Interview: Darla McKenna

First few basic questions, who are you, what are you doing, where are you coming from?

Darla McKenna, born in San Diego, CA, USA. I am a fine art high school teacher but spend my free time creating abstract collages and paintings.

How would you see your artistic style? And how quickly you found the level you felt comfortable on?

I have been working in abstraction for many years. For the last four, I have grown from a more organic style to geometric, constructivism. The work infers architecture, landscape, and sometimes music. Working with hard lines and straight edges coupled with round forms feels so pleasing and natural to my own personality; one of going with the flow, but yet keeping boundaries and structure.“It is a practice of free-association and deep-rooted discovery.”

How do you work and approach your subject, can you tell about your creative process?

My collage material comes from mid-century magazines and found papers which I paint. The creation of the work is a straightforward process; paper forms are laid next to each other until there is unity. It is a practice of free-association and deep-rooted discovery. As the collage takes shape, additional paint or markings are added to enhance certain elements. I am intrigued by the possibilities of arrangement and structure. My paintings develop in the same fashion. There are rhythms; playing with the formal elements, exemplifying the beauty of shape, texture, and color.

Do you work on multiple pieces at the same time or simply focus on one?

I usually have three or four pieces happening at different stages at once. Right now I am working on large oil paintings that take more time. When I need a break from painting, I will shift and work on smaller paper collage pieces.

Your works come together creating brilliant abstract puzzles, what thoughts or emotions do you think your works transmit for the viewer?

I hope the shapes and colors draw the viewer in to appreciate their simple complexity and aesthetic. When I make them, I am very happy and relaxed. I hope that comes through my works.

“I only know the size and the colors I want to work with and go from there.”

When you begin to work a new piece, do you have a clear vision of what you’re going to do or where to start? And then how much your works ”live” or change from the original vision, how much you improvise?

I never have an idea about what the final outcome will be. I only know the size and the colors I want to work with and go from there. It is a continual discovery process, can be built, taken apart, reworked, then in final glued. The paintings I do know the final outcome. Paintings are based on smaller collages that I have made in the past. With the oil paintings, I have some formal challenges with scaling something up from 9 inches to 50 inches; trying to keep the work alive and inviting even at a larger scale.

Do you have any creative rituals? And how do you boost your creativity?

I usually have music on and do a short routine in tidying the supplies and reviewing old work. It’s the previous work that infers what I am to do next on a piece.

What connection you have to your work? While creating if you make an ”error”, stroke or line you don’t like, etc, how do you react? Do you make compromises what comes to those ”errors” or are you chasing the absolute perfection?

No perfection, at all! With the collages, especially with gluing, things happen that you don’t expect, and I just roll with it. Even when I paint my papers, I leave overcuts, or stains of other colors, it adds to the originality and the spontaneity of the piece. I always tell a collector the imperfections or mistakes are what make the piece alive, they are my original fingerprint that no one else can duplicate. As humans, we are perfect in our imperfections.

If you compare your very first works to your very latest ones, what is the biggest difference? What has changed?

My first collages were simpler in structure and color. Now I am working on more complex visual compositions as well as larger collage scale and also my large oil paintings which are new this year.

If you should describe your art with one word, what would it be?

That is a hard one: Alive

Darla McKenna aroud the internet

Instagram: @darla.mckenna
Saatchi Art: @darlamckenna