Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Slaughter

The artist in her painting uniform: a pair of paint-covered overalls. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

As part of our Exclusive Artist Program, we’re collaborating with a handful of independent artists whose work can only be found in galleries to bring their creative vision to our customers. They create artwork exclusively for us — you won’t find these pieces anywhere else — and you get to enjoy the next best thing to original art at an affordable price.

Exclusive Artist, Kiki Slaughter, has always found inspiration in her environment, whether it’s the rolling green hills and blue skies of her native Charlottesville, Virginia, or the rustic industrial surroundings of her studio at the Goat Farm Arts Center in her new home, Atlanta. You can see the tale tell signs in her abstract works of art — bold canvases covered in luscious greens and blues and rich in texture.

Named one of the “Belles of the Wall” by Modern Luxury Interiors Atlanta and one of the South’s “New Tastemakers” by Garden & Gun, Kiki has attracted quite the following. We count ourselves among her biggest fans, and we think you’ll love her work just as much as we do.

Artist Kiki Fitzgerald's studio in Atlanta, Georgia

Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

Ballard Designs: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to becoming an artist.

Kiki Slaughter: I started painting when I was really young. My parents saw the love for art in me at a really young age, so they found this amazing art teacher, Karen Shea, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I grew up. She taught me from the age of eight until I went to college. I learned so much from Karen. In college at University of Virginia, I majored in studio art and art history. In my final year, I was able to put on an art show at the end of the year for a class credit, so I took on that challenge and the show went really well. It gave me the confidence to continue being an artist.

Studio of Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Fitzgerald

Kiki works in a large industrial studio space at the Goat Farm Arts Center, a former cotton gin factory. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: So being a professional artist was something you’ve always wanted to do.

KS: I wanted to be sure this is what I wanted to do with my life, so after college I went to Sotheby’s in London to get my Master’s in Contemporary Art History. I wanted to live abroad and I wanted to explore other types of jobs in the art world to make sure I was making the right decision in being an artist, and it was a great experience. One assignment would be putting on a gallery show and another might be critiquing an art show for a magazine. I realized the whole time that while these jobs were very neat, I was born to be an artist. That’s my true passion. I was there for a year and when I came home, I had a show called Across the Pond and it did really well. So I was like, “Okay, I’m going to take a leap of faith and do it.”  I’m so glad I chose this, because I go to work every day and I love it.

Kiki had her vintage Bergere chairs upholstered in the heavy, paint-covered tarps covering her studio floors. “The tarps get soaked in all these beautiful colors, and I never want to get rid of them!” Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: How did you end up in Atlanta?

KS: From London I moved to New York for a few years before moving back to Virginia, where my husband went to business school. We moved to Atlanta about two and a half years ago for my husband’s job. I’m definitely a small town girl and I love the country, but Atlanta is great. It has so many cool things to offer, and I love all the neighborhoods that are popping up.

Old paint rags in a bucket in Kiki Fitzgerald's Atlanta studio

I use rags a lot because I paint in so many different ways — by pouring, scraping and rubbing the paint. The rags are great because they soak up a lot of paint if I make a mistake or want to move it around. I also use a palette knife and paint brushes. I’ve also been known to move the paint around with my feet! Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: How would you describe your art?

KS: Abstract with an interplay between color and texture. It’s very much about painting in the moment, and my inspiration is as much as the paint and the process of painting as anything else.

Studio of Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Fitzgerald

The artist found yet one more way to upcycle her old floor tarps: Big floor pillows. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: Your color palette is very distinctive. You have a lot of deep blues and greens — it’s very harmonious. What has influenced your color palette?

KS: I always tend toward blues and whites. I love them because they’re so soothing and so clean feeling to me. I add a lot of patina to my work, because I like to make my work to look more natural and aged, so that it’s not very poppy. With these colors, it takes on a very organic feel. Every summer I spend three weeks at the beach — I just love the ocean — so I do think that’s an influence. It’s so refreshing to me.

Studio of Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Fitzgerald

“Spring Cleaning,” measuring 42″ x 42″, hangs above a collection of excess canvas strips that will be upcycled into jewelry. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: Your bio says: “Although her works are entirely abstract, each piece maintains subtle characteristics from its source of inspiration.” What are those other sources of inspiration?

KS: I’m definitely inspired by where I’m from. Charlottesville is so pretty. It’s mountainous with beautiful countryside and I think I’m really inspired by that the most — the outdoors, nature and anything organic. I’m also inspired by my travels. I don’t get to travel as much now that I have a family, but when I lived in London I traveled all around. For example, I’d come back to my flat and paint with all pinks, because we had just gotten back from Spain where there were lots of pinks and yellows and reds, and it was pretty obvious to me where I was getting that from. I will also say that something super random will inspire me, like a torn movie poster or a disintegrated sidewalk — the texture and different colors that appear over time. Really, anything with color, texture and a natural look to it usually inspires me.

