Interview with Kate Wade
Sketching In the Field
News for August
The Truth is Ugly
Interview with Kate WadeArtist Spotlight
by Constanza Ehrenhaus
Katherine Wade is a multifaceted artist that can face projects involving abstract, figurative, fantasy, religion, digital or traditional media. All her art is full of beauty and vibrancy and her gentle and motherly character makes her well loved and respected by many artists in the web. I don't think I ever found so many people wanting to comment about her, and that in itself says a lot.
Kate, do you have formal training in art?
I started high school as an art major. Dad was transferred in the middle of my freshman year and I couldn’t get back to it until I was a senior. I did acquire an Associate in Arts Degree with an emphasis on graphics, rather than illustration, and a minor in archaeology and anthropology, before I had to get a full-time job outside of school.
Was your family supportive of you pursuing an art career?
Not exactly. We moved a lot because of dad’s job, and art materials were considered a luxury item that could put us over the designated weight limit for our household goods. There were several teachers in the family, one of whom was a retired art teacher at/from The Chouinard Art Institute. The emphasis, my mother and both grandmothers were teachers, was on “teacher”. Art was OK as something to do after one’s chores, and homework, were done.
How would you describe yourself as an artist? Who would you say were your main influences?
As an artist, I’m all over the place. I love shoving color around just as much as I enjoy doodling landscapes and creatures. The earliest were Tyrus Wong, whoever in the Disney studios illustrated a “Little Golden Book” titled “Grandpa Bunny”, and Yoshinobu Sakakura’s beautiful illustrations in “Old Tales of Japan, Volume 1”. Later major influences were Arthur Rackham, di Lodovico Buonarroti Simon, Virgil Finlay, Kelly Freas, and Neal Adams.
Some people think that religious people are against representations of fantasy creatures as mermaids and dragons. How do you reconcile both fantasy art and religion?
Most of the time, I don’t bother, beyond not forcing it on people who have made it plain to me that “that sort of nonsense” makes them decidedly uncomfortable. Fantastic, I am using the old definition here, creatures have been a part of Christian religious art ever since the first artist monk tried to illustrate the third chapter of the book of Genesis or the book of Revelations. Dragons and mermaids peek out of ornamental capitals and borders of many copies of The Book of Hours, frescoes in the Sistine Chapel and others, and modern allegorical written works, such as C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. Dragons are one way to view the serpent in the Garden who, as stated in the Bible, walked upright before the fall. Mermaids, unicorns, centaurs and the rest, are pretty much in the category of “what I thought I saw in that quick glimpse” as drawn from the description of the “viewer” by someone who wasn’t there at the time of said glimpse.
How does your religious and spiritual life affect your art?
I think that that part of my life is one of the reasons I prefer to paint or draw images that reflect the beauty and wonder in the universe. As someone who grew up in the Cold War years, often apart from most of civilian society, and has lived in an area that was a bit violence prone, I feel it is vital to learn to see the world, and the people in it, through the fears and stereotypical masks we often use as defenses, or more sadly, weapons. I see no reason to paint or draw mankind’s violence of any kind as an end in itself. If I do draw it, as I did in “Damage”, the message is blatantly “this is not a good thing because…..”
I have seen you working both figurative and abstract art masterfully. Also you seem to be as comfortable with traditional art as with digital. What attracts you of each?
Thank you for those kind words. Actually, I fight my way through figurative work because I have a screaming need to be able to give the illusion of life to my humanoid figures, as well as to the animal based creatures, which I can much more easily draw. I seem to be addicted to colour. Abstracts, which I find to be enormous fun, give me the ability to explore emotions, spatial relationships, volume, and mass, without the distraction of poor anatomy rendering. I love the feel, flexibility, and smells of oils; the many ways acrylics can be used; the precision of technical pens; and the portability and tidiness of coloured pencils and markers. As my children arrived and grew, with my studio space in a corner of our living room, working with traditional media became more and more stressful. With digital media I no longer have to worry about dropped brushes, spills, smears across the art, the kids getting the media on themselves, or set-up and clean-ups. Best of all, I can get the final art to the clients much faster this way.
Tell us about your stained glass-abstract art project.
When it was decided, in the late 1970s, to enlarge the sanctuary of our church, a request went out to the artists in the congregation to submit designs that might be used in the windows in the new building. I decided, at that time, they would be rather non-objective so that viewers would not be caught up in the “but that’s now how they looked” syndrome, and totally miss the point of the image. I submitted three designs, Crucifixion (in a rectangular frame), Sermon on the Mount, and Two Dispensations. None of our submitted designs were used; but by then I had painted Nativity and The Woman at the Well in acrylics on canvas, both as gifts, and Two Dispensations, which I still own. Shortly thereafter, our pastor commissioned, and I completed, Sermon on the Mount as an acrylic on canvas piece for his home. That was the end of it. Then, in 2006, I started recreating all of the designs using Photoshop as note card designs, with the scripture references on the back. I am aiming for twelve pieces, to become a calendar. Throughout all of this I have tried to be mindful of the strictures of working in glass, so that the pieces may actually be built as windows.
