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Artist Kristen Neveu in her studio. Credit: Lia Neveu

Kristen Neveu creates abstract, nature-inspired paintings and collages using acrylic paint, pencils and mixed media. She also paints ducks for a relaxing interlude away from her more complex creations. She titles each completed work with a poetic name. So, is she a painter, a poet or a poetic painter?

Because Neveu has a day job, she paints three evenings a week and Saturday or Sunday afternoons. She loves to listen to a California-based music radio station while creating. Whatever comes on the station comes on the station, and there is no distraction from her work time making music selections. 

Vintage dresser picked up at a garage sale in Evanston. Credit: Kristin Neveu

Her studio is in her basement, which has windows allowing natural light to pour in while she works. The entire space is dedicated to her art – and laundry. She has an old dresser with inspiring knickknacks on top to store supplies and a storage room for finished art inventory and ready-to-paint canvases.

There is a table she assembled using sawhorses and a plain door. (Who has not used this wonderfully simple setup sometime in their life?) Neveu starts each new piece placing it flat on this very large work surface that can accommodate even her largest artwork. Finally, there is a large easel she uses to finish each work. 

Flights of Shadows and Suns (pink and blue mixed-media painting, 2022). Credit: Kristin Neveu

Neveu usually works on multiple paintings at a time, except when she creates a 4-by-6-foot or other very large size work. To start new works, she selects a color palette, pulls supplies from her dresser and lays them out on the table. 

In her process, she starts at the bottom of several canvases making marks and experimenting with colors. The acrylic paint dries quickly, allowing her to paint over colors soon after she applies them. Nature is never far from her creative outlook.

In addition to using brushes, Neveu dabs on paint with paper towels or old shirts. This allows her to experiment with the types of marks she adds. At this point, she is just getting into a meditative state and has no goal for the painting. Her first session usually lasts one to two hours, at which point she lets the new paintings “rest.” 

Stars Ring Silent (square blue mixed-media painting, 2021). Credit: Kristin Neveu

When she returns, she begins moving up the canvases, adding paint as she goes, and begins to see how the paintings are evolving and unfolding. She adds more marks to adjust color or texture while building up layers often in a rhythmic quality. She continues in this way, starting and stopping, for a couple of weeks or so. She might add more neutral colors for balance as well as watercolor and/or watercolor pencil marks. 

At a certain point – Neveu knows it when she sees it – she must decide what the background color will be and what to do at the top of the paintings. The background color represents land. She often paints the top with more “solid” areas representing sky or water. 

A flow of mental questions being asked at this stage: Am I done? Does the painting have peace, balance and rhythm? Does each image “click”? When these questions are affirmative for any one work, it is time to create a poetic title.

Series of 4-by-4-inch paintings of patterned ducks wearing accessories. Credit: Kristin Neveu

Each title has two elements from nature that satisfy Neveu’s sense of completion. Some recent titles include:

  • Black Bird Island with Daffodils
  • Music Under Upcoming Skies
  • Flights of Shadow and Suns
  • Ballad of Melting Palm Trees
  • Stars Ring Silent
  • Rhythm of Butterfly Wings and Ocean Skies

After the title, she logs, photographs and promotes the new creations on her website and Instagram. She likes to try to keep track of who buys her artwork but does not always know.

Is she a poet painting or a poetic painter? You decide.

To learn more, visit visit Neveu’s website at www.kristenneveu.com, Instagram at #kristenneveuart, Facebook at Kristen Neveu – Artist, or her Evanston Made page. 

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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