Artist Kim Howes Zabbia’s free-flowing abstract paintings reveal realism emerging through layers of color and form. Enjoy her portfolio and visit her website to see more.
I begin each painting with empty thoughts and zero pre-planning. The free-flowing paint appears at first to be abstract; yet in no time, realism peeks through layers of color and form. Once that happens, I can stop at any time and hope that controlled brushstrokes have brought balance to the chaos.
My life has been surrounded by art, embellished by art and nurtured by art since I was in the third grade growing up in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. I moved slowly from simple childhood contests to portraits, poster work and photo realism. I paused for a midcareer M.F.A. in Studio Art at L.S.U. before finally reaching full scale abstracts and gallery representation.
All the while, I have been teaching art to high schoolers, then to adults. I encourage them to have the guts to “talk art” and not be intimidated by the elite world of air-quote “artists” and snobby gallerists.
I force my students to ignore prior myths that they must be born with talent, that they are too old to start making art, that the real art world does not want them.
Away from the classroom, when I work in my own studio, I drown myself in paint hoping that something miraculous will happen. Sometimes, it does; many times, it doesn’t. Yet I persist, always locked in a struggle between control and freedom.
During this alone time, I have to face my own fears, my masked insecurity, my typically Southern response to make it all into a joke. Then I return to my art students, switch on my teacher face and masquerade as a seasoned artist who knows all.
My life is no different from other artists. We all have our private studio moments before we must wake up and rejoin the rigors of society. I thrive on this opposites’ game though.
After retiring from high school teaching in 2007, I opened The Art Station, an art school for adults, in downtown Ponchatoula. Since 1990, I’ve had twenty-four solo exhibits to compound my teaching duties including a twenty-four year retrospective exhibit at the Pensacola, Florida, Museum of Art in 2014.
I’ve taken breaks from art, but only long enough to write two books about my thoughts on art. I authored Painted Diaries: A Mother and Daughter’s Experience through Alzheimer’s (Fairview Press, 1996), and most recently Just Paint, It Ain’t: Demystifying the Complex Marriage of Artists and Their Viewers (2019).
Yet I always come back to the art. As I watch viewers see my paintings for the first time, I see them pause to study, knowing in their hearts there is more subject matter there than initially meets the eye. Each time they do pause, I hope to stimulate their imaginations with a visual scavenger hunt for reality. It will give us both comfort if they find it.