Art Show

Boundless Skies with Rebekah Nordstrom

It has been a pleasure to collaborate and hold space for the upcoming show “Boundless Skies” with Rebekah Nordstrom and Katy Kyle. A true collaboration of support and holding one another up, tying up ends where the other can’t, encouraging direction and equally contributing strengths so each individual is able to reach their creative goal.

It was back in October I approached Rebekah about showing her 30 days of sky paintings that were completed back in September of 2018. I would see glimpses of her social media posts but I wanted to see them all together, how they changed through each day. She agreed and brought artist friend, Katy Kyle, along in this journey. Two artists of different mediums but meeting each other with integrity and love for the skies.

I visited Rebekah at her home studio in mid January to talk more about her work and the upcoming show.

What inspired you to do this series?

Rebekah in her studio displaying her 30 days of sky.

Rebekah in her studio displaying her 30 days of sky.

I find painting in a series and particularly everyday a lot easier, it is a motivational thing. Every September I participate in an online challenge to paint everyday of the month. I have always loved painting the sky. It is interesting painting the sky from life, there is no time to mess around. You just have to put it down. In September of 2018 I was in a creative dry spell, with the sky the subject matter is there but you don’t have the time to second guess yourself you just have to put the paint down. 30 seconds from now it is a different sky and 30 minutes from now it’s a completely different sky. It was a great exercise for me to work through the inevitable creative block, I didn’t have time to think about it. It is really cool after a challenge like that you have 30 paintings and even though they are little, together they are pretty powerful.

What surprised you about working on this series?

It seems in the beginning of these series I tend to paint like I know how to paint but by the end of the series I am really pushing what I know, it is a tremendous way to grow. If you compare the beginning to the end they are still recognizable but there are paintings in here that I have never done anything like that before. It is a surprise because it is not a conscious decision that I make to go ahead and do something completely different, it just starts coming out because of how comfortable you are going out there everyday and then you just start pushing yourself farther and farther.

Did you paint from the same spot everyday?

I traveled and I always bring my paintings with me when I travel. The first half are all in Flagstaff but the second half are from Escalante where I spent two weeks. The topography starts changing, even though I did not want anything to be about the land, the land is always just holding up the sky. I did it at anytime of the day or night depending on when I had time free. Sometimes it was in the middle of the day. September is a really good time to do skies, in this part of the country there is usually something going on in the sky. I painted the moon in the middle of the day.

Does the sky have an importance to you?

My father was essentially a weather man and worked for the FAA at the airport, sometimes he would bring home weather balloons. My family has always been about the weather, we talk about the weather extensively more than a passing polite phrase, it gets delved into. So I have always liked the weather. I use to work at Lowell Observatory and I really like looking up. I think there is a lot more that happens above earth than on earth. Moving to Flagstaff being a dark sky, people pay a lot of attention, the sky isn’t a novelty like it is in other places.

How did painting start for you?

Rebekah’s studio space.

Rebekah’s studio space.

I picked up my first paint brush in 2013, I had never painted before but I had a lot of artists friends and I have always loved looking at art so I had spent a lot of time with art. It just kind of incubated. I took a painting class at Coconino Community College because I wanted to address those dreams one has, “I want to paint one day” and then pretty soon your 50 years old and you have painted, I gotta try it. I went into it just as a personal development, after my first class I signed up for a second class and they were doing the fundraiser “Palette to Palate” and my 5th painting I had ever done was chosen to be in the professional artists auction instead of the student auction. There was a bidding war and the price just went higher and higher. I was sitting at my table crying because I could not believe that people liked the painting enough to battle it out. I thought to myself, “you could do this” but I was still working full time. In 2016 my job fell apart and then I kinda fell apart and my husband, Alex told me, “I think you should dedicate your life to being a painter, I think you have it in you.” So that is my story.

Everything I do is self generated, I make the product, I market the product, I put myself out there. For a introvert such as myself it is way outside my comfort zone but no-one is doing it for me. I don’t have a staff, I have cats and chickens but they aren’t that helpful when it comes to marketing my business.

