An Invitation To Explore
By Aleyah Solomon
A combination of colours, mixed together, harmonized, in such a way that describes a state of mind, an energy or the character of a place is how Kristen Herrington relates her pieces. Looking at her paintings, thoughts of organic matter, environmental aerial landscapes and space come to mind. This is, of course, different for every individual who looks at them. “With abstract, you have the benefit of everyone seeing something different which is often a reflection of yourself within the works.”
Growing up in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Kristen was surrounded by farm lands, everlasting nature trails and the ocean. Here & There caught up with Kristen to chat about what inspires her abstract as well as the new release of her and husband Michael Ryan’s book, You and Me which is based on the stories of their travel experiences – not all good, but ones that made for a good tale.
You create a lot of custom works. How do you pair your creative process with specific requests from your clients?
Customs are bittersweet. I like doing custom pieces because they give me new ideas. They offer a new palette or inspiration for a piece, but there is also a different kind of pressure behind them. There is an expectation about a space they want to fill or working to create something really meaningful to them. I worked on a custom piece that was a scene from a man’s cottage that he and his wife visited every summer, so they have something very specific in mind that can be hard to capture. On the other hand, it’s nice to have that new challenge. I used to get really nervous about making them. It matters to me that people really love it, so there have been a couple of custom pieces that I have done twice just because it didn’t quite hit the mark.
Both art and travel are key in your life. You are an artist and you travel frequently – Covid aside. Do you find that travel inspires and influences your creativity or style?
It is less than a literal translation of seeing something on my travels and recreating that and more about how I feel when I am travelling. I feel the most like myself when I am exploring a new place. I take home that feeling of escapism and freedom, and the exposure to new ideas, new people, new culture, new smells and foods, and all that infuses creativity. It contributes to my state of mind: to let me be creative, is what I get from my travels.
You have been to Costa Rica a few times, and are heading back there soon. Would you say you feel the most at home there?
Latin America is a place I like to frequently visit. I backpacked around there for a year when I was in my early twenties and had that sense of home–in Guatemala was actually where I first had that feeling. Costa Rica is filled with everything from ecosystems to safety if that is of concern. It is a place where you can go and be free and not have those worries, but it is a bit more expensive. We have talked about buying property there, it’s near and dear to us for sure.
Have you done a painting inspired specifically about Costa Rica?
I have a photograph of the trails that crabs make when they walk. There were probably hundreds of them and I watched their movements and took photos of the sand before it was washed away. It’s an abstract, intricate, web-like trail they left behind. That’s a piece I have on file for future work. There is another image I filed for a future piece as well from the Vancouver Aquarium of these giant jellyfish that always stood out to me and will translate one day.
Do you have a favourite colour palette that you use? One that specifically represents you?
I use a lot of blue – if I were to come up with something on my own, I gravitate towards blues and ocean inspired tones for the most part. I am exploring more neutrals, lighter tones and finding that they are more versatile and can fit into spaces more easily than something with warmer tones.
I am sensing a ‘sea’ theme.
[laughs] Yes, that is the East-Coaster in me, perhaps. It is also what a lot of my clients are drawn to, though I try not to think too hard about what people might be drawn to buy from me. I find that because my base is in Halifax and around the coastal community, buyers tend to be attracted more to ocean-inspired–or really, nature-inspired–blues, greens and earth tones, and I am too, but I have noticed these are usually the popular pieces.
Speaking of ‘Travel’, you just released a book which you collaborated on with your husband, Michael Ryan (from the Town Heroes). When did the idea to create a book begin?
I really like that there is a story behind the stories because we actually do have a clear moment where we can recall when we decided to start this. We were sitting on the Venice Pier in Venice Beach, Los Angeles on the final days of our trip in February 2019. We knew that over the next couple of years, we wanted to create the chance for us to be able to travel more freely and frequently, and we were trying to figure out what would be the catalyst to get us there. We realized that we had all of these travel stories that had never really been shared. They weren’t stories that talk about how great the experience was, or this cool thing we saw – it’s quite the opposite, actually. They are all self-deprecating, horrible, mishap travel stories but they are also funny. It’s meant to be light hearted, and kind of a ‘live and learn’ series of stories that people will either completely relate to if they are also avid travellers, or, they will feel comforted by their decision never to leave the safety of their living room.