Kelli Bickman is a full-time artist who recently moved her studio/gallery to a 3,500-square-foot space in downtown Saugerties on the second floor of 220 Main St. She also directs youth groups in the creation of large-scale public art installations and is the CEO of her clothing company, 11:11 Style. She is a single mom to her daughter, Isabella Grace.
What do you do?
I am a multimedia artist and wear many hats… painter, designer, program director, teacher, CEO and artist all-round. I generally work with acrylic on canvas but extend that into drawing, collage, oil crayon and glitter. I am also a big fan of public art and developed a program titled Youth Mural Arts where I work with youth groups to make large-scale art installations. My work is in private collections worldwide. I have shown in galleries in the U.S. and Europe and my art has been in many books and magazines. I’ve also done sign painting, murals, pet portraits, book covers, editorial illustration, window displays at Saks, waited tables; whatever it takes to pay the bills. I’ve recently taken on a new venture; I have developed a clothing line based on my work.
What kind of training or education have you had?
I studied apparel design for two years before switching to the fine art department. I graduated with a BFA in fine art with a concentration in painting from UW Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin in 1996. That being said, I believe that the years I spent traveling the world after college and 14 years living in New York City were the best education I could possibly have received. I took jobs working for successful artists and writers where I was able to witness firsthand their process of creation, how they promoted their work, how to negotiate sales, and emulated that. Good mentors are important.
How did you become interested in art?
I have always loved making things and the creative process. Even in grade school I just loved the process of making art. My mother is a photographer and has a keen eye for design, so this has also been a part of my life since I was young.
Has it been a struggle to be a full-time artist and single mother?
It was more of a struggle before I started meditation and yoga as a life practice. My daughter is now a delicious five years old. I am a single mother but I have a wonderfully supportive family around me. Having a child changes everything from the way I work to the way I think about the world. This is another reason I have been developing the clothing line and moving into art as a business more than just living from painting sale to painting sale. My little girl is right there with me designing her own fabrics and garments. She is very creative.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is sharing — 50 percent of the job of an artist is to create the art and the other 50 percent is sharing the work with others.
What has been the most exciting or memorable experience you’ve had?
Travel has been the best part. Many of my paintings are inspired by travel and the study of different spiritual traditions worldwide. At one point I lived in a Tibetan Buddhist nunnery in northern India, where I traveled around studying the art in different temples and then painting works on paper inspired by the master artists’ work. Another time, Neil Gaiman, the writer, and a dear friend and patron for over 20 years, sent me to his gorgeous house in Scotland where he gave me a few guidelines and set me free to make art for his house. I can’t narrow it down to one most exciting experience. Just waking up every day is a blessing.
How’s the money?
I fully intend on creating great wealth and abundance for me, my family, and the world at large. Look for my 11:11 sign.