Meet Krystle Cole, an artist whose vibrant, colorful works are quite intense. Her focus is mainly animal paintings, but has an incredible body of work that also includes surrealistic landscapes and abstracts. Though mainly choosing to paint with acrylics, she has created a number of digital works, as well.
Some may know Krystle for her Neurosoup YouTube channel, which was originally started back in 2007 for purposes of harm reduction in providing information about hallucinogens, and for several books she has written on the subject. Looking at her artwork, it's apparent she's transferred her experiences in beautiful ways. And recently, I had the chance to ask Krystle a bit about her and her unique artwork.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your artistic background? When did you realize your passion for art?
I'm a published author of five books, the most popular is Lysergic. It is a memoir of the years of 2000-2003 that I spent with the chemists involved in the world's largest LSD lab.
I'm also known for my YouTube channel, NeuroSoup, which I started in 2007 to provide drug harm reduction information about the use of psychedelics and other drugs. In recent years, it has evolved to also contain resources for artists who want to sell their art, videos about me making art, and vlogs about my life in general.
I have a bachelors degree in substance abuse counseling, a masters degree in psychology, and nearly a PhD in psychology. The reason I say nearly is that I took all the courses and completed the final exam. Yet, I did not complete my dissertation. This is because, during the time I was waiting for IRB approval for my dissertation research study, I started painting as a hobby. I realized quickly that painting is my passion. I just love it! Making art is my favorite thing to do. So I stopped going to college for psychology and turned it into a business.
Have you had any formal art training?
I’m mostly self taught. I have never went to college or taken any courses to learn how to paint. But I’ve read lots of books from experienced artists and my husband, Greg, has an MFA and teaches college classes in studio art. So he has provided me tips and feedback on my work as I’ve grown as an artist.
What can you tell us about your creative process?
I make a wide variety of work including surreal landscapes, abstract, mixed media collage, and digital art. Though, I am most known for my animal paintings.
I paint animals in a colorful style that I call visionary impressionism. My paintings can pretty much be thought of as Impressionism 2.0. I paint the light and movement that I observe with my eyes, like the classical Impressionists did, but I also paint what I feel emotionally and sense intuitively.
Each painting focuses on a particular animal. Since animals will not hold still for me to look at them while I paint, I begin by photographing them. I enjoy visiting zoos to take these photographs. After I choose the best photo, I print and tape it to my wall so that the animal can “model” for me. Then I paint each painting by hand with acrylics.
Have you explored many different mediums for creating art?
Yes, I touched upon this in the previous question. I love creating art in lots of different styles and mediums. One of my favorite things to do is pick different styles and do a mashup. For example, combining cubism with surrealism or in the instance of my animal paintings, combining fauvism with impressionism and realism.
Do you listen to music while creating? If so, what?
I love to listen to upbeat music while I paint. Reggae is one of my all-time favorites genres. I also like to listen to EDM.
Your artwork is incredible and unique. What inspires you? Are there any particular artists that have influenced your work?
I love animals, cats especially. Painting my cats for fun is really what got me started painting. Although I did make art in my teenage years, and I painted a few mandalas in my mid-20s along with making a series of digital fractal artworks during those same years. I really didn't get into painting until I started painting my cats. I love them so much, and I just wanted to share that love through my artwork. I felt compelled to paint more than I've ever felt compelled to do anything in my life.
As for particular artists, my favorite painting is by the impressionist Mary Cassatt. It is part of the permanent collection at the art museum in the city where I live so I’ve been able to see it in person multiple times as I've been developing my artistic style. Here is a pic https://www.kmuw.org/post/art-review-mary-cassatt-and-american-impressionism
Even though my color palettes and subjects are different, I love the way she applied paint to the canvas. There have been many times that I’ve went to the museum to look at her painting, and then went home to try to figure out exactly how she got those particular textures and effects. Her painting has been a great teacher.
Can you tell us about the paints/materials you use and what works best for you? Do you have any personal recommendations?
I use Liquitex acrylic paint and varnish mostly. I also like Dick Blick artist acrylics, and I use Dick Blick canvases exclusively. This is because I can buy them in bulk, and they are more affordable than those in stores like Hobby lobby.
Though I enjoy creating digital art, I also dabble in clay sculpting. It's the 'feel' of creating physically that seems to be really satisfying to me...a connection so different than working digitally. What is that feeling for you when you create?
