Brushes and Trails: Bellingham artist finds inspiration on foot

Brushes and Trails: Bellingham artist finds inspiration on foot

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Kristen Ingman at her studio in Bellingham. Stefanie Donahue photo.

Story and photo By Stefanie Donahue

It takes more than a set of oil paints and the right brush for Pacific Northwest painter Kristen Ingman to create a new work of art. First, she straps on a pair of running shoes and sets forth on an artistic pursuit by trail, in search of the next alluring scene.

The winding curves, distinct shadows and rich green hues of Pacific Northwest trails have come to inspire Ingman’s signature series, “Places I Run.” The majority of the collection is oil on canvas paintings, most depicting a deliberate pathway that naturally carries the eye through a lush landscape.

“The light and shadows are always really interesting to me,” Ingman said about the trailside scenes she encounters on daily morning jaunts. “I only paint places that I’ve actually been.”

Well before most have had their first sip of morning coffee, Ingman is out traversing trails close to her home in Bellingham. Her series pulls from imagery found on paths forged along the Chuckanuts, Lake Padden and Galbraith Mountain — other pieces reflect on scenes from trails in the Methow Valley, on the east side of the Cascades.

“My art and my running out in nature are the times I feel most at peace,” she said. “It’s a bit of a meditative experience.”

Ingman is married and a mother of two boys. Five days a week, she divides her day between work as a part-time high school ceramics instructor and her waterfront artist studio in Bellingham, where she’s often found painting a scene from her latest excursion.

At age 50, Ingman has been making art for most of her life. She recalls creating artwork with her grandma and making her first painting at age 6. Since then, she’s developed her own aesthetic and mastered the art of mixing the perfect shade of green, or what she calls the epitome of northwest color.

Ingman has an undergraduate degree in studio art from Whitman College and a master’s in secondary education from Western Washington University. She draws inspiration from artists David Hockney and Wolf Kahn, both of whom are notorious for breaking the rules, she said.

Whether it be through abstract use of color or manipulated proportions, an artist’s ability to make the mundane a bit more interesting is really what compels her.

“It doesn’t have to be this crazy image that no one has seen before,” she said. “It can be any place, but it’s what the artist brings to it — it makes me excited.”

It’s a message Ingman seems to carry with her into the classroom as she teaches high schoolers how to craft clay into creations of their own. She encourages them to value a strong work ethic, discipline and the concept of thoughtful expression. And without a doubt, she said, they should learn how to break the rules.

As an artist, she said, “You can really do what you want.”    x

Kristen Ingman is based in Bellingham, Washington. She’s shown her work at locations throughout Whatcom County, including Harris Avenue Cafe, Boundary Bay Brewery, Colophon Cafe and Fairhaven Runners, among others. To learn more about her work, visit kristeningmanart.com

“Ridge Trail Chuckanut”
“Padden Clear Morning”
“Hockney Baker Lakes”
“Blue Light Stimpson”
“Galbraith Mist”