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Pushing Boundaries: Kory Russell’s Trailblazing Exploration of Color

Kory Russell discusses his colorful approach to creating art and how his art career began

The artistically inclined always seem to make their way back to art, no matter their careers. Kory Russell began drawing at a young age. Aside from what might have been an occasional doodle, Kory kept his drawing to special circumstances though.

“I would draw things in elementary school only if there was some sort of competition; and typically only if that competition involved chocolate,” said Kory.

In college, Kory spent three years studying geology. However, math became his enemy, and he switched colleges to the University of Georgia to complete an art degree.

“When I graduated, I did everything from graphic design to sales, and then finally firefighting,” Kory shared.

After eight years of firefighting, Kory suffered a work injury that forced him out of firefighting. Unable to stand or sit for long, Kory turned to his art. After a fourteen-year hiatus, working with art again rekindled an old flame.

Time allows the artist to discover and develop. In such time, Kory evolved his artwork from one medium to another. In the early days of his work, most pieces were constructed with charcoal. Kory’s development took an awkward turn when he was commissioned for a piece titled Rum Runners.

“When I was commissioned to do this large piece (Rum Runners,) which I knew I wasn’t getting paid very much for, I had to find a cheap way to do it,” Kory shared.

A cheaper medium found itself to be latex house paint. House paint, Kory quickly discovered, is not as blendable as other mediums, such as oil paints. Rather than considering defeat, Kory used this characteristic to his advantage, making sure the end result of the commission was something he would be satisfied with. Through working with house paint, Kory was able to play with colors and hues.

“I wanted to see what I could do with color; pushing certain elements forward or backward, creating tension between colors, or drawing the eye where I want it in the piece,” he said.

There are several artists that serve as an inspiration to Kory, such as Honore Daumier, Alberto Giacometti, Franz Marc, John Singer Sargent, and others. Once a member of a punk band, Kory found jazz music inspiring for his work.

"You obviously have a predilection for your own style, but you need to find things that are common across the board that appeal to your senses," Kory shared.

Chattanooga itself also has a role in Kory’s artwork, he shared. The prevalent history of Chattanooga surrounds Kory from MLK to his front porch. Kory saves images of Chattanooga he finds interesting for later use or inspiration. Locally, Kory features his artwork at Reflections Gallery and Syrup and Eggs in the Dwell Hotel. Out of the several commissioned pieces at Syrup and Eggs, one of his favorite pieces resides in the hotel, featuring a water fountain.

“Seija, the owner, really gave me carte blanche on those pieces in general, but with that piece, I really took advantage and opened up creatively,” Kory said.

In addition to being well-renowned in Chattanooga, Kory was recently accepted into the Artfields competition.

“Basically the first woman to ever be on Fortune Magazine’s cover, Darla Moore, is from a little town called Lake City, SC, and wanted to revitalize an old tobacco town with art,” he explained.

Artfields lays wake to some of the best artists in this region of the US. Kory shared he plans to insert Rum Runners into the competition.

Kory Russell’s exploration of color and boundaries has earned him a place in the world of art in Chattanooga and the greater southeast. If you’re interested in seeing more of his work, head to his Instagram page, @koryrussell_art, and make sure to visit his website and Etsy.

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