Mystele Kirkeeng is a self taught acrylic-mixed media folk artist. She teaches online workshops and teaches at art workshops at art retreats around the country. Mystele is a beautiful spiritual complex woman, who is a wife and mother. The style of her paintings are contemporary. Her joy of texture is evident in the layers she achieves. Her sense of play is a visual delight. All of Mystele’s paintings are unique with different characters, colors, and settings. Mystele as a teacher is present. Her responses to her all her student’s work is with gentle encouragement. Her students learn online from all around the world.
You were one of the first pioneers around 2008, using YouTube to teach art and show your process. What were some of the technology issues you faced at the beginning?
I started out using a webcam, and it quickly became apparent that I would need to get something easier to position near my work. I don't even remember how I figured it all out.
I'm sure I asked other artists about their techie stuff.
How much of your time is devoted when you teach an online class and are there challenges with that?
Tons. Yes, tons of time. Filming and editing online classes is very time consuming. It's difficult to maintain a truly authentic flow when there are stops and starts for editing plus needing to eat and sleep! Hah! I try really hard to be as "me" as possible, but there is always the element of being watched that keeps me too aware of myself in the process.
Can you tell me a few (or one) of the most inspiring stories students have told you about how you have changed their art or life?
The overarching encouragement I've received from artists who participate in my online or in person classes is that they begin to truly believe that they have the freedom to create out of who they are. This allows them to make work that looks and feels authentic to them. That is precisely why I started sharing online in the first place. I wanted everyone to know that if I can learn to use my authentic creative voice, anyone can!
Your style of teaching is about the process. In the classes I’ve taken from you, you didn’t tell me to paint a house, a bird, or a person. Rather you presented online field trips to help me find my authentic voice. Can you explain your theory and method behind this?
The one thing we each bring to the creative process that no one else can ever bring is "us"- our being. Learning to dissect inspiration according to our personal inklings and aesthetics is so important. Otherwise, we end up flat out copying other artists instead of "stealing" the bits that move us. I discovered so much about my aesthetic preferences by taking the time to really look at what was inspiring to me, either in art or nature or music, etc., and going further in. Why was it inspiring? What elements were calling to me? Then I made lists- color combo, mark making, texture, subject matter, etc. and played with a few things from the list (creative prompts), and eventually all of that playtime showed me more and more and more about the way I am wired to express myself.
Now onto some basic art questions. What inspires you as an artist? What mediums do you use?
I am inspired by lots of things, but mostly it's the actual act of creating that inspires me the most. The do-ing is cathartic and it opens up my imagination and freedom and play and history of images in my mind's eye. I work with acrylic paint, collage, and all sorts of drawing tools. I call it acrylic mixed media.
Weird question, do you feel like you are friends with the characters you create?
I don't feel like I'm friends with them, but I do feel like they are my mentors. They teach me things, show me things.
Finally, you periodically do a cleaning house of your work, videos, and classes Why do you do this?
I don't like clutter. When my internal or external life becomes too cluttered, I become stifled or halted. It's like I can't breathe or be fully myself or grow beyond the current state. So I purge. I let go. Out with the old and in with the new unknown. I move inward a bit (heart check up with Jesus) so I can start moving forward into something better and fresh and full of possibility. Also I don't like keeping things going just for the sake of keeping things going. Pragmatism or status quo just never appeals to me. If a thing feels heavy or "off" to me, I let it go. That's life. That's growth.