Art and your activism how do they tie together?

I am primarily a plein air painter, someone who goes outside and paints from life. For me it has been a powerful tool for environmental activism because you are out in the environment and you are painting the environment. With the cloud paintings you don’t see a lot of paintings of clouds. People become attuned to looking at photographs and when they are shown a painting of clouds it catches people off guard. It is another way to communicate the beauty and importance of our Mother Earth and how closely we are tied to it. For me plein air painting it is incredibly powerful in environmental activism language. So I work really hard to be the best, to tell the best story through painting.

Tell me about collaborating with another artist, Katy Kyle, on this show, Boundless Skies.

It has been super exciting, I love to see Katy’s personal growth. I think sometimes there is a competition between artists and there is not as much support as you would hope. I am much more of the let’s collaborate and hold each other up and bring each other to our full potential. In this case, I may be the leader, the pieces were already done and you had to ask me to show them and the Katy had come in and was able to really pick up the end. To me that is another beautiful thing about art, collaborating with people that have similar visions and helping bolstering each other up so the art world or art scene in Flagstaff gets stronger and stronger, the standards of quality and support.

Any advice for those wanting to get into art?

Just do it and you build on each experience. The more paintings you make, the more you learn and the more you build. I believe in time to self-teach, we rely on others to show us how to do things. By just doing it you use your own critical thinking, what makes this stronger than this painting. To really look into the work you are doing. Other eyes can help clarify what is going on. It really is just taking action and just doing it.

Capture vs. Observation, what does this mean for you?

The frames that Rebekah and her husband, Alex, make together.

The frames that Rebekah and her husband, Alex, make together.

I use a limited palette, all of the colors are mixed. I am learning observational color, you paint what you see. With a strong base of that, then it is easier to paint more spontaneously and more about what you feel more than what you see. When painting the sky it is constantly changing, I go for more the overall feel of experiencing the landscape. It is also what I really love about plein air painting, for awhile I was calling my outdoor paintings, snap paintings. I would be out painting on the trail and people would be mountain biking, hiking and snapping lots of pictures but they really weren’t looking at where they were. They were capturing what they were seeing but they weren’t looking at where they were. I get to sit there doing the complete opposite, looking at the same spot for hours. I like observation, I am not trying to capture the clouds, I am trying to learn about them. There is no capturing what is happening here in the sky it was just feeling what the sky was doing, how dynamic the skies in the southwest can be. Why would you want to capture that energy?

It is also why I don’t like true frames. When you put the painting in a frame it is like a cage, especially with these little landscapes. If you were to block this off it contains but with the free edges the landscape and the clouds continue to be energized.

Rebekah’s home studio, currently in progress with a 30 day color study.

Rebekah’s home studio, currently in progress with a 30 day color study.

Boundless Skies opens on February 1st from 6-9pm. You can follow more of Rebekah’s work at

Boundless Skies with Katy Kyle

Coming up in another week is the opening of “Boundless Skies, A Two Woman Show” a collaboration of paintings by Rebekah Nordstrom and jewelry by Katy Kyle. I wanted to sit down with both of them and talk a little bit about their work and hear from their voice what the show means to them. Working together with these two ladies has been a real treat and something we all have been talking about since last October. I got the opportunity to sit down with Katy Kyle first and visit her home studio where all the magic happens.

Katy in her kitchen getting ready to make some jewelry.

Katy in her kitchen getting ready to make some jewelry.

Katy Kyle currently resides in Flagstaff, AZ and her jewelry can be found at Sage Brush and Will McNabb. She had spent quite a bit of her time learning hands on while working with other jewelers early on such as Mary Margaret Brusard in DC and Thomas Mann in New Orleans. After learning the basics and getting a good understanding of the craft she furthered her knowledge by going to school for jewelry making in Minneapolis. “I always had a little set up in my kitchen and taught myself. Going to school allowed the space to just do the one thing, and focus on jewelry only.” Katy said when talking about her evolution into being a jewelry designer.

