Dr. Tami LaGraize remembers the first time she saw a Kelli Kaufman painting. It was in the Lafayette artist’s dining room.
“I asked, ‘Who painted this?’” LaGraize recalls, standing just feet from her own newly commissioned Kaufman piece.
LaGraize and her husband were visiting the Kaufmans’ home when a piece caught her eye. And it’s clear now why LaGraize took note. Kaufman’s work often marries abstract and landscape in a way that is, simply put, art.
Kaufman, who originally hales from New Iberia, has painted since high school. The wife of a surgeon, she got more serious about her painting while her husband was doing his residency.
“It was our first house and we had no money. I did it to put art on the wall,” she says, amused by the memory.
The newlyweds lived out of state for years before returning to Acadiana in 2005. It was then that Kaufman became more serious about her work. About four years ago on a trip to The Big Easel art festival in River Ranch, she felt she, too, could have a spot at the art event.
“Some of mine are as good. I could have a booth,” Kaufman says of her first inklings.
Kaufman stills remember how unusual it felt to call herself an artist as she approached the man in charge of The Big Easel — Jeffery McCullough.
“I said, ‘my name is Kelli and I’m an artist.’”
After emailing some of her work, she was in for the next year’s event and by 2010 was really selling her pieces. Today, McCullough is her agent.
Kaufman usually paints in the mornings after her two children are off to school, and she draws inspiration from what she knows best.
“I love painting what’s familiar. What’s Louisiana. Marshscapes,” Kaufman says.
And it is those marshscapes that often have clients calling. She typically chooses muted colors. And her work is something that is kind to the soul at the end of a long day.
“Helps you wind down and calm down from life,” she says. “The art of creating it is meditation. I’m not focused on anything but the present moment.”
It is her hope that the feeling she has creating the work is just what those who see it feel.
“Escape into a calm scene in your home,” Kaufman says.