Studio of Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Fitzgerald

Large paint-splattered tarps cover the floor of Kiki’s studio. The pair of large paintings at the back are titled “Rebel Rebel” and measure 5’x8′, one of the artist’s favorite sizes to paint. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: How has your style evolved as an artist?

KS: It’s more that I have become comfortable with my process. So although my style has more or less stayed consistent, I’ve matured as an artist. I’ve learn how to experiment, and even though my work is very “paint in the moment,” I have figured out over the years what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. I know what to expect after all these years of experimenting. Also, I’ve started painting on a much larger scale. I like to paint eight feet by five feet paintings now. My typical size is 42 inches by 42 inches, which is a perfect size to go over a mantel or bed. I also like to paint really small pieces, like eight inches by eight inches. I don’t do many medium size canvases – I guess they’re not as appealing to me.

Strips of canvas in artist Kiki Fitzgerald's studio

The artist has had a habit of saving strips of excess canvas, stapling them to the wall. She finally found a project for them: she and friend, Erin McDermott, started a jewelry line of pieces covered in the paint-splattered fabric. Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: Tell us about your studio space. It’s very industrial.

KS: When I moved to Atlanta everyone said, “You need to check out the Goat Farm.” Which I did and it’s now where my studio is. It’s a former cotton gin factory, so my studio space is so industrial. The walls are exposed brick and I’ve got these really big windows and really beautiful old wood plank floors that I’ve had to cover up with my tarps, because I’m such a mess when I paint. I love it. It’s my space to create and I can make a huge mess!

Studio of Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist Kiki Fitzgerald

Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: What does your creative process look like?

KS: It’s definitely different. I paint on the floor, because I use so much paint and if I were to paint with the painting on the wall or easel it would all drip down. I paint 20 paintings at once. I have to jump between paintings, because they’re all made up of layers and layers of paint, so I have to wait between layers for them to dry. If I were to work on one painting at once, I wouldn’t get anything done. So I jump between them all, wait for them to dry and then come back the next day and do it again. The process is different for each piece. I have a general idea of what I want or intend the painting to look like, but I’m not strict about that. I let the painting do what it wants. The paint might land on the painting in a cool way or I might want to throw a little more color on. I like the idea of painting in the moment and letting what happens happens, but it’s a controlled freedom. I’m not just throwing paint on the canvas. There’s intention.

Exclusive Artist for Ballard Designs Kiki Fitzgerald

“Sometimes I like to paint these really small canvases. I’ll do them in groups because I think they look really cool grouped together on the wall.” Photo Credit: Jimmy Johnston

BD: How do you know when you’re done with a piece?

KS: It’s definitely a feeling and it’s a very clear feeling to me. There’s something that just clicks with the painting — there’s a balance with the composition and a balance with the colors.’

Whirlwind Art, a multi-panel piece painted for Ballard Designs Exclusive Artist program

Kiki is mom to Hill, age one and a half, and has another baby on the way. “My son has inspired me. Being a mother is such a different experience in your life and I think my paintings have a lot of emotion in them because of him.”

BD: We are so excited to have you as an Exclusive Artist. Why did you decide to work with Ballard?

KS: I’ve always thought Ballard was a great resource for the classics — the staple pieces — in your house. It’s always been a reliable source for that. So since I’ve been a fan for a long time, I thought it would be great to try this relationship out.

Kiki Fitzgeralds' pieces in bedroom for Ballard Designs

BD: What can our customers look forward to seeing from you?

KS: The pieces I submitted for the January/February catalog are very colorful. I have three pieces total. One of them is a pair of panels, and they’re lovely: they’re green with a little bit of white, a little bit of blue and little bit of purple, so they kind of incorporate a bunch of colors and take up a big space on your wall, which is fun. It’s almost like a mural. And then I have these two pieces that are more green, almost like an abstract landscape. They have tonal washes of green on the bottom and a pretty obvious horizon line and a white, bluish sky. Again, these paintings for Ballard have a little more punch of color to brighten up a space. I like when my paintings add a happy feeling. I love it when people say “your painting makes me happy when I see it every day.” That’s a big compliment.

Kiki Fitzgerald's painting exclusively sold at Ballard Designs

BD: As the saying goes, art is in the eye of the beholder. What kind of art are you drawn to and personally collect?

KS: In terms of art history, what really clicked with me in college was abstract contemporary — Pollack, Rothko — anybody who was doing that kind of abstract work and letting their emotions come out on canvas. Today, there are a lot of great artists who are super talented and doing abstract art. But I also love figurative art, like Kate Long Stevenson. I’m really attracted to both abstract and figurative art.

And we’re attracted to your art. Thanks, Kiki!

Browse all of Kiki’s artwork, or see more interviews with our Exclusive Artists.

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