Art maker: Keila Ploof, paper artist

  • Keila Ploof, shown here at her recent exhibit at Forbes Library in Northampton, creates paintings based on a foundation of old paper. Photo by Ana Ploof

  • “Miette,” which is French for “crumb.” Image courtesy of Ana Ploof

  • “Jane Austen,” top, and “Grazing the Beauty.” 

  • “Jane Austen”  Photo by Ana Ploof

  • “Sweeter With Time” Photo by Ana Ploof

  • A close-up view of Ploof in her studio as she applies paint to a foundation of old paper and text. Photo by Ana Ploof

  • Keila Ploof, shown here at her recent exhibit at Forbes Library in Northampton, creates paintings based on a foundation of old paper. Photos by Ana Ploof

Friday, January 12, 2018

Keila Ploof says she long had the desire to create — and with old paper, she found her medium. The New York native, who now lives in Orange with her husband and two children, uses paper — from old books, newspapers and other sources — as a foundation for her unique paintings. “I loved it, learning as I went what paper was capable of,” she says. “I use the paper like paint on a brush, ‘mixing’ colors as I go, using layers and levels of transparency.”

Ploof, who has exhibited her work in Amherst and Northampton, varies the visibility of the paper in her creations. The result is colorful, richly textured works with a matte medium that can have an almost 3D feel, as well as imaginative landscapes and portraits in which scattered words become an important part of the painting/collage — or in which they’re concealed unless seen up close.

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you’re currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Keila Ploof: I sketched two figures in an alley last spring, and I am now working on creating the scene. I hope to build intrigue and curiosity, while playing with light as it strikes the darkness and balancing the bright light against this darkened, secret meeting. Quite often I intend the art to have double meanings and hidden pictures — this work will have both.

H.L.: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

K.P.: I draw inspiration from everywhere, often from my beautiful surroundings here in western MA. I have images in my mind just waiting to come to life. I spend much of my time learning about the technical side of art; it allows me the freedom to create what I think is beautiful or striking. 

One of my favorite “Eureka!” moments would have to be when I understood how lack of proper foundation causes suffering on the part of the artists as they create. I was struggling and couldn’t see why. My foundation work was incorrect and no matter how creative I got, the problem would still be there. Bothering me. I learned to slow down and really work the foundation of a piece.

H.L.: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

K.P.: I am fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci. I can’t exactly articulate why, but his work captivates and leaves me just wandering in thought and sensation. I admire the broad mind he had, so deep and rich. Juliette Aristides is another artist I admire. I love her work, and I learned much from her books. To be a great artist is a wondrous thing, but to be able to teach art just as well is to be admired, I feel.

H.L.: Do you listen to music while you're working? What kind?

K.P.: Absolutely! Loud, too. It’s rare I’m without music, but it’s always on when I work. I listen to a broad range, from classical to blues to traditional music of years past. I feel for my family when I’m working, but they don’t complain. I feel the music and the momentum of expression sync up together, increasing the joy of creating something new.

H.L.: What do you do when you’re stuck?

K.P.: Suffer. I stay with it and work. It will come to me unless I have a structural mistake, and then I’m just fighting against admitting my own error. I have plenty of mistakes, but if I give up, then I won’t learn why. It’s about the journey and learning more along the way.

— Steve Pfarrer

More of Keila Ploof’s art can be seen at keilascalling.wixsite.com/keilas-calling/artist.

To recommend someone for the Art Maker column, contact Steve Pfarrer at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.