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Image courtesy of Kim Sielbeck

Jan 02, 2019

The Wonderous World of Artist Kim Sielbeck

Vibrant, whimsical puppies peek out of colorful pineapples with the pineapple crowns placed on their heads like fancy little hats.

Blue, pink, and seafoam green women surrounded by bright tropical foliage and pink mountains check the surf from atop their VW bus—where little touches of fun like heart-shaped sunglasses and a smiling dog offer a window to the magical, playful world of artist Kim Sielbeck. A prolific illustrator, painter, and surface artist, Kim doesn't have any trouble finding inspiration for her artistic endeavors. An ardent traveler, she brings her upbeat, ultra-positive, and curious disposition to life on paper through her bold and busy artwork. Cacti, dogs, sunglasses, tigers, pineapples, palm trees, and seals (so she can joke around about her last name, pronounced seal-beck) pop from the canvas with a burst of good vibes, color, and all the good things in life. We caught up with Kim in between her travels in Europe and New York City.

At what point in life were you able to transition from the "Do What You Love" aspect of creating art to becoming a successful professional artist?

I always wanted to draw and paint for a living. After high school, I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to major in illustration. I was lucky to get a job as a textile artist shortly after graduation, and was making my own artwork on nights and weekends. After seven years of doing this—developing my own artistic style—I decided to move to Hawai'i and freelance full time. Two years later, here I am!

How do you describe your artistic style and what materials do you use?

I tend to gravitate towards bright, bold, fun elements. Color is really important in my work, as is pattern. I use acrylic gouache, which is highly pigmented matte paint, when I make my paintings. It's really great for layering. I also work digitally for a lot of my client work, and it's important to maintain the same feel and vibrancy.

Is your art all fun, all of the time, or do you weave deeper meanings into your illustrations and paintings?

I think having fun, living in the moment, staying optimistic, and laughing whenever you can are big themes in my artwork. I also like to incorporate figures of all sizes and colors whenever I can. I suppose I paint the world I want to live in.

Tell us about your relationship with Aly Ishikuni and her retail store, MORI.

MORI was the first place to carry my artwork in Hawai'i. I'd heard about them through an artist friends and Aly offered me a painting show within a couple of months. Aly believes so much in Hawai'i artists. She works harder than anyone I've ever met and is so selfless. Her dedication and commitment to getting artists seen through Mori, Art + Flea, HiSAM, and her other ventures has inspired me to be more community focused.

You're well traveled and Hawai'i imagery often plays a front-and-center role in your artwork. What is it about Hawai'i that has made such a big impact on you?

When I was a kid, I lived in Hawai'i for a few years. This happy time and tropical memories kept coming through in my artwork. I just kept drawing and painting palm trees! Eventually, I figured the only thing to do was to go back to Hawai'i, and I'm really happy I did. I also love the desert, so cacti played a big role in my work a few years ago. It's funny—I've always lived in cities (I'm currently based in Chinatown), but always paint vegetation.

What do you want other people to take away from your artwork?

If I can make someone smile or feel better, I've done my job. I hope looking at my work is like taking a little vacation.

What is your favorite motif to draw or paint right now? Is there anything quirky that's just consuming you?

I've been playing around a lot with incorporating type into my tropical paintings. The juxtaposition of something as rigid as type and as organic as a jungle in has been really interesting.

Where do you get your inspiration?

The colors and nature of Hawai'i is always inspirational, and traveling opens up my eyes to new things and new ways of life. I think it's always important to broaden your horizons, not only as an artist, but a human, too. Traveling does both.

New York and Hawaii are so disparate. Why did you go to New York City and how did it inform your perspective?

I went to the School of Visual Arts for college. I wanted to be in a big city with lots of working artists and museums, and New York City has a magical appeal. I absolutely loved it and have to credit it with so much of who I am today. My work ethic, hustle, and style all originated in NYC.

Where can we learn more about your artwork?

My work can be found in locations around O'ahu, such as MORI by Art + Flea, Polu Gallery, Roberta Oaks, Hakubundo, and Pineapple County. You can also find it on the Big Island at Aesthetic Gallery. I will have work available on my online store in January at kimsielbeck.com. I also have some exciting mural projects on the way in 2019!

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