Adonna Khare is an award-winning, California-based artist most noted for her breathtaking large scale black and white artwork. They are all incredibly detailed, creative, and have a strong connection to the world around us. Animals, in particular, have inspired Adonna in creating these masterpieces. Read on to hear my conversation with her and view some of our favorite pieces from her portfolio.
NS: Can you tell us what kind of artist you are? How would YOU describe yourself and your art? Is there something specific that’s significant to you, or something bigger? I think a lot of artists know you for your large works, but you do smaller works as well, correct?
Adonna Khare: I use the art to interpret life and he connection we all have, finding that I can describe how I feel better with a drawing than with words. Using a series of symbols and anthropomorphic figures I come to terms with the absurdities that surround me. The work is like a language and as events (good and bad) occur I express them on paper. We’re all connected, often times not by choice.
I love to work large, but I work in small mediums as well. The small works allow me to work on intricate minute details, and also give me a chance to explore compositions and figures which springboard to the larger works and visa-versa.
NS: Why such large scale works? I think it’s difficult for artists to commit to one project for so long. Many of us pump out smaller projects in order to constantly release something new to our audience. Why are these large scale projects important to you? How do you get your ideas?
AK: Large scale works allow me to create an environment for people to immerse themselves. I want the viewers to get lost in the world I’ve created, and feel the scale allows that to happen. Usually I’m working on the large projects simultaneously with smaller works to fulfill the need for detail and satisfy my need to finish something (anything really).
The ideas really come from life. There’s no shortage of ideas, things happen all the time, like my nephew Luke who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, or my brother who is need of a kidney transplant to the joyous birth of my daughter. These serve as the source of the work and get translated onto paper as for example, Orangutans or Princess Chimpanzees.
NS: Animals clearly have a large impact on your work. Can you talk to us about the significance of life/nature/animals in your own life? Do you have a connection with animals? More so than with humans? Do you have animals that are close to you in your own life?
AK: Pets/Animals, even as a child were always in my life. Growing up I would always seek out the pets to play with rather than the other kids. Beyond that I always rescued animals, my house was filled with rescue dogs, cats, squirrels, rats and so so many birds whatever I could find that needed help. Also I love being outdoors, in college I joined the wilderness studies program and we’d spend weeks living with nature, it was a huge influence on my love for animals and landscape.
Currently I have 2 Dogs, 2 semi-feral cats, 2 rats and my horse William. All of which were rescued.
NS: Elements of fantasy are also present in your work. Where do these influences come from? What attracts you to, say, splicing human elements with animal elements?
AK: I try not to limit myself to any types of rules or constraints, stretching beyond what is possible by creating new forms. In my eyes, humans and animals are the same. We all inhabit the earth, we have life-cycles, ups and downs, trials and tribulations we’re really not that different.
NS: How long does it take you to create your larger works?
AK: The larger pieces come together over several months to years. Elephants (see below) for example took 18 months.
NS: Do you have a favorite work that you’ve done? Or do you have one that was very significant in your career? Why is it your favorite?
AK: I feel like each piece is a chapter in my life, a sort of diary. They’re all important to me, but none are my favorite. Once they’re completed, I feel as though that chapter is done and I want to move on to the next. Elephants is probably the most significant, not just for the shear size of it (288 sq. ft.), but it really is more of an awakening for me. When I started Elephants, I hadn’t drawn in almost 3 years (since the birth of my daughter). Getting back to doing what I love really helped me realize what I wanted to do with my art, career and really my life.
NS: What does your creative process look like? Do you find yourself looking at pictures and go wild, or do you just start by putting the pencil to paper? For example, what would the evolution of something like a gorgeous lion with branches growing from its mane and a very sensual stretch of the leg (see right) look like? Or what leads you to imagine a glorious buffalo with a castle on its back (see below)?
AK: The process is as odd as the end results. I’m struck with ideas all the time, driving to work, sleeping or doing the laundry. They come so randomly that I carry a pencil with me everywhere and draw them on the first surface I can find (usually on the walls in my house). The drawings are more of a stream of consciousness, I’ll start with the original thought and add the symbols that represent what is effecting my life at the time. The Buffalo is a beast of burdon, feeling as though you’re carrying the weight of the world on your back, and yet still be playful.
See more color works by Adonna (illustration & watercolor)
NS: What advice would you give to our audience and artists (many of which are young and just starting)? How can we grow into a style that we are proud of? Are there mistakes you’ve made that you can warn us about? How did you grow such an amazing presence as an artist?
AK: If you really feel a calling for something that you have to do, do it! Don’t be swayed by critics or naysayers, if you truly believe its the right way go, go for it and do it all the way.