Kristen Ingman: The Artist and Athlete Behind the "Places I Run" Series

Kristin Ingman gets creative inspiration by running Bellingham trails.
Kristin Ingman gets creative inspiration by running Bellingham trails. Elizabeth Boyle
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Kristen Ingman has been painting since she was a little girl, but as an adult, her colorful work has captured the imagination of many a trail runner in Bellingham. After discovering how well her passions of painting and trail running complemented each other, Ingman began a series called "Places I Run" using oil paints and opaque watercolors known as gouache. Her colorful, dreamy paintings are little windows into the enchanting trails around Bellingham. Her work has been featured at Fairhaven Runners and Harris Avenue Café.

Ingman, who paints in the Waterfront Artist Studio Collective in Bellingham, chatted with us about her work, her love for the trails, and her inspiration.

Galbraith View
Galbraith View Kristen Ingman

How long have you been running and painting?

At four years old I painted at an easel. I was a studio art major at Whitman College and have painted, drawn, and sculpted most of my life. I began running track in middle school about 35 years ago. I discovered trail running in college, and became completely hooked once I moved to Bellingham. The trails here are so beautiful and diverse.

The real Rock Trail.
The real Rock Trail. John Palmer

What is your favorite trail?

Easy answer: the Rock Trail. This is one of the newest trails in Bellingham, and when I'm on it, I feel like I could be anywhere in the world. The light is beautiful and it has all of my favorite qualities: winding trails, moss, ferns, viewpoints, and beautifully sculpted rocks.

Chuckanut Trail
Chuckanut Trail Kristen Ingman

What is your approach to painting the Places I Run series? Do you paint right after running?  

Typically I've run a trail a number of times before I decide to paint it. When I do, I will go out with my camera and take photos of the spots that are particularly special to me. Sometimes it will be the way the light reflects on the ferns, or in my Arroyo painting it was because my friend and I were running our first marathon in January and I felt like we were in the rainforest. The atmosphere was so wet and such a vibrant green from all the moss, I knew I had to try to capture it. Once I have a collection of photos, I'll go back to my studio and combine a few images with my memory of the run to help recreate the experience.

How does running contribute to your creative process?

It sounds sort of crazy, but I feel like I begin painting my pieces while I'm running. I am so sensitive to the beauty of these places that I can barely stand not having a canvas with me! Therefore I try and "memorize" the feelings, mood, peace, and visuals of that place so I can take it with me to my studio.

Another way that running contributes to my creative process is that the peace and well-being that I feel while running is almost identical to a painting session. As an artist, I know that I'm in the right headspace if I can breathe deeply and feel at one with my experience.

Do you have any pre- or post-running rituals?

Coffee before, always. I typically run at 5-5:30 am Monday through Saturday, so I need a jolt to get going. Afterward I warm up with a shower as I’m often cold or wet, but other than that I just race off to work.

How has painting changed your running experience?

I pay close attention to my environment, and it causes me to reflect and feel extra thankful for the experience.

Stimpson Trail
Stimpson Trail Kristen Ingman

How is running like painting? What lessons do you learn from one that applies to the other?

I experience a very similar state of mind during both of these pursuits. I think that I really learn how to be present with the experience. If I am focused on the "end" or the "product" then I lose the process, which is really the most important thing.  For example, if I get caught up with my race time, I'll tighten up, stress out, and really not perform well at all. Same with painting—if I concern myself with whether a piece with "turn out" or if someone will like it, then I tighten up and don't clearly see and understand what I'm making.

Where can people see your work?

I'm still tweaking it, but my website is [Kristen Ingman Art]( I have a studio in the Waterfront Artist Studio Collective in Bellingham, and we are open the first Friday of March, June, September, and December from 6-9 pm. I always have a painting at Fairhaven Runners, and I have another show at Harris Avenue Cafe coming in September 2015.

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