When doing upholstery work she was inspired by the velvet fabric from an old chair and experimented with metal and fabric.

When doing upholstery work she was inspired by the velvet fabric from an old chair and experimented with metal and fabric.

The aspect of her work I find so interesting and excited to share with others is Katy’s ability to work with other materials other than metal. She has a deep admiration for the natural world and pushes her boundaries with the different materials she works with such as carving acrylic, coral, wood or just trying different things.

“In my heart of heart I would love to make really crazy pieces, one of a kind and working with others on commission pieces that are special and different.” Katy mentions when discussing the work she loves to create.

Katy has had a multi-faceted career weaving her knowledge with other skilled jobs such as woodworking and furniture reupholstery. These techniques add to her work as a jewelry maker and her abilities to try new things, to expand her horizons.

“You just keep learning and always wanting to make stuff,” says Katy Kyle.

Where does your inspiration come from?

“Boundless skies I feel that has always been something that has been a huge influence on me, the birds, sky and stars,” Being on the road at another point in her life the sky was always there and she found it to be ever interesting. She points out the colors in the sky, “pink skies are amazing.” And nature, a theme she continually brings up “When you are in the city you find the nature wherever you are at. So it doesn’t matter where you are you will always find it, nature.”

A sneak peek at one of Katy’s creations for the show. Turquoise carved into a cloud with rain.

A sneak peek at one of Katy’s creations for the show. Turquoise carved into a cloud with rain.

Tell me a little about Boundless Skies and collaborating with Rebekah Nordstrom.

“Working with Rebekah Nordstrom is always inspiring. I went out with her one time when she went out to paint to see how that all worked. Seeing her being so hard working with her painting is inspiring. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t want to do it, you said you were going to do it so go do it. It really pushes me to do the same, watching other people inspires me to do the same and work the same. It makes me think differently, if the only thing I do today is maybe not the best but I am still doing it.”

Katy has a painting of Rebekah’s in her line of sight at her workbench to remind her.

“When I think about boundless skies, I just keeping thinking clouds. Sketching out tons of ideas, some stick and some don’t. Every piece I am making is from nature, turquoise stone carved into a cloud. I love that it is all of the earth but yet representing the sky. Working with the chosen materials is kind of difficult because they do what they want. So I have to just go with it and understand how I can make that work.”

Katy’s father was a dentist and has some of his old unused drill bits. They are tiny and she uses some of them to work with the coral. “I think my dad would like that, I love that I get to use his tools and makes me feel connected to him.”

An origami crane flying above Katy’s jewelry bench.

An origami crane flying above Katy’s jewelry bench.

Tell me about your love for birds.

I met Katy many years ago and I remember seeing a ring she had made, it was a silver sparrow head wrapped around her finger. It was beautiful and so different. I have heard her talk about birds many times and asked her to expand more on it.

For a big part of her life she had a driving job on the road with a photographer, driving a van. She pointed out when you are on the road for so long there isn’t much continuity except for the sky and birds. “I learned to identify birds and would try to identify them when we would stop. The one thing that made me excited to visit new places was to watch the birds and identify them. How they are at feeders and together, in the sky.

“I was visiting a friend in Monterey and he worked with the condors and I got to see them, amazing and dinosaur like. One of the most amazing things I have ever seen, one flew over my head. There wingspan was incredible. It is never ending about birds, they are always there everywhere you go. Endlessly interesting and accessible.”

Any advice for those wanting to get into jewelry?

“Jump in with two feet, go to school even if it just a tech school. I was always under the impression that when I was young that doing art wasn’t much of a career and your going to struggle. You are going to struggle anyways so do the thing you like. Have confidence, know that you can do it and have the guts to do it. “

To see more of Katy’s work you can visit her on instagram @katykylejewelry.

Stay tuned next week for Part Two featuring Rebekah Nordstrom. Boundless Skies opens at The HeArt Box in downtown Flagstaff on February 1st, 6-9pm, it is going to be a sight to see!