Ballston Lake – Colorful underwater reefs surrounded by magnificent swimming turtles, jelly fish, octopuses, and a mermaid. The sea above with a floating sail boat. A large mystical moon finds a home in the night sky. Kristen Dahms is talented at creating whimsical realities.
A mixed media artist, Dahms defines herself as a non-traditional watercolor artist. She tends to focus on one painting at time. “I love the journey of each piece and the story I am telling,” she said. She creates a painting by needing to understand it. She does this by writing. “I write about texture, patterns, animals, objects. Anything that might inspire me on a certain theme,” she said. “Illustration means telling a story in one image. Illustration taught me how to tell a story.” She will casually sketch the inspired scene in a sketchbook. She then uses a process of layering, textures and patterns. “I work in many layers from the drawing, collage pattern paper, and painting in watercolor,” she said. The key is it is a watercolor painting with an element of collage.
Dahms’ inspiration is often personal. She will paint places she might miss. She will also find inspiration from places she has never been. “Places I have never been or things I have never done are full of magic and unknown and I try to capture that,” she said. Yet, there is an obvious theme to Dahms’ paintings: the environment. “I love painting animals with texture and uniquely capturing them,” she said. She says the ocean is one of her favorite things to paint because of its calmness. “When you paint what you love it seems to radiate from the painting,” she said.
Dahms has been drawing and painting since age four. “Art is just me. I’ve always done it,” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. Art was her favorite subject throughout elementary and high school. She went on to earn her BFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She developed her art into a business in 2011.
As a small business owner Dahms is responsible for the promotion of her own artwork. She does this mostly by word of mouth. In 2017, the Ballston Lake resident participated in 24 art festivals in 5 states. This past summer she traveled to festivals in Cape Cod, Mystic, and Rhode Island – three places she had never visited prior, citing her art for giving her the opportunity. “Of course seeing new places is fun. I try to take a two-hour vacation in any place I’ve never been,” she said. “This might mean going out to a delicious local restaurant after the festival has wrapped up for the day.” But, the real benefit is networking with other artists and customers. “I am fortunate to belong to such a supportive group of fellow artists that have inspired me and helped me in this journey,” she said. “Art is a personal purchase. It is important for customers to see me, the artist, standing next to my paintings. Festivals provide me with this venue. I think customers can sense my passion when they see me and my art.” Dahms is getting noticed. She took first prize at the Mystic, CT Art Festival in 2017 for Mixed Media. In September 2017, she won first prize in Watercolor at the 54th Art of the Green in Glastonbury, CT. Also in 2017, Dahms was selected to participate in Albany’s “Downtown is Pawsome” project. She was one of many local artists selected to paint and customize one of 20 sculptures of Albany’s famous canine resident, Nipper. Dahm’s dog sits in front of Albany’s famed Jack’s Oyster House, although it has been moved inside for the winter months and will be auctioned off in September 2018 for a local pet rescue charity.
Dahms paintings are available to be viewed and purchased on her website. One of her personal favorites is a painting titled “Luminosity.” A simple painting of a sailboat and full moon, the painting is rich in colors and patterns. “It is so full of life,” she said. She also designs greeting cards by hand. These cards are sold in sets of five. She can accommodate custom orders in any amount and with any artwork. She recalled a woman from Colorado that recently ordered 10 packs of cards. “She was gifted a pack of my cards from a family member, someone that I had met at a festival, and she instantly loved them so much she needed more,” she said.
Dahms admits that having a small business is not always easy. She spends most weekends on the road “traveling for work.” But, she doesn’t envision herself slowing down anytime soon. With festivals already booked for 2018, Dahms is also hoping to expand her work to art galleries. “I am fortunate to say in all honesty that I love what I do for a living,” she said.
The whimsical realities of her paintings are mesmerizing. Each one harbors secrets within its layers and textures. Dahms summed it up best when she said, “I paint what I love and what inspires me. I paint the world with a little bit of magic.”
To view Dahms’ paintings, prints, and greeting cards please visit her website: www.kristendahms.com.
By Emily Marcason-Tolmie