As a kid in Lima, Ohio, Kim Long often earned scholarships for summer art classes.
“It was the only thing I was good at,” she said. “I saw patterns, stories and animals in everything like the dots in the ceiling tiles.”
Colors, shapes and patterns became her language; her way of communicating everything from heartache to joy.
When asked why she makes art, her answer was simple, “Why I create is a ‘to be or not to be’ kind of question. I simply am. I know no other way; it is a part of my cells and sinew. I think I see differently than other people. I can turn things around in my head like a 3-D image on the computer.”
Long grew up in Lima, Ohio. After graduating from high school, she went to cosmetology school and got her license, working in the field for four years. She then moved to Florida to attend Ringling School of Art and Design. Working full-time while in school was difficult, so she dropped out after a year and moved to Connecticut to work in computer graphics. She got married, had a son and moved to Spokane in 1991 for her then-husband’s job.
When her son was in the fourth grade, Long went into business, purchasing a stained and leaded glass studio with artist Melissa Cole. They moved on after a few years, and Long continued to create. She showed her work at area venues including Barrister Winery, where she sold very well, and ArtFest. At that time, her work included stained glass and animals blending into a soft background on handmade paper. Styles, including lifestyles, often change.
In 2011, Long’s 20-year marriage ended.
“I stopped doing art for about a year,” she said. “It was a very dark time.”
After about a year of soul-searching, she picked up a pencil and began expressing her heartache, not on soft-colored handmade paper but on stark white sheets; letting the images stand on their own. She began with a heart wrapped in barbed wire that ended in a swirl. Each piece became more hopeful.
Now, she has embraced change.
“My life is so joyful now,” she said. “I have forsaken much of the materialistic ‘stuff’ that was so important before. I gave myself away inch by inch for outside approval which feeds the ego and leaves you empty. I wanted so much before, now I simply want a humble, loving, respectful life so I can put my energy into creating.”
Her pieces, done in pencil, pen or pastels, are intricate and meditative studies, including a stack of skulls decorated with bright designs and flowers blooming in the eye sockets, a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo, and an array of fancifully adorned animals. She avoids landscapes, focusing on eyes and the suggestion of a soul and its journey.
By day, Long works at a flower shop. The rest of the time, her imagination is blooming and embracing the constant change that is life.