A Conversation with Kimry Jelen — Poster Artist to the Oregon High Desert Classics

(Kimry Jelen below Invitation, which is hanging in Lakeside Bistro at Black Butte Ranch | Photo courtesy of Kimry Jelen)

Kimry Jelen’s artwork has become a defining piece of the Oregon High Desert Classics hunter jumper show. Her brightly colored horses have graced the event’s posters for well over a decade, donated to help J Bar J Youth Services with their largest fundraiser of the year. Her paintings tell a story of connection: to the natural world in general, and horses specifically. We spoke with Kimry the other day, and she gave us some insight into her inspiration and work:

Q: What was the strongest creative influence you had when you were growing up?

Kimry: “I spent a lot of time running around out in nature. My friends were mostly the animals in my life and my cousins. When I look back on my creations, they were interactions of my dreamy natural world with a few unicorns tossed in. I would marvel (and still do) over the complimentary color combinations of lichen on rocks, wild flowers growing together or a sunset sky.”

Q: You’ve started working on large format pieces, tell us about them and your journey in going that direction.

Kimry: “The larger size allows me to get my brush strokes dancing across the surface. The way the color and texture come together is like a new discovery on every painting. When it’s so big, I feel like I’m inside the painting. Making decisions about what is important to the piece seems clear since the visual impact of a large piece is powerful. It’s a challenge keeping the perspective, put the payoff is so worth it. Painting large becomes more of a physical workout, it’s very involved, I like that part of the dance.”

Q: You had an artist’s booth at the World Equestrian Games in France, could you tell us about your experience?

Kimry: “France was a huge tipping point for me, it felt like I had sort of “arrived” as an equine artist. My story spread and my work was shared all over the country! People from all over the world purchased my art. I cannot tell you how many people made it possible for me to show my artwork in France, there are so many elements that had to come together. Many things did not go smoothly over there, my art was delivered to the wrong location (almost being sent back to the airport), but the people I ran into were amazingly helpful and kind. It all worked out and we put on a beautiful show. Our booth made an impact with the variety of equine art from all different artists. I was the only American artist there. It was quite the accomplishment and a major education.”

Q: What is your advice for a beginner artist?

Kimry: “Be curious instead of critical. Realize there is no wrong way, only the way that works for you. You never stop learning, so just get over trying to be perfect and at least attempt your ideas – over and over again if need be. Whatever seems appealing to you, explore that… never compare yourself to other artists, you’re the only you there is, just create from your heart and it will work out.”

Once again, Kimry’s art will be the centerpiece of the Oregon High Desert Classics. This year’s poster will feature Capilano, who, along with his owner and trainer Lindsey Garner, has won the Grand Prix four years in a row. On First Friday in July (July 2) stop by Cascade Sotheby’s downtown office on Bond Street to see Kimry’s current art, including the work for this year’s poster. Her artwork will remain available for viewing there throughout July. Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty is a Champion Sponsor of the OHDC, presenting the Classic I Grand Prix. Her painting of Capilano and other pieces of Kimry’s art will also be on display in Sisters Gallery and Frame Shop during that community’s Fourth Friday Art Walk in June (June 25).

The Classics raise funds for J Bar J Youth Services and their many programs helping youth build brighter futures in Central Oregon. Their programs include: J Bar J Boys Ranch and J5, The Academy at Sisters, Cascade Youth & Family Center, Grandma’s House, at: project, Kindred Connections, The Learning Center and Vocational School at J Bar J and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon.

J Bar J is planning to hold the Oregon High Desert Classics this year, with one a major change: It will be a completion only, and spectators will not be allowed. We will all miss the Grand Prix dinners and wandering through the vendor village. And we are all hopeful that next year will be a return to traditions, where we can welcome the community at this annual event. 


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