Kimberly Engel is a contemporary abstract painter who lives and works in Clearwater, Florida. Her distinct gestural style combines a love for color interaction with spontaneous mark making. Engel’s paintings explore levels of transparency, evoking depth and light. She is inspired by the constant presence and changing states of large bodies of water. She has lived both on the shore of Lake Erie in Euclid, Ohio and across the street from St. Joesph’s Sound in Dunedin, Florida for a little over a decade prior to moving to the Gulf Coast.

Engel describes her process as an exploration of herself and ultimately the dissolving of herself mirrored in the process of making and deconstructing works. Her gestural marks have been described as both compulsive and somewhat calligraphic. They undulate and disappear under thin veils of color.

In 2002, Engel received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She has exhibited in Cleveland, Chicago, Raleigh, Camarillo and several galleries throughout Florida. Her work is in Capright Corporation’s permanent collection, Chicago.

These paintings have emerged by letting go of expectations and tuning into a deep space of tenderness. The act of gestural mark making and the use of transparent veils of vibrant color have served as a subtle alchemy to process profound grief.

Original Art by Kimberly Engel

When did you realize you wanted to pursue art professionally?

I knew I wanted to pursue art professionally by the time I was in high school. I enrolled in every kind of art class that was offered at Cuyahoga Community College in Northeast Ohio in my early twenties while working as a custom picture framer. When I turned 26, I applied to the Cleveland Institute of Art and was able to skip two years of the foundation program and enter directly into the painting program based on my portfolio and college credits.

Whether fellow artist or friend, who has continued to inspire your work?

Douglas Max Utter is phenomenal artist and dear friend. His way of life inspired me greatly throughout the years. He was so generous to share his studio space with me several years prior to applying to art school. His whole family has been a joy to me as a young adult and we remain connected to this day. I remember spending a lot of time at his house that had floor to ceiling bookshelves in every room. The conversations we continue to have about art, music, and literature continue to deeply inspire me.

Original Art by Kimberly Engel

What do you enjoy exploring through your art?

My approach to making art is an intuitive process. Over the years, my focus remains primarily with painting and works on paper. I enjoy making marks and approaching painting without having an idea or a theme. It is over time and contemplation that I can see that my work has been influenced greatly by living near large bodies of water. In Cleveland, I lived near the shore of Lake Erie and now I live very close to the Gulf of Mexico. I am in awe of the light and colors of the Florida sky. I am challenged by building up transparent layers of paint while making the compositions work formally. I do not do preliminary drawings or color studies, however, in my past I did a lot of plein air painting. I believe all that practice of looking and painting from life has deepened my sensitivity. My true love is to be in my studio where I begin paintings with no preconceived ideas; my approach starts off non-objective. Often, I find that the horizon line soon enters many of the compositions and some become an abstraction of the landscape. It is common for me to work on 10 or more paintings at a time. The process informs itself while I am completely absorbed in the act of creating.  

Looking back, what advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

Continue to show up and share your artwork. It gets easier and easier the more you talk and write about your work. I am an extreme introvert. Over the years I have been challenged by the professional side of being an artist. If I had the choice, I would stay home and read a book or work in my studio rather than go to art openings. Although I still fight the urge to stay at home, I understand the value of going out to meet other creatives and visionaries within my local community and beyond. There is a lot of growth that can happen when sharing your experiences with other artists.  

What is one thing you hope your audience walks away with after experiencing/viewing your work?

I created this current body of work while in the depths of grief after my husband passed away. I was truly surprised when I started to use heightened colors while sometimes mixing fluorescents into my paints. In retrospect, I feel this may have been a sort color therapy. I also recall the feeling of the dusk sky especially after the sun sets when electric colors penetrate almost unbelievable hues that are in flux for only minutes after the sun goes beneath the horizon. My wish is that these paintings create a feeling of contemplation and tranquility for all who care to view them.

Original Art by Kimberly Engel
Original Art by Kimberly Engel
Kimberly Engel