Courtney Khail has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember. Accepted into a fine arts magnet school at age ten, she studied visual arts and took private watercolor classes outside of school. While she loved all her art classes, she missed science classes so in college at The University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Scientific Illustration. She says, “I had the unique opportunity to tailor my course schedule around my specific interests. That allowed me to study everything from horticulture and physiology to graphic design and painting, as well as study watercolors and photography in Italy.”

Since then, Courtney has made her career specializing in original paintings, custom watercolor wedding invitations, and stationery, typically featuring luscious florals. (Pssst- her stationery line is available online and at West Elm’s Atlanta locations!) But her main focus these days is her fine arts studio. We talked with Courtney to learn more.

You are a “full service” art studio- what does that mean?
For some, purchasing art can be intimidating. And often the most difficult part of buying art isn’t choosing the piece- you already know what you like- it’s what comes next that can be overwhelming. As a full service art studio, I am there to help every step of the way. From choosing or commissioning the right painting for you to discussing framing options and installation tips, I’m there to offer guidance and answer any questions you may have. (And if I don’t have the answer, I’ll do my best to find someone who does!)

What do you like about the balance between creating one of a kind paintings and creating custom invitations and stationery?
I enjoy the flexibility it provides. Being able to move from one project to another allows me to take necessary “creative breaks” so I don’t burn out or become uninspired.

Because all of my work revolves around my watercolors, each piece I create- whether it’s a painting, an invitation, or a stationery design- begins with the painting itself. Any differences, in painting or the subject matter, arise due to how the pieces are ultimately being utilized.

For my non-commissioned paintings, I have the freedom to simply create and see where my imagination takes me. With commissioned pieces (be that paintings or wedding invitations) I have to find a balance between my clients wishes and my artistic style. Wedding invitations add another layer of complexity because I’m combining my artwork with type and handwritten text. I love that though because it taps into the “graphic design” part of my brain.

Because it’s the most commercial, my stationery line presents an additional set of challenges. It’s very similar to commissioned work in that I’m creating for a client, but it’s different because it’s a fictional/ideal client. Instead of being told what someone wants, I have to decide what will have the most general appeal in order for stores to carry the line and then balance that with my artistic style. It’s a challenge, but one I really enjoy.

How has committed more time to your fine art work affected your paintings?
I’m currently working on a new painting series that I am really excited to share. (Launch date is set for June.) I’ve started exploring much larger formats over the past few months and love what is developing because of that.

I’m also developing an online watercolor class. I’ve envisioned this for years and can’t wait to see it finally come to fruition. If all goes according to plan, it should be available by the end of the year.

Atlanta has a growing art scene and we’ve heard you are helping to build that through a new initiative?
I’ve begun reaching out to local artists to start a monthly “artists lunch” in order to foster a stronger sense of community and friendship. Many of us work alone in our studios, so I wanted to create a way for us to connect, inspire, and share knowledge.