Among many other things, you have done some game art. What can you tell people that want to get into that discipline?
After having been a RPG player for years, I rather fell into those jobs through friends who worked in the industry; however, Steve Jackson Games posts their Artist’s Guidelines on their website and Wizards of the Coast lists job openings. If you want to work for a particular game company, do your homework as well as working on your art skills. Get your portfolio in proper order. Research their websites for job openings or artist /author guidelines. As with any industry, find out what the company you want to work for wants, and how they expect it to be presented to them. If you can get to the conventions and industry shows where the art directors are likely to be, find out if they are reviewing portfolios, if they aren’t, but are there to chat with the gamers and public, then by all means chat, politely. If these are the folks you want for your bosses, listen to them, and learn.
I know that you and your family have been going through some rough times recently, how has that affected your artwork? Do you find art to be cathartic or more of a burden in hard times?
Well, when it started, the whole family was so emotionally drained and physically tired for about four months that my youngest daughter, with whom I share art space and supplies, simply put our active traditional media projects away to keep them protected until we could work again. Once again I am extremely grateful for clients who are both understanding and patient. I am also very lucky, in that what I am working on now is aimed at private collections, and therefore has no print release deadlines. As to whether art is cathartic or more of a burden in hard times, it really is a bit of both. It is absolutely wonderful to be able to get a project properly completed, no matter how small. It is also incredibly frustrating to get focused in on a piece and get a call that means packing it up and dealing with the current situation, which really is more important, at this time.
What would be a favourite piece of yours and why?
I find October Country a bit amazing, actually. It is one of those pieces that sort of ran out of my paintbrush and took on a life of its own while I was working on it. It was a college art assignment, painted on chipboard, a cheap cardboard, using the kind of cheap tempera paint that used to be used in grade schools. My teacher told me, as he handed it back after grading, that the low grade he had to record was because it didn’t follow the assignment, not because it was a poor painting. It went on to win a couple of art show awards. My mother and one of my best friends wanted it. My parents had it framed and hung prominently in their home. After my parents passed away, my friend bought it for her home. It has neither faded nor deteriorated appreciably during all those years.
What is so special about centaurs?
In 1973 a friend, who has been known to create incredibly beautiful sculptures using dental tools, and I agreed that I should create a series of centaur drawings, a favorite subject of his, as payment for one of his sculptures. Four years later, with the piece paid in full, and as a result of several more “centaur societal concepts” that had been sparked by the art trade, I released a set of eight pen and ink prints. Shortly after that, the full colour drawings, Daddy and then Mommy were commissioned, one Christmas after the other. Those were followed by commissions of a belly dancing centaur, and Make My Day, Mate. I seem to have centaurs and dragons yelling “paint me!” in the back of my brain. They’re a raucous lot.
Where can the readers find your art? Will you be doing conventions?
My art can be found on my website at http://www.kvcwgraphics.com/, which I am a bit behind in updating, because coding gives me nightmares, and time to work on it doesn’t exist right now. That is also why my newest pieces, both complete and WIPS, may be seen at http://keight.deviantart.com/. There are also a few pieces up in galleries at http://keight.cgsociety.org/gallery/ and http://community.imaginefx.com/fxpose/keights_portfolio/default.aspx, but my time has been so constrained, I haven’t been able to really participate in those sites nearly as much as I would like.
Yes, I will be doing conventions this year. I will be sharing Artist Alley table space at Anime Expo in Los Angeles and I have a space in the Dealers’ Room at LosCon. Other than that I hope to have work in the ComicCon in San Diego, again this year. Westercon, in Pasadena is still up in the air as it is scheduled the same days as Anime Expo, but I apparently need to be there, as well.
I know Kate from our ongoing interactions within the DeviantART community (and now also through other online means). Not only is Kate a talented artist, but also one of those special people who always encourages others to succeed. That combination of community spirit, creativity, and kind words makes each interaction with her a gift to read.
She's far wiser than I could ever hope to be; her eye for design leaves me in the dust. I can always count on Kate to have valuable information and opinion on just about any subject under the sun. I respect her, and am more than lucky to name her among my dearest on-line friends!
From what I know of Kate online. I think she is a wonderfully talented artist. Her talents lie in the use of many different mediums. My favorite pieces of hers is the Lion she did in acrylic. She is very sweet and always takes time to comment on other peoples work.
I think she's a great artist who knows how to mix nature with fantasy and really make it work. Every animal in this world has a "human" factor that she expresses very well within her pictures.
When I think of Kate's art, I think of elegance. Like the stained glass designs she sometimes creates, there's something clear and precise and pure about her art. Her work gives off a feeling of serenity; and so does she, always with a supportive or calming word to her online friends.
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