Monday, June 6, 2016

Artist Interview: Kaetlyn Able

Our Love Grows and Grows.
I feel just terrible that I didn't get this lovely girl's interview up sooner.  My deepest apologies--this spring has been incredibly busy.  Without further ado, here is an interview with a very talented artist I think all of you will enjoy.  She particularly catches my eye with her vintage-y people and great combination of color and black and white.  Please get to know Kaetlyn Able:
1.  Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?
I was always an art kid—happiest when I was drawing and making things. Family lore is that I was a really easy kid, because I always had some quiet project going. I majored in studio art at my small liberal arts college, and then went on to graduate school to get my MFA.
Mini Portrait #3: Masquerade
2.  What style of art is your favorite and why?
It's so hard to nail down just one favorite style! As a viewer I love it all—from contemporary installation work to the old masters. Any work that was made with an interesting concept in mind, excellent craftsmanship, and emotional resonance (a favorite college professor spoke of work that was made with head, hands and heart) is great art to me. As a maker, my favorite style to work in is a sort of magical realism. I love to work from observation—either from life or from photos that I've taken myself and brought back to the studio. That process of looking very carefully and trying to understand the figure, the light, the character and the particular details of an object or scene, is very calming and meditative to me. And then I love to let that realism run wild into an imaginary place by combining strange elements together (lately it's people and plants), working from memory and letting things melt into abstraction in places.
Passion Flower Dreamer 2.
3.  What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?
I collect old portrait photographs. I buy them from antique shops and people give them to me. I spend hours and hours just pouring over them, wondering about the people in the pictures and looking for clues about their lives. My ideas for my paintings begin with figures from or fragments of these images. I also love to people watch. I tend to look for, or imagine, great love stories between people I see out in the world. I'm an unapologetic romantic. And I like thinking about and celebrating sassy, strong women and sensitive, nurturing men—the not-traditionally-celebrated combinations of character and gender. I'm also deeply inspired by the natural world. I spend a lot of the spring, summer and fall hiking around outdoors, camera in hand, looking for wildflowers.
Botanical Hat V:  Thistles.
4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.
I begin with an image or part of an image from one of my old photographs. This is always an intuitive choice—I choose something that I find intriguing without fully understanding why. Making the drawing or painting helps me to think through and understand my fascination with the image. I sketch out the parts of the image that interest me and leave out everything that doesn't. Sometimes I know what botanical elements I want to combine with the photo image right away, and other times that comes to me as I'm working and thinking deeply about the people and the details of the photo, developing their story as I go. I work on a really small, intimate and detailed scale, either layering ink and watercolor washes on paper with tiny brushes, or painting ink onto claybord and scratching the details with a sharp tool to reveal the white clay underneath. My processes are pretty labor intensive. When I'm working on a piece I almost always get to the point where my perfectionism tries to take over—I start seeing a lot of technical “flaws” that distract me and I start doubting the work. I've learned to step away when that happens—maybe even for a couple of days. I return with fresh eyes and am able to let go of that neurotic side to my perfectionism, see the charm in the “flaws” and finish the piece.
Work In Progress via Instagram
 5.  What is a typical day in your life?
I'm a stay-at-home mom to my two little boys, ages three and five, so I spend most of each day doing mom and household related activities and tasks. My kids are very, very active, so I make it a priority for us to get out and about for most of the day. I'm also undergoing treatment for breast cancer, so I spend a lot of time at the hospital as well. My husband and I share a little workspace in our home, where I make art and he does computer-y things. I work in small chunks of time throughout the day, whenever I get the chance. I'm always at the ready to switch gears and jump into art mode. When my boys are at preschool (they both go two mornings a week) or really into their pretend play together, or watching their afternoon show, or out with their grandma, I sit down at my work table and get a little art time in. I also work after they go to bed at night. My husband and I also trade some kid-free time on the weekends to work on our respective projects. My rule is to find at least half an hour each day for art-making, but I can usually find more.
Dapper Frogs Sitting on Toadstools.
6.  What do you think draws you to other people's work?
Like I said earlier, I love when an artist's work combines an interesting, deeply explored concept, beautiful craftsmanship and and emotional resonance. I love quirky, authentic-feeling art. I also tend to gravitate toward artists who have a nice kind of balance between consistency and variety in their work.

