Using bright colors ranging from brilliant oranges and yellows to magenta and purple, well known Taos artist, JK Lamkin was the first southwest artist to apply these kinds of bright colors to her paintings of the Southwest – classic images of pueblo and adobe architecture – her trademark subjects. Her popular large scale canvasses not only depict powerful, stark southwestern architectural images, but also include striking paintings of horses and a variety of other interpretations of southwestern culture. Lamkin has been a resident artist in Taos since 1982.
She was born in Drumright, Ok, near Oklahoma City. Because her father was in oil business, her family moved frequently, wherever drilling activity took him, from the midwest to California. Her family eventually settled in Farmington, New Mexico.
It was in Farmington that Lamkin had her first art exhibit – at the age of 14. She has been interested in art since she was three years old. “At that time,” she said, “ I was working in oils, painting horses.” She also painted horses in oil on satin ties – which were popular with ranchers and farmers then.
Horses were a natural subject for Lamkin to paint because she has always loved horses. In high school, she was active in sports and horseback riding and did non-competitive barrel racing and quarter horse racing. She said her grandparents raised saddle horses in Oklahoma and she spent her summer vacations on their ranch, during which times, she trained horses and ponies for them. She said she has once again become interested in painting horses over the past few years .
Although Lamkin has always continued to paint, she has also had other experience, which included doing graphic design for magazines. She and a partner started Mystique magazine, which later became Taos Magazine. She also worked as a draftsman for an oil company in Farmington and did PR work for a real estate development company in Denver. She was an airline stewardess for Frontier Airlines for a year and married an airline Captain in a ceremony held in a DC-3, flying over Denver.
Although she is mostly self-taught, she has also participated in art workshops from several different colleges.
She says her inspiration comes from an endless variety of sources. “I love people and faces and nature,” she noted, but said she doesn’t have enough time to, “… paint all the things I love. “ One of the things that attracted her to Taos, she said, was the cultural community mix of Hispanic and Native Americans living in the area – which has provided her with a wealth of subject matter to draw upon for paintings. In addition to painting southwest architecture, one of her other favorite subjects is Pow Wows and a major one is held each July in Taos. She has been to all of them since they first began and they have inspired her colorful, imaginative paintings of Native Americans and their culture.
She says she doesn’t really begin a painting with a precise plan. “I just start a painting, then ideas come and I let them take hold and go with the flow.” She says that she normally stays with a particular painting she is working on until it is done, rather that work on multiple paintings at once – because, “ If I leave a particular painting for any length of time I lose my inspiration and I don’t like to go back to it.”
She commented that her professional painting is based on what galleries think art collectors want to buy, so much of her creative effort is driven by market demand. She added, “After years of painting what galleries have demanded, now I want to paint what I feel like painting.” She said her style is constantly evolving – and her recent artistic explorations have resulted in colorful new paintings of religious icons and crosses, some of which have been influenced by her travels in Europe.
Lamkin’s work has been exhibited in galleries on both the east and west coasts and collectors all over the U.S. and from Europe own her paintings. One of the things she likes best about her work is that, ”I become friends with people who collect my paintings,” and she said that they keep up with her work and visit her at her studio.