Full-time artist Áine Kmen has brought her fine arts business to Gig Harbor, which has inspired paintings reflective of the Peninsula.
L.A. Kmen Designs offers original fine art for homes and businesses as well as art prints, greeting cards and other art gifts, such as journals. All of the art pieces are created by Kmen (Kah-men), who uses mixed media materials such as paint and paper to create paintings with layers.
“I like the freedom that mixed media gives me,” said Kmen, 44. “There isn’t a set of rules.”
Before establishing herself in Gig Harbor, Kmen commuted between Las Vegas and San Diego, where she marketed her work.
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In November, Kmen visited Gig Harbor. When she arrived, she said she was blown away, and made the move in January.
“It was the right time for the business,” said Kmen. “I wasn’t tied to any one spot and was mostly online.”
Now that she’s here, Kmen has found herself creating artwork that aims to captures Gig Harbor’s environment. Kmen said she has always enjoyed marine and forestry themes, drawing inspiration from nature, as well as “memories of place.”
“We might revisit the same place but have different feelings about it and remember it differently,” Kmen explained.
In addition to nature, Kmen’s art often explores celebration of life themes, which she hopes can bring people together and help them connect spiritually. Sometimes, her art prints include inspirational quotes.
For many paintings, Kmen starts with paper she makes herself by using broken-down fibers, sometimes from plants or clothing. After she layers the paper, she paints over it with acrylic and water to give her pieces to give them texture and layering.
Gig Harbor has such a community of people that it’s mind-blowing to me. They want to help you get out there. It’s the first time where I looked for a place I love, and this is it.
It can take up to 10 hours to finish a standard painting, she said. But drying takes longer, and which means she almost always works on multiple paintings simultaneously.
Kmen graduated from Wells College in New York with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and earned a master’s in environmental science from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.
Kmen began L.A. Kmen Designs in 2007, when she was creating art on the side while working as a part-time teacher in Michigan.
Art, as well as teaching, have always been her passions. While she is not currently teaching any workshops, she hopes to invite visitors overs when she gets settled.
Kmen can be contacted through her website, FindArtYouLove.com, where her artwork is available for purchase.
If purchased by residents of Gig Harbor or neighboring communities, pieces can be picked up at Kmen’s home studio. Kmen also ships artwork all over the country.
Sometimes, Kmen writes small stories about the inspiration for certain pieces, and said she loves when people tell her they connect with her art.
“If I have an exhibit, sometimes people come up and say they connected with a story behind the piece,” said Kmen, who also paints on commission. “I want people to buy a piece because they love looking at it.”
For Kmen, the move to the Pacific Northwest is still new, and so she splits her time between meeting people in town and settling down at home, where she paints, updates her website, and spends time with her two Australian Shepherds, Katie and Riley.
Kmen, who was searching for a smaller place to call home, is enjoying her new life.
“Gig Harbor has such a community of people that it’s mind-blowing to me. They want to help you get out there,” the artist said. “It’s the first time where I looked for a place I love, and this is it.”
Allison Needles, a Covington-based freelance writer and member of MediaLab at Pacific Lutheran University, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.