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Kristin Llamas

  • Kristin Llamas Draws Llamas!

    Kristin LLamas Draws LLamas

    For starters, yes, this artist known for her soulful llama portraits is really named Kristin Llamas. It’s her married name, she’s had it for fifteen years, and it’s pronounced “yamas.” The name came first, then the art subject, and the whole llama-in-art endeavor is very name-based, she explains. Her series of llama (and alpaca) portraits each bears its subject’s first name.

    “[Depicting llamas] started as a fun play on words,” she says, “and I was curious about first names.” Specifically, since we are named before we have a personality, Llamas was interested in how much a person’s name serves to shape his or her personality. She put a post on social media asking followers to tell her their own naming story, whether they were named after someone or something, and whether they identify with their name. Her intent was to produce llama portraits named after people who responded to the post. “I was only going to do twenty-five for a gallery show,” she recalls, “and I got them all the first day. I had over one hundred [responses] by the end of the week.”

    And so the llama portraits have continued, now number up to 250, and Llamas is taking commissions on her website from people who want their name, or a special person’s, interpreted as a llama. “I have a huge file of reference photos,” she says. “I follow lots of llama and alpaca farmers on Instagram. [For the record, she says that the two animals are often difficult for her to distinguish in close-up photos, so she acknowledges that an alpaca may slip through now and then into her art.] When I see a cool personality coming through I’ll put it in a digital file. When I get a name submitted lots of times I don’t even know the person or anything about them. But certain names give you a feeling. I’ll see a William as a strong and more traditional llama. Penny is a little bit more fun. I can’t pick just any name to go with any llama. The thing that takes me the longest is pairing a reference photo with the look and feel of the name.”

    Llamas the artist has come to appreciate llamas the animal for their individual characteristics. “I love the symbolism behind llamas themselves,” she notes. “There’s a feeling of community in the herd, and they’re loyal and strong, they can carry things on their back for a long period of time. But if you upset them they’ll spit on you.”

    Llamas, who lives with her husband and three daughters near Nashville and is building a second home in Colorado, draws many of her llama works digitally on a tablet. She also creates large-scale (non-llama-related) artworks on canvases, with acrylics and oils.

    As for the future of the llamas in her art, Llamas thinks they’re here to stay. “I love the llamas. I did not anticipate the llamas taking off so much and so quick. I’m just kinda running with it and seeing where it goes.”

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