Beams of sunlight and the heady fragrance of lavender greet all who visit Kristy Gammill’s studio—a 1,000-square-foot, wide-open space with crisp, white walls located in the Naples Arts District. The sweet scent is from the Chelsea Classic Studio herb-spiked oil essence that she uses in lieu of toxic paint solvents, and it’s especially fitting as the artist is primarily known for her floral paintings. But neither Gammill nor her canvases are shrinking violets. The vibrant works, inspired by graphic textiles and fabrics mixed with huge silhouettes and angular ridges of flora and fauna, are more daring than delicate.
Gammill’s career took off early—she was only 20 when she sold her first artwork in her hometown of Oklahoma City. From there, she quickly became the not-so-secret weapon of the area’s top interior designers, who regularly commissioned her artwork and murals for their projects. In 2010, she was thrust onto the national stage after a company executive at high-end home decor e-tailer One Kings Lane espied her work on Pinterest and reached out about licensing her images. To date, she estimates that hundreds of her prints have been shipped and hang on walls all over the world.
The artist left Oklahoma City for Naples in 2017, with her husband, who is a pilot, and their three children in tow, and it didn’t take long for her Naples studio to become a destination. Most days, Gammill is there painting from late morning into early evening—although that can change based on the demands of her children’s schedules.
Her process depends very much on what she’s working on: Florals may require an inspirational photo tacked to a nearby wall, while she relies solely on her imagination for abstracts. For her newest work, depictions of the female form obscured in foliage and plentiful patterns, she studies reference photos that she’s taken of herself or friends. “Sometimes, my work is more successful if I sketch it out beforehand, but even that can really vary from piece to piece,” Gammill says. “I guess I would say my process is really just ‘winging it.’” No matter the subject matter, she remains intent on achieving the right balance of pretty and purposeful. “You hear a lot that you shouldn’t make art just for aesthetic beauty, but I want my paintings to look pretty and maybe a little rough around the edges … I also want someone to look at it and feel the emotion there. I work to be both,” she explains.
Her attraction to color also remains unwavering. She cites the bold work of mid-20th-century abstract artists Lee Krasner and Joan Mitchell as influences. “It’s always in my head, this conversation about how the colors play with each other,” Gammill says. She draws her palette from the bright, saturated hues of her current subtropical surroundings as well as the tawny, dusky colors of Oklahoma’s arid landscapes. “The conversation has stayed the same through the years, but the colors change depending on what I’m inspired by and what I like.”