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Life Is Tender (and a Little Awkward) in the Paintings of Kelly Bjork

Painter Kelly Bjork's aesthetic is austerity with a little eccentricity.

Diana Shi

Diana Shi

Three-Way Mirror. All images courtesy the artist

A young man in a red, Western-style shirt sits quietly next to an older woman in a hospital bed, both their expressions calm and serene. A gaggle of middle-aged women traipse around an indoor swimming pool, their faces wearing guileless smiles. A pleasingly symmetric still life of a kitchenette goes slightly askance with the inclusion of a round-edged avocado and the abstract curve of a banana.

Proportional design paired with smart composition choices and slightly odd narrative details are part of the blissful world of artist Kelly Bjork. The Seattle-based illustrator paints the normal activities of the everyday in her textured, human works. Within commonplace settings she will insert both her sophisticated patterns alongside subtle screwball details, giving each work a bit of an edige. In a humorous take on a couple's portrait, a man rests on the naked thigh of his female cohort as her pubic hair blossoms from the center of the painting. Another piece, set inside a tiled sauna or pool, is a gratifying grid of white and dusty blue, enlivened by the unexpected contrast of a naked lady's pink bare legs and butt.

Floral Arrangement

Deep Water Ladies

Splayed Produce

A Cross Behind

"The beauty of what is innately simple is concept," Bjork tells Creators. She consistently returns to this mantra in her aesthetic. "I try to reduce things down to their basic elements. I find comfort in simplicity, which is seemingly harder and harder to find in real life. I work to balance simple elements with small areas of detail. Simple and deliberate, when you get that balance just right you can really get lost in a moment. I like that, looking for the little joys are what matter to me in life."

The self-described "old-school artist" favors hand-drawing the most. Her process often includes preliminary sketching in colored pencil to determine color palette and composition. During the painting stage of her development, Bjork enjoys listening to podcasts, the news, as well as TV shows ("usually Seinfeld—a classic!"). She breaks up her day by taking frequent breaks to "get out of her head" with outdoor walks.

See a collection of the artist's favorite paintings below:

Quilted Conversation

Hot House After Hours

Table for Two

Future Plans

Tiger Overhead

Singing Bowl Soak

Head rest

Waiting for Tea

Butt Island

Explore more artwork from Kelly Bjork on her website, here.

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