Vintage Airforce and Wild Roses.
 7.  What are your interests/hobbies?
I love being outside, hiking and exploring with my family. I also love doing yoga, cooking, baking, sewing and getting together with friends. And I read a ton. I've also recently started exploring Buddhist teachings and meditation.
Untitled (Mustache).
8.  Is this your full time job, or do you have a job out-of-studio?
My stay-at-home mom gig is my full time job right now. My plan is to transition back to work as a full time artist as my children enter school. My oldest starts all day kindergarten next fall, and my youngest will go to preschool three full days. So I'll have more dedicated art time starting in the fall. And my younger son will start kindergarten the following year. My ultimate goal is to work while my boys are in school, and then to pick them up and spend the afternoons with them. And to be home with them when they're sick.
The Good Old Days #2.
9.  What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?
I don't think I could ever choose just one! It would end up as a tie between my twenty favorites, I think. And since I'm always making new work, my feelings about past work are always changing. My favorites among my own body of work tend to be the ones that resonate with me most emotionally and the ones that represent conceptual and technical breakthroughs.
Work in Progress via Instagram.
10.  What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?
Do the work, pay your dues, be patient and come up with a plan for how you will create a viable, sustainable business as an artist. What are your goals? What is your budget? Who is your target market? What compromises will you need to make as you're starting out? If you plan to seek gallery representation, remember that there is no venue too small or obscure for your work when you're just beginning. Show your work wherever you can. Your local library, Arts Center, hospital and coffee shops are all great, accessible venues for emerging artists. I showed and sold my work in all of these spaces when I was just starting out. Most of us who apply for big grants or to prestigious galleries will most often be rejected in the beginning. But if you keep plugging diligently away, making work, honing your craft and sharing your work with the public, those galleries and collectors will eventually begin to approach you. It took me eleven years of hard (but exceptionally rewarding) work for that shift to happen.
Buttercups Couple.
11.  Describe your work space.
My corner of our work space consists of a big computer desk, a drafting table, a nice, deep closet and a little painting cart on wheels. It feels perfect to me—just enough space, but not so much that I don't know what I have or where I put things.
Her work space.
12.  Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?
I don't know if I would consider them setbacks exactly. Maybe just the twists and turns of figuring out how to cobble together an economically viable existence making art. I did not do a great job really thinking through the business side of things when I was in school. If I remember correctly, I think my plan was to simply be discovered! At that time I didn't have good time management skills either. The result was that after graduate school I ended up kind of flailing around for a few years as I tried to figure out how to make a living and make art. I had a non art related job that I really didn't like and very little time (or so I thought) for art. You know what they say about hindsight, but if I could do it all over I would have been more thoughtful and strategic about my career path when I was in school. There were some missed opportunities there.
Botanical Hat VI: Pasqueflowers.
13.  What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now?
In the short term, I'm working on getting back in the swing of things after getting through the harder parts of my cancer treatments. I'm lucky to be represented by a fantastic gallery, Altitude, here in Bozeman. I had a really successful show last year and sold most of my pieces, but my painting pace slowed down considerably while I was going through chemo and recovering from surgery. So I'm kind of re-emerging right now, and working hard on a new series for the gallery. Once I get them fully stocked with my new work, I plan to seek further representation in other cities. My main longterm goal is to build a sustainable business making art. I've been noodling over how to do that, experimenting with my ideas and analyzing the numbers. And I've discovered that working with galleries is the best fit for me. So that's where I'm focusing.

Silhouette #29.
Please also find her and her work here:

Etsy Shop.


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