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Kelly Beeman: The Defiant Individuality of Fashionistas in Watercolor Illustrations

Blooming Creativity

Born into an artistic family in Oklahoma City, Kelly Beeman couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t being creative. She started painting from a very young age, like most children do, but took it much more serious than others did. At a tender age of 4, she was already learning how to mix watercolors by watching her mother paint landscapes. An abundance of art history books at home and Kelly’s fascination with technique led to her enrolment to a visual arts high school.  While it was her last academic study of art, it did not stop her from being passionate about painting and pursuing it as a career.

"Sisters" series by Kelly Beeman, watercolor on paper

Falling in Fashion

Kelly was always drawn to figure, bodies and faces. Creating a character, both familiar and unfamiliar in a way, has always been the goal, and Kelly doubts she could evoke some of the same emotions with abstracts or landscapes, as opposed to portraits and figure paintings. For years, she was painting nudes, until one day she found herself wanting to “individualize” them with clothes.  Not having a lot of knowledge of fashion back then, she simply browsed through style.com, hoping to find pieces that resonated with her. That’s when she found J.W. Anderson’s 2015 resort collection. Inspired by the clothes, she ‘dressed’ her nudes with his collection, and tagged the designer on Instagram. To her surprise, she received tremendous applause for her work and many exciting opportunities.

"Sisters" series by Kelly Beeman, watercolor on paper

Her characters scream defiance, but in a very controlled and subdued way. The way she renders fashion may be the highlight of her pieces, but it is the way the characters she creates wear the clothes that make her art stand out. Kelly usually draws very similar faces and features – arched eyebrows, cat eyes, long necks, that differ in skin color and hairstyle. Whether it’s a specific idea in her head, or a spontaneous drawing, the process of painting is always natural and rarely planned, letting the lines flow naturally.

Illustration by Kelly Beeman, watercolor on paper

Kelly Beeman believes in hard work. Rarely waiting for inspiration to hit, she sometimes goes through numerous sketches and paintings before deciding something is worth sharing. Kelly usually works in the morning, in her small New York apartment, whether in silence or with the same song on repeat. It’s really only a matter of what inspires her at the moment and gets the creative juices flowing.

"Sisters" series by Kelly Beeman, watercolor on paper

Her interests include Picasso’s rose/blue period, various magazines, and young artists. Nowadays, Beeman’s fashion illustration can be found all over the world in various magazines. She continues to work with J. W. Anderson, Loewe, and Tory Burch.  One of her most notable collections is simply titled Sisters, which was inspired by her and her three sisters’ very individual styles.  It was commissioned by Marie Claire Italia featuring key looks from the Autumn-Winter’16 Collections.

All images courtesy of Kelly Beeman.

You can view more work by Kelly Beeman on her Instagram and website.

Article written by Kannika Pena & Natalie Kotok

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