She’s a singer, a writer of over 400 song lyrics, producer of six CD’s, and creator of intensely colorful landscape paintings in oil and acrylic. Cally Krallman is one talented woman…not one to sit around and wonder what to do next.
Raised in Kansas, Krallman and I share a common heritage. “Many people think of Kansas as just a flat agricultural state, but in fact it is full of wonderful hills, tree lined rivers and creeks, and other unique land formations. The sunrises and sunsets are breathtaking and calming at the same time. Our four seasons create a myriad of colors worthy of any artist’s palette.”
In Western Kansas, Krallman attended grade school in the only remaining one-room schoolhouse in the state…and she’s not even that old. She was the only child in her class from first to fifth grade.
She’s been painting in the Midwest, primarily Kansas, for over 25 years. Artistically inclined in music and painting, she finds both effective ways of communicating her feelings. In painting she strives for a sense of calm and serenity. “In my songs, I can communicate a multitude of things, including silliness, sadness, empathy, self-reflection, joy, etc. I think both are about a journey, and certainly, both are about storytelling.”
She treats her art career just the same as when she clocked in at a regular job, “Except the commute is much shorter.” She usually heads to the studio around 7:30AM, and every day is different. “I do not paint every day. Some days are filled with updating my website, applying for shows, doing inventory, making plans for future shows, framing, varnishing, etc. I tend to do starts and fits. In other words, I do take days, or sometimes weeks to refuel, but then I might paint 20-30 paintings for an upcoming show. I do like a fairly organized space, so several times a year I take time to reorganize my studio. I break for a quick lunch, or maybe meet a friend for lunch, then spend the rest of the day until 5:00 pm in the studio. No two days are the same, which I very much love.”
So, with all that energy and so many things to do, what are her goals for 2017? “Try to slow down and not be so rushed…with my art, my songwriting, and with my life.” Good luck with that, Cally! Ha!
It’s with pleasure that I bring you this interview with a fascinating lady.
You are talented, as a painter, a song writer, and performer; how did you discover these creative expressions? As a young girl I was very inspired to become an artist by my aunt who was an artist. From as early as junior high I just knew I wanted to be an artist. Over my career it has taken many forms, from years in graphic design and screen printing to photography, then eventually to painting full time. The songwriting was an autumn surprise. I was inspired by a friend during a mid-life “chrysalis” (vs. crisis). It became an authentic way to express my emotions and develop storytelling patterns with words. I am not a musician, and do not perform live, but I have had the privilege of working with some really good musicians that were willing to develop the lyrics and record them. I have co-created 6 albums, singing on 2 of those, and written hundreds of lyrics. It is my self-indulgent hobby. My art pays for my music!
Did you receive professional training in each? I studied art in college, receiving my BFA ’81 from Washburn University, in Topeka KS. When I graduated from college, I went into graphic design, just prior to the development of computer art. I did not paint much for about 10 years. After experiencing a job loss due to downsizing, I started painting again to cope with depression from the loss. I started taking workshops and my confidence grew. I did not receive any training in songwriting. Actually, I still don’t know the “rules” but it has worked out just fine anyway!
How does the motivation to paint or write music differ? They differ in many ways but also have a common thread. In terms of motivation, painting, while not very romantic or flowery, is mostly pragmatic for me. I have always loved the process of earning money, and painting has evolved into a fulfilling way to do that! Both mediums tend to be ignited with “bursts” of inspiration. In the case of painting, a beautiful scene that deserves to be dedicated in paint, and in the case of songwriting, an experience or story that I would love to tell.
Many artists associate painting with music; do you find that analogy to be true? Certainly it is proven that both are primarily right brain functions. I do think that they complement one another. Both seem to be about patterns and rhythms. Sometimes I listen to music while painting, but not always. My mood and energy is definitely affected by what I listen to. It is shamelessly fun to sing along to your own music!
When writing music or creating paintings, does inspiration come in different ways? Do you wait to be inspired or do you just get to work, whether inspired or not, and hope something creative comes out? When painting, I know within minutes if the piece is going to work. There is a flow that just happens naturally. I guess you could refer to that as inspiration. Early in my songwriting experience, the songs would just “come”. I would wake in the middle of the night and have to get up and go write the darn things down! I have many songs that are scrawled on bank receipts, napkins, and scraps of paper that were handy when lyrics would pop into head. There probably was medication for it, but I chose to embrace it instead of medicate it! Now when I write it is in more of a controlled intentional way. The beauty of my songwriting is that I don’t have to write to survive, so I can just do it when it comes.
Do painting and music begin in the same way, that is, with a concept, an idea, and then you develop that concept? Yes I believe so. In songwriting it is called a “hook” and in painting, a “focal point”. In songwriting, most of the time a chorus comes first, then I build the song around that. In painting, I look for something of beauty that I think others will relate to.
“I would like to be remembered as being as generous as my mother, for not taking myself too seriously, and for the phrase, “Nature creates the beauty, I just attempt to replicate it.”
Your paintings are uniquely identified with you; how did you achieve this individuality; do you find that to be the same with your music? Consistency and a lot of painting alone, maybe. My style is a combination of my personality (hopefully perceived as an unpretentious, getter-done kind of gal) and the osmosis of other art forms that inspire me. The difference in this instance between art and music, is that my lyrics can take on many styles, and have often done so by having someone else/different compose them. It is like having a bunch of children with different fathers…you never know what you might get!
Why is acrylic your preferred medium? What are the main challenges you experience when switching from acrylic to oil…and why do you use both? I started out using watercolors. I had never used acrylics until I took a workshop in ’93. I just loved them because they allowed me to incorporate my watercolor techniques with the ability to work areas with opaque paint. I started using oils again ( not used since college) when I started painting plein air. Since I paint similarly with acrylic and oils, the main challenge is that acrylic dries darker, so I have to adjust saturation and value when mixing paint. Otherwise, it is just more convenient for me to paint in acrylic…quick dry time, no chemical clean up, etc. If I have plenty of time for a piece to dry before it has to be in a show, I will use oils because I can achieve more texture than compared to acrylic. Knife work just seems to hold up better with oils. Also, I think there is just a more romantic notion about oils. But I paint mostly alla prima anyway, so other than a bit more visible brush texture, the two mediums look very similar once varnished. I use both because sometimes I want the flexibility of the slow dry time oils can give me. I now plein air paint with acrylics…I have a rig for both! Sometimes I will do a base coat of the design with acrylics then come back and finish it with oils. I can problem solve the composition on the fly this way without creating a texture that I might not want.
”It is my goal that one of my paintings may spur a memory of a familiar scene or simply evoke a feeling of “home.”
You obviously love color; what is the genesis of your expressive use of color? Honestly, I just have not been friends with Grey. But we are getting to know one another better! I remember a saying one of my professors would tell me all the time; ‘Just put a piece of color there’. I guess it just stuck. A majority of my paintings are acrylic, which I think for me just turn out brighter than I thought!
What colors are typically found on your palette? It varies, but I try to use a warm and cool of the primaries then add a few bonus colors depending on the subject matter. Titanium white, cadmium yellow lemon and medium, yellow ochre or iron oxide, cad orange, cad red medium, alizarin crimson or permanent rose, burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and phthalo green. Just as a reminder, I might throw in a grey. I often paint in acrylics and I love the new “12 Shades of Grey” brand. My palette for oils and acrylics are similar. When I paint en plein air though, I even simplify it more. You can get the job done with a lot less colors….which leaves more room for snacks!
What’s the thinking process behind your color selection for each painting? By keeping a fairly consistent palette, I just let the scene dictate the color selection. However, if there is a strong note of a certain color that can’t be achieved with a simplified palette, I use a color that has a higher chroma.
Please explain your painting process. Whether indoors or out, I select a subject matter that speaks to me in the terms of natural compositions. When reviewing photos, I look first for a nice diagonal in the design, then a sense of relatable atmosphere. Whether painting in acrylics or oils, I often do an acrylic wash of either a complementary color on the canvas or one close to the color that will go on top. I paint on very heavily textured acrylic primed cotton canvas and use a swift scumbling style that does not always completely cover the underlying canvas, so the undertone may often peek through. I try to complete the painting in one or two sessions if I can. Because I am not a deep thinker, I rely on intuition and spontaneity.
Your paintings do not feel like they are strongly influenced by photography or plein air work, am I mistaken? I don’t try to replicate a photo ever. I don’t have the patience for it, and I rarely have a photo that captures what I saw originally in a scene. I rarely return to my studio to recreate a plein air piece in a larger format either. For me, a plein air piece is more about the experience. Oddly, because I am such a social person, when I look back at a plein air piece, I think more about the people I was with that day, what we talked about and what we had for snacks! That’s why I get emotional about selling those works…I hate to lose those memories. And no one else will be able to have those kinds of connections to that piece.
Is there a compositional strategy you generally adhere to? Of course, rule of thirds, strong diagonals. Because I paint mainly scenes from the prairie, it will often be about something interesting happening in the sky or grasses in the foreground. But when painting a more complicated format, I rely on the Edgar Payne rules.
Do your painted landscapes influence your songs, or is it the songs that influence your paintings…or are they separate and distinct? Music, whether mine or someone else’s, can influence my painting; it can create a mood that I do think extends onto the canvas in regards to brushstrokes and color. When I am writing lyrics I really focus on conveying a sensory experience to the listener using sights, sounds, smells, etc. While I have written about painting in a song or two, my painted landscapes rarely have anything to do with my song writing. They are just telling stories, whether real or fabricated.
Why are you an artist? I just think it is an amazing vocation. It was a dream I have had since I was little and now to be living it is such a blessing. Every day I am painting I am growing and learning and it is just amazing that I can share this with people all over. Every time someone buys a work, it makes room for me to paint another! How can you beat that?! I love having a flexible schedule…I am probably a bit of a control freak, so it allows me to be a bit in control, even if only in my mind!
What would be your definition of art? I am not known for my profound academic prowess, so I will just keep it simple. To me, art is a expression conveyed by a person with a multitude of given mediums. It is an experience that funnels its way onto a canvas, into clay, through metal, woven into the fabric, written on paper, or played on an instrument, expressing itself in a universal way.
What’s the most important skill a painter must possess…a musician? There are very different skills required for different types of painters. If you are a realist, or representationalist, the ability to see “spatially”…the ability to really see things in relation to its place in space. For an abstract painter, the ability to translate representational things into something obtuse or abstract. For the illustrator, a finely tuned skill for drawing accurately. For a songwriter or poet, the ability to paint a picture with words efficiently and to a pattern. I also think emotion is critical, being able to express it or convey it.
What have been the most difficult things for you to learn as a painter and musician? Probably the hardest thing to learn as a painter is how to teach. You can’t teach intuition. So I stick to teaching the basic rules when teaching a workshop, but I rarely consciously think about them. Also it has taken a lot of years to get comfortable with rejection. I think many artists get started because they have received accolades and kudos for their artwork as youngsters, and then it motivates them to do it more to get more praise. But when putting yourself out in front of the public or in a competitive setting, we often don’t get the praise we might long for. With music, I just can’t wait to have the time to learn to play an instrument with proficiency. I have many instruments, but the only one I can play is the pen and paper!
You’ve seen her paintings, now hear her music. Thanks, Cally for a delightful interview.
I am very pleased to announce the release of my first instructional DVD, Limited Palette Landscapes, professionally produced by Liliedahl Art Videos. The video contains over 15 hours of instruction and follows my painting process from selection of the canvas to the final brush stoke. For a detailed description of the video contents, including a short video…and order instructions…please click HERE. Thank you in advance for adding this DVD to your video library. Upon viewing, if you would kindly share your comments with me, I would greatly appreciate it. THANK YOU.