flew up to the top of the shower wall and screamed at me for the rest of our time together. I finished the last bubble from the safety that only a bathroom’s pocket door can provide. The work was finished, I packed up and cleaned up the final bits, opened the bathroom door, and ran.  


@westkim: #studiocalisthenics, #bigpaintingadjacent, #kimwest



sometimes i like to be working on something related to the thing, but not on the thing itself. big painting adjacent. that's how the 101 wall got started.

if i'm mixing up water based paints, i mostly use disposable, slightly slippery pads of palette paper. depending on which type of paint (watercolor, gouache, acrylic) is applied, the pigment can float a little and then seep into the medium or water, becoming a pool with shifts in color depth. it can separate. maybe it merges with a neighboring puddle. thicker paint just sits there, like an island, letting water go around. eventually the island color bleeds into the surrounding viscosity. i save some of the paper palettes. road maps and color stories. 

sketchbooks have contour drawings of studio plants and notes, written and drawn. definitions, facts i won't otherwise remember, lyrics, snippets of overheard conversations or interviews, observations, thoughts almost lost, passages from poems and novels, titles.

i started putting the palettes and stuff from the sketchbooks together. intentional distraction. warm ups. studio calisthenics. i.e., big painting adjacent type work.

a few years ago, a friend in tech made an off-hand suggestion that i should create a google alert system for my name. he figured it could be a good way for me to be aware of possible online references to a mural i had just completed. so i did. for a while, nothing. then suddenly: alert! kim west the realtor in east connecticut listed a property. if she detailed a property that had been freshly painted - multiple alerts. sometimes kim west the sleep lady had done something in a studio somewhere. alert! in any case, the alerts for the real estate kim west & the sleep lady kim west were relatively few and far between. also they were random and entertaining enough that i was never motivated to prioritize a spare minute to follow the google link to figure out a search parameter modification, or an altogether undo.

you can guess where this is going?

yeah. kim and kanye. in both quality and increasing quantity, the new alerts became oddly funny to me. i figured my inbox situation could potentially migrate from amusing to seriously annoying if those two ever got hitched. and, then of course...worse. they went and had the baby. alert! alert! all day, every day. 

the other place kim & kanye infiltrate my virtual name space?  instagram. if you are a glutton for bizarre entertainment and/or punishment (depending on your perspective), check out the serendipitous hashtag  #kimwest .


TBT // take the kiddo to work day

september, 2003:

before this guy was born (and reality sunk in), i figured i'd literally be able to pop him on my hip and hit the studio without missing a brush-stroke-beat. the plan worked, too. for maybe a minute. my husband snapped a picture of that singular moment though, so at least there's that.

and then, so quickly -- in a flash really -- today:

ten years later.
same kiddo ten years older with one little brother making him the big.
a different state, a different studio by four.
a long way from the hip riding days.

today we drew plants. we were blind contour-ers and sweaty sketchers. we battled the heat with an aggressive fan, and blew a fuse. we transferred drawings to transparencies and projected. we drank ice cold iced tea.

we started a painting.



today is my little-est's first day at preschool, and the drop off situation was *less than ideal*.

studio procrastination is, therefore, inevitable.

enter anxiety driven crafting. one of my oldest bff's is getting hitched anyday now, and crafting goods for her par-tay is, like, the perfect thing for today.

wine bottles bathed and de-labled, check.
gold leaf, check.
pandora playlists blaring, check.
deep breaths, check.

six down...more to go.