I love the feeling of paint as I slide a brush or palette knife across the canvas. I love being able to take something that's in my mind and heart and be able to create it on the canvas. Although I love painting the most of all mediums I've tried, I also feel a similar accomplishment when I create digital art. For me, I think it's just fact that I can create something that I'm really passionate about.
Have you dabbled at all in digital art?
Yes, I have two collections of digital art. I made around 60 fractals with a program called ultra fractal in 2006 and 2007. Over the past couple years, I've also started to create animal portraits using Procreate on my iPad. So far I've made around 75 of them.
What are your proudest achievements? Is there anything you would consider career highlights as an artist?
I'm really proud of having my own art gallery in a mall for three years. It was filled with only my artwork, I started and managed it all on my own with no prior business degree or experience running a brick and mortar retail store. It was a challenge, but it was also such a great learning experience. I honestly believe that having that store was a better education on running a business than a business degree would've been.
I'm also proud of being able to support myself financially as a full-time artist, with no other job or side hustle necessary. I’ve been working for myself ever since I was 25; I'm 40 now. My businesses have evolved over the years. I started out doing small business website design, then writing, then YouTube and NeuroSoup. But, for the last 10 years I've basically been supporting myself off of selling my art.
There are so many examples of starving artists, yet that hasn't been my experience. There are lots of opportunities for artists to earn a good living. For me, it is such a win-win situation. I get to do what I’m most passionate about, and I earn a better living than I would've if I would have continued to go to school for psychology and had become a university professor. I only wish I would've realized that art was my path prior to going to college for so many years. I kind of feel like college was a waste of my time.
This is usually a tough question, but do you have any favorite works?
My favorite paintings are the ones I painted of my kitty best friend, Mr. Samadhi. There is one painting entitled “Crouching Samadhi” that is my absolute favorite. It is 24 x 30”, and I painted it in only three hours. I was feeling really good that day and totally in the zone. Usually it takes me 20 or more hours to complete a painting of that size. But for some reason, that day everything just clicked into place. The brushwork is spontaneous, the colors are bright. I just love it.
Is there anything you'd like to do that you haven't already?
I would love to have a solo exhibition in an established gallery in New York or other large city. I've had multiple gallery shows, but never anything on that scale. To break into the higher end art market would be amazing.
Outside of creating art, what are your other hobbies or passions?
I used to use psychedelics to alter my consciousness, and it was a big part of my life. I'd like to emphasize, though, that I’ve been sober for over a decade. Looking back, I wish I would've moderated myself a little bit more with my use of psychedelics. Still, consciousness exploration continues to be one of my hobbies. These days, I enjoy meditating and lucid dreaming. I often have ideas for paintings in my lucid dreams or in the hypnagogic state that we all experience when falling asleep and waking up.
I also love to read. I read nonfiction books on topics of philosophy, spirituality, self-help, alternative health, and medicine on a daily basis. I find reading to be very calming, and I love to get my mind working on topics that are not related to art.
Do you have any words, or advice for other artists? What would you tell someone looking to market their artwork?
There are lots of things I could say, lots of advice I could give. But I think the most important thing is to look at art marketing with an abundance mindset. There are so many ways to make money as an artist. Start out by getting as many revenue streams going as possible.
Some ideas for revenue streams include: local art markets, gallery exhibitions, starting an art gallery, craft shows, fine art fairs, selling online on Etsy, eBay, Amazon handmade, selling on print-on-demand sites like Red Bubble and Displate, selling wholesale on Faire, starting your own website to sell your art, applying for grants for making public art, starting an art related YouTube channel and getting it monetized, earning money for making reels on Instagram or Facebook business page posts, and teaching art classes.
These are just some ideas, but as you can see there are lots of ways to earn a living as an artist. The way I think about it is - if you can earn $100 a month from 20 different revenue streams, then you're making a pretty good living. And selling $100 a month on any one of these revenue streams is fairly easy to do if you put the time into it. So start with one revenue stream, get that going and then add another. Then another. Then another. Pretty soon you will be on your way to a reliable income as an artist. And keep in mind, that not all the revenue streams will lead to income. Some will be duds, but others will earn you more than your $100 per month goal. The idea here is just to put yourself out there, and keep putting yourself out there.
Nick C Sorbin (Nick Charles) is a former Managing Editor of 9 years for Renderosity's CG Industry News. By day, a mild-mannered Certified Pharmacy Technician working in both home infusion and a hospital ER, contrasting creative outlets as a digital artist, sculptor, musician, singer/songwriter, and Staff Writer for Renderosity Magazine. Read his articles