Meet the artist: Bobby Kilty refocuses on painting in retirement

Bobbi Kilty, this month's City Pulse cover artist, knew she wanted to be an artist in high school.

By: Ty Forquer,, Lansing City Pulse

Bobbi Kilty, this month’s City Pulse cover artist, knew she wanted to be an artist in high school.

“I wanted to do it as a career, but my parents insisted I take college preparatory classes,” she said. “So I took all those during my first two years and was able to take art classes my junior year.”

Kilty, 72, went on to study interior design at Northwestern University and earn a master of fine arts degree from UCLA. She retired in 2008 after 36 years of teaching interior design at Washington State University and Michigan State University. Retirement has given the Williamston-based artist a chance to refocus on fine art.

A selection of Kilty’s works will be on display Friday at Vanguard Public Affairs as part of Arts Night Out, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s traveling monthly art event. Her works range from abstract water colors to realistic sketches. Her paintings, like “Kelp Forest,” seen on this week’s cover, often blend abstract style with natural elements.

“I draw from nature, but it’s interpretive, and I add my own imagination,” Kilty said.

Even while teaching interior design, Kilty was able to refine her skills. Before computer rendering became widespread, interior design sketches were often done in watercolors.

“I developed a good grasp of scale and perspective that helps my art,” she said.

While interior design allowed Kilty to make a living, she stresses that art is her passion, not her hobby. Her hobbies include competitive ballroom dancing and gardening. Kilty also practices plein air painting, or outdoor painting, which was popular among 19th century artists.

“You have to do it fast because the light changes so rapidly,” she explained. “It’s a different kind of pressure. It’s more immediate and fresh.”

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