Interview: The Serendipitous Life of Artist Kierstin C. Young.
by Daniel Haim
Kierstin’s life began by almost never beginning at all. A car accident occurred while Kierstin’s mother was pregnant with her. The doctors advised against continuing the pregnancy for fear that Kierstin would be born without limbs or even blind. Her parents decided against it, and Kierstin was born a healthy child. This story was relayed to her as a child as a reminder of how serendipitous her life was.
Kierstin was always filled with an overflowing energy and creativity. This led her on many diverse paths in life. Her many areas of focus included psychology, poetry, photography, mountaineering, religious studies, music, playing ice hockey, spelunking and pretending to be an astronaut.
She grew up between two places; the first was a house built on Native American burial grounds in rural New Jersey. The second was a summer home in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York. For the first sixteen years of her life, she was home taught by an assortment of sane and insane people. Her junior year she began the strange new adventure of going to public school. She was most likely the only 16 year old in the world to be that ecstatic about riding a school bus, because it was for the first time in her life. It was there in public school, that her art teachers really encouraged her to pursue her love of art.
Where are you from? Where did all of this begin?
I’m from my parents. Seriously though, from the far, far away lands of Central Jersey. It certainly didn’t begin like most artists I know, all of which had a near or distant relative who was an artist of some sort. I was home taught growing up and this provided me with a much more specialized and hands on learning environment. I frequented places like the Philadelphia Art Museum and my mother always made it fun, taking pictures of me next to famous paintings imitating what was happening in the paintings.
When did you realize that art is what you were meant to do?
Creating was never really a choice with me. I always described it as an insatiable need that simply had to come out in some form or I felt as if I would explode! Creativity took on many shapes for me before the world of realism fine art. In early years I was interested in Fashion Design, creating my own unique sense of style that indubitably embarrassed my poor mother. From my little house on the prairie phase–insisting on wearing a raccoon skin cap for an entire year, to alien print overalls (wish I still had those). I expressed myself through the clothes I wore, the artwork I made, my creative writings, making music and dancing.
It all came to a head in high school when I had a few teachers that really encouraged me to pursue my art. My plan was initially to go to school for fashion design or photography, but forbidden by my parents from even applying to art school posed a problem.
I applied without their consent and found myself rejected from prestigious schools such as RISD and Parsons. This heart-breaking occurrence turned out to be quite fortuitous in the end as it landed me in this amazing program at the Ani Art Academies.
Who are your major influences, inspiration in life and in the art world?
I could write a never ending list about influences, all the people you encounter have some sort of influence on you, whether you want them to or not. My influences are life and the experiences it has bestowed upon me, both good and bad. However, as far as painters go, Salvador Dali is my all-time favorite. As far as writers go, Sylvia Plath is my favorite and as far as superheroes go, Batman!
What are some essential tools that you consider a must have for every artist?
Definitely an expansive movie and music collection, I usually cannot create without them. I am prone to watching mainly documentaries and horror movies as I draw. I think dedicated hard work plays a major part in becoming an artist, however I find it absolutely necessary to spend time doing other activities that promote creativity. For what good is the ability to paint and draw, if you have nothing to say? Personally, I find that hiking, listening to music and reading poetry helps to expand my creative concepts.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am putting the last touches on one of my most challenging and creative pieces to date, “De Humani Corporis Fabrica” which is translated “On the Fabric of the Human Body”. Since this image was not something that existed in reality, it required much improvisation and drawing directly from my imagination rather than a concrete object or photograph (although I incorporated references such as those as well).
A large portion of our audience are artists, like yourself, If you could give them one piece of advice what would it be?
Never compromise what you love to do most! Someone once told me that if the piece is done well, you can find a market for it. I faced much rejection for years from various people, magazines, galleries etc., but I am an optimist, and firmly believe in the power of perseverance. The best thing you can do is to be your true self and to do it well.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?
More often than not, I was discouraged against becoming an artist, told that I would live in the finest cardboard refrigerator box on the block! I only used the discouragement to further fuel my passion and desire to create and be successful in doing so.
What has been your most rewarding achievement as an artist?
Honestly, nothing has been more rewarding than gaining the respect and support of family and those that I love.
Could you share with us your favorite quote?
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
When you first started, what was your biggest dream and have you accomplished that?
I don’t think my biggest dreams are obtainable because personally, I would like to walk on Mars! But I have made some great personal accomplishments in my life and I will never stop learning and striving for the stars, even if they’re not the literal stars.
What are your hopes for 2013 and where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
My plans for the current year are to work with oil paint again, perfecting my abilities at the Ani Art Academy. In Five years, I see myself as a full time painter, continuing to pursue my dreams not just in art, but hopefully climbing some high altitude mountains as well.