Interview with Kathy Whitham, An Artist in Exploration Mode

Since I started my creative journey I have discovered quite a few artists in Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. I started following them and getting to know their art. I met Kathy on Facebook and Instagram, I have become a fan of her artwork. She is so inspiring and talented. I wanted to get to know her more so I reached out to her so she could tell us about herself.

Here are the questions I've asked her during our interview:

Please introduce yourself:

Kathren Whitham is my official formal married name---but I go by “Kathy” or my shorter nickname “Kat”. “Honda” was my mother’s maiden name. My Instagram is @katzeebrat …which was a silly nickname that a few of my best friends and I came up with when we were about 12 years old. I wasn’t really a brat; it just rhymed with Kat and we thought it was just sooo funny back then. :)) We are all still best friends!

Where are you from? Where are you currently living?

I was born in Tokyo. My mother, who was Japanese, and my father, who was an American in the Air Force at that time, met and got married in Japan. When I was a year old, we moved to the States where we lived in California for 8 years, and then in Washington State. I currently live (and work) in West Seattle with my husband and our teenage daughter. 

What’s your brand/passion? What do you want others to know about you?

I really don’t have a specific brand or style of my own yet. I think this is because I have recently rekindled my passion for art, and have been in “exploration mode”. I’m trying all sorts of new art media and styles and projects that I never had the chance to try before or was actually afraid to try. I do have a two art projects that I’d say are quite unique to me (mentioned below); however, I want to learn so many new things that I would have a hard time just focusing on those same two things right now.

Ever since I could hold a pencil, I have loved to draw. Until recently, I simply sketched in pencil—not fancy drawing pencils, just a common yellow #2 with an eraser.  J Although I took some college art classes, I was not trained to paint and assumed I would never be able to. In the past, I worried so much about making “mistakes” and not being “good enough” that I eventually stopped drawing.

But a few years ago, I did four 5x5” paintings and absolutely loved it. Then, I created an art studio space just for me. It’s become gloriously cluttered with all varieties of paints, papers, art journals, markers, inks, etc. I no longer feel the need to prove myself or be perfect; I just have fun with it. I approach every project with the attitude of “Hey, if I mess up, I can just start over, no big deal”–which frees me up to experiment and express myself. I create my best work very quickly, when I’m not being a perfectionist. If I stress and nitpick, the final product doesn’t turn out well. I’m so delighted with my new perspective as an artist; I only wish that I’d let myself create this spontaneously decades ago. If I could support myself as a full-time artist, I would do it in a second.

What are you currently working on?

  • Drawing with colored pencils on black paper: Last year I started a series of whimsical “nature girls” that are illustrated with white ink pen, filled in with colored pencil. It’s a challenge layering colored pencil on black paper, but I’ve found that combining it with white ink lines creates a cool, unique effect. I’ve taken a break from these for now but have plans to continue the series and maybe have cards or calendars printed.
  • Painting with acrylics on wood slices: Besides the whimsical “nature girls,” my abstract landscapes on wood slices are something I might consider a “signature” work. The designs are somewhat different from other artists’ wood slice paintings I’ve admired.
  • Garden art: This summer, I’m making some colorful painted cedar “peace poles” for the garden.
  • Watercolor painting: I never ever thought I’d be able to use watercolors, so I’m thrilled to be learning. I’m painting nature landscapes, tiny house hill towns, and detailed portraits. None of these pieces are all that good, but it’s great practice and fun.
  • Painting with acrylics on stretched canvas: I love painting abstract landscapes, faces, or whimsical florals. (I’m hoping that acrylics are good training for oil paints, which still intimidate me a little, but I’d like to try soon.)

How do you share your passion with the world?

My full-time career is teaching college writing, and I’ve found that my new approach to art has helped me to be a better teacher: I encourage students to dive into the work, be creative, express themselves, and make “mistakes” fearlessly without a grade penalty. No matter what we do, we simply can’t learn and improve if we are worried about being perfect all the time.   I first started sharing my work publicly on Instagram, which is a very supportive community for creative folks. It’s been encouraging and motivating.

I also gift my artwork to friends and colleagues. I still won’t take money for for it, but I’m happy to give it away to anyone who loves it. As intimidating as it was for me, I started showing my artwork to colleagues on Facebook and on campus. Six of my paintings are on display in our college writing center. The thing about teaching is that it can be all consuming and deplete my energy for doing anything else. My colleagues have been extremely supportive, encouraging me to make time for my art.  It’s really nice to be known for my complete identity—as both a teacher and an artist. 

What inspires your work?

  • Ideas expressed in writing: g., poetry, song lyrics, quotes, and stories.
  • Nature: Flowers, mountains, trees, sunsets, clouds, trees, birds, the ocean…
  • Faces: I’m inspired by the minute details in faces: eyes, lips, hair, shadows and wrinkles on their skin.
  • Cultural Diversity: As I embrace my own identity as a mature biracial woman, I am inspired to draw, and paint faces and scenes that represent people of various age groups, cultures, and communities.
  • The current state of the world around me: A fellow artist just said to me, “We create what we feel” and I feel so many different things. Sometimes I just want to paint pretty flowers; other times, I want to express indignation, sadness, or anger.
  • My family is a creative bunch who support and inspire me every day: My husband is a musician, painter, sculptor, poet, and basically an outside the box creative thinker. Our adult daughter is a painter, hair stylist, and designs amazing costumes. Our teenage daughter plays flute, guitar and piano, and can draw anything just by looking at it. They’re my role models for how to relax and enjoy the creative process.
  • Taking classes or joining online groups: I’m currently taking the “Let’s Face It 2019” online portrait class and sharing art with artists in the “Sketