La Crosse Local

E.185: Kimmy Quillin | Painter

Listen to “E.185: Kimmy Quillin | Painter” on Spreaker.

Everything can be an influence…I take full advantage of looking around (in New York)…I look at a lot of other painters, I look at a lot of photography…

On this podcast, we chatted with Artist Kimmy Quillin, raised in La Crosse but residing in New York since 2006. We chat about influences, the process and transitions of painting, hopes for the viewers of the work, what’s up next for this prolific painter and where people can find out more.

This podcast is sponsored by Balancing Act.  

Kimmy Quillin 00:50
My name is Kimmy Quillin. I was born in fabulous La Crosse, Wisconsin. And I started painting well, I would say I guess my whole life I’ve been always involved in different creative things. Like when I was a kid, I would have like piles of like yarn and clay and like colored pencils just all over the place. But I think in terms of like, intentionally painting, I started that when I in like 2016, because I was trying to buy a coffee shop here in Brooklyn where I live now. And it was like this crazy long process, I was trying to buy it from my friend, she wanted to move back to Canada, and the deal fell apart, right at the end. I just went from like waking up and like pricing out coffee cups to having nothing to do it all. I had these paints and some wood at our apartment. And I was like, I don’t know, I guess I’ll just paint, so it was very spontaneous.

Brent Hanifl 01:59
Spending some time with your work for the past couple of days, it does kind of look like you went from kind of a mixed media thing to more of these large colorful pieces. From other artists to music, you know, even to where you live now, what are some of your influences?

Kimmy Quillin 02:16
I think everything can be an influence. And I definitely take full advantage of just looking around. I go to a lot of museums in New York, which is something that I think you can kind of forget to do living in a place. But I go to museum shows a lot. So those often have a big influence because they’re so well curated. And they’ll be up for many months at a time. I look at a lot of other painters, I look at a lot of photography. And I read a lot. I read a lot of like, Buddhist or Philosophical books. And I think those kind of give the, they give me a lot of ideas for the underlying imagery or the meaning behind the imagery. And then the more visual references can be more of the like, direct experience, influences. There’s this person who just had a show at the Whitney named Sal Mentor, and he’s a figurative painter, and all of his paintings have this like, beautiful kind of like, absent green tone to them almost like there’s a filter over them. He’s doing it all with paint. I was like, man, that’s such a cool thing. But it can really come from anywhere, I guess.

Brent Hanifl 03:35
What is your process like? You know, is there you know, extensive planning, you know, you’re talking about kind of those multi levels there of influences. Are there some that you just jump into the project, or is there a lot of sort of planning as you go along?

Kimmy Quillin 03:46
I think over the past few years, while I’ve been painting, it has grown from a very spontaneous method to a more planned out method. Like I said, when I first started doing it was really just like pure expression, and sort of like them making order out of chaos. And now I’m more drawn towards working in a series. So like I’ll make I’ll get into like a really hard phase of something and I’ll want to make like 15 paintings all in that family so that they can kind of work with each other to tell a bigger story. So that you don’t have to look at one thing and try and figure out what’s going on in there. So now I do more planning I guess and I kind of stay in zone for a little bit longer.

Brent Hanifl 04:36
So for someone who hasn’t seen your work just yet, how do you feel like your work has transitioned throughout the years? I mean, you definitely kind of spoke to it there but going from you know this I think newer work Rainbow Hotdog to Flattened Curves. They do seem uniquely different.

Kimmy Quillin 04:52
Yeah, I think the red thread for me is definitely the color harmony in them. Colors are, like really important to me. And I grew up in La Crosse, and we don’t have, you know, a museum that was showing a lot of like contemporary work there. But I think it’s important for people to be able to look at something and just enjoy the visual of it, kind of on an immediate basis. I don’t think art, I think it should primarily have something that you can relate to as a human, when you look at it. That’s the first thing is just like a really nice, colorful image. And the ones that have been working on for the last few years have been more like geometric shapes. And working from like, straight lines into circles into now more like curved body forms. I kind of got into maybe two years ago, life drawing, which is usually with a nude model. And it’s just given me this whole new appreciation of like the beautiful curves of humans.

Brent Hanifl 06:00
So where does Rainbow Hotdog come from?

Kimmy Quillin 06:03
Rainbow Hotdog does come from these classes. So when the pandemic happened, and New York was like, you know, the first place to get hit in the US. I have a friend who started leading her life drawing classes online, and she would do it twice a week. And almost instantly, she had like over 100 people coming to these zoom sessions, and she would pose nude online, which is a totally crazy thing to put yourself out there for. And I was just there in the company of like, you know, 100 other people who were all experiencing lockdown to whatever degree, and the lines that came out of that were just so special. And I think kind of the opposite of what everything else in the world felt like. So then I took the drawings that came out of those classes, and kind of like, work them up a bit. And, of course, because it was, you know, kind of a dark year, I think these really bright, vivid rainbow colors had to happen. We just needed something to look on the bright side with.

Brent Hanifl 07:11
I’m looking through these on your website right now, as you’re as you’re speaking to me, they definitely do seem juxtaposed to 2020, in some ways. What do you hope the viewer gets from your work? You’ve kind of already said it, but you know, are you happy with someone just saying that’s pretty or?

Kimmy Quillin 07:27
Totally. I think, you know, my brother is really great for me, because ever since I started painting, he’s insisted that he doesn’t get art. And I love talking with him about that, because I’m like Jack, you don’t have to get anything. You know, art is made by another human being. And so I think the most important thing to get out of looking at any piece of art is that. Kind of that there’s another human being on the end of making that piece. And they aren’t trying to tell you about their perspective on life. They’re trying to tell you about what is important to them and what they hope you can also kind of get a vision of.

Brent Hanifl 08:13
Referencing and kind of the newest work being with the lockdown and now kind of open the doors of 2021, what’s coming up for you for this year, and potentially even 2022?

Kimmy Quillin 08:24
I have some kind of exciting things I’m working on right now. In the exit of the pandemic, I was thinking about getting to be able to see my family for the first time and getting to see friends without masks on for the first time. And I was like, man, there’s got to be a way to like, I don’t know, it makes me a little bit nervous, but like almost like, crushed with anticipation. And I was like, oh, I want to buy a camera, so I can like take photos of this, like, you know, hopefully most extended time that we’ll be apart from each other. So I found this really basic like point and shoot camera online. And I started taking photos of people when I see them for the first time in this post pandemic world. And I think I might actually work on painting some of those photos, which will be just another iteration. I’m in this like, not very cohesive body of work.

Brent Hanifl 09:23
Well, that’s a cool idea, you know, getting that sort of initial reaction. So it’s just, are you gonna jump out in front of people and just.

Kimmy Quillin 09:29
Yeah I’m hoping to startle them, kind of scare them into a really cool photo.

Brent Hanifl 09:35
Yeah, I’m sure people need that right now. So if people want to find out more, follow along, what’s the best avenue for them to go to?

Kimmy Quillin 09:43
I’m on Instagram, which is obviously the most like up to date version of internet findings. I also have a website which is And if you’re in Brooklyn, I’m going to be painting a mural up at a dance studio in Williamsburg that is called Good Move. On public view, those are the main places to find it right now.

Amy Gabay 10:11
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at, and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

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