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Designs by Kimberleigh: About the Artist

Kimberleigh Gavin

The Struggle of the Creation — What do Harrison Ford, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds and tens of thousands of men women and children around the world have in common? They all own and wear exclusive designs by Kimberleigh Gavin.

Kimberleigh is the KG in the Gavin Arts logo Gavin Fine Art & Design and the primary artist on the Gavins' best-known widely-distributed special-event graphic creations for poster and wearable designs and the new and exclusive Gavin Hawaiian™ fabrics.

Kimberleigh's family 1971

Born in Hollywood, the spelling of her name was inspired by that of actress Vivian Leigh. A native Californian and an artist in her youth, Kimberleigh won an award for a painting of an elephant in second grade. She was also a young adventurer as her father led his young family (Kimberleigh, her mom and younger brother) on annual Yosemite National Park backpacking vacations.

She continued doing artwork throughout her school years, graduated from the University of California at Irvine in 1984 with a BA in Studio Art, and she continued her outdoor treks, spending her college summers working the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. After graduating, Kimberleigh then designed beach towels for six years, most of which were sold in major department stores. At the same time, she continued to hike.

Kimberleigh first met Paul in 1981 she was a student at UCI and he, nine years older, had graduated two years earlier and still worked in the UCI etching studio. "Her talent first caught my eye," he says. "I saw this drawing of a tiger, the best work I had seen at UCI. Then I saw and met her and thought even back then that we would make a very good team. But she didn't!"

Wedding party in Yosemite National Park

Then in 1991 one of Paul's watercolors brought them back together when Kimberleigh was asked to create a towel similar to one of Paul's pictures. Seeing his name, she decided to look him up, and even though both were dating other people they ended up engaged a month and a half later.

Their first co-created project was Kimberleigh's redesign of Paul's 1993 El Toro Air Show painting for a T-shirt and it was an instant success. They began working as a team, were married later that year and still work now as they did then.

On graphic designs for wearables, including the Gavin Hawaiian fabrics, Kimberleigh and Paul develop the initial concepts together, then Kimberleigh does all of the drawings, computer manipulation and color work. They do not use clip art. And although Paul continues to assist with size, color and design variation suggestions, it is Kimberleigh who does most of the difficult "grunt work" on these designs including the Hawaiian style fabrics on which Kimberleigh actually paints the overall final image.

Harrison Ford with Kimberleigh and Paul

How does she feel about her work? "Artwork for me is sometimes painful, sometimes flowing, always surprising and most times rewarding," she relates. "The end result makes up for the struggle of the creation."

"Our latest designs on the Hawaiian fabric are a new challenge," she continues. "They involve "repeats", or designs that must match up and "repeat" over and over again. As you can see, there are several elements or pictures within each fabric design that match up seamlessly and create an overall pattern. There is a method to this process and each design is unique."

What do they think about each other's contributions? Both say that the other is the key. Kimberleigh says Paul is the overall better artist. Paul says he just works hard while Kimberleigh is truly the gifted one whose style and eye for color breathe the magic into the work, not to mention the actual time spent putting them together!

Miramar Air Show 1999 Marine Corps Hawaiian™ San Clemente: Spanish Village by the Sea Swallows Day

Their talents have created special life experiences. When asked about the most memorable, Kimberleigh first talks about inviting the First Blue Angel Butch Voris to El Toro and Miramar in 1996, and his accepting and her signing posters with him. Her eyes sparkle when she recalls meeting Harrison Ford at Andrews Air Force Base to present to him the Gavin's Department of Defense Open House Design. A bit overwhelmed, she stood on the other side of Paul who was next to the actor. Paul kept trying to move her in the middle, insisting "Boy, girl, Kimberleigh, boy then girl." But when Harrison Ford said, "Yes, Kimberleigh, boy, girl" she could not resist!

She recalls meeting and presenting framed posters to the U.S. Service Secretaries, including Secretaries of Defense Perry and Cohen, and having dinner with very special Marine Corps friends and acquaintances over the years at the annual Third Marine Air Wing / Marine Corps Air Bases West Marine Corps Ball, including General and Mrs. Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2002.

In Yosemite

But overall she says that the many wonderful and truly appreciative people at each and every Air Show and community event have brought the most satisfaction, and she treasures meeting and establishing friendships with the heart and soul people of our military. And still when not doing her art, Kimberleigh is on a long hike or at high altitudes with Claude and Chloe, the Gavin family Vizslas, where allowed. "Each year I plan a mountain adventure" she says. "I love Yosemite and Sierra sites along HWY 395 and have a long list of peaks to climb, new areas to explore and old haunts to revisit." In fact, to celebrate her 40th birthday last year, Kimberleigh and her friend Tracy hiked the longer 4-day "backside" route to Mt. Whitney, and this year they will ascend Mt. Langley, another 14,000 plus foot peak.

Through all of this, Kimberleigh's only regret is that she cannot share all of this with her mother, who she lost to cancer three years ago. "That was - and still is - the hardest part of my life". Then, after a pause she adds, "but I feel her with me and know that she sees and is very proud."

Proud to see the joy and beauty her only daughter brings to all of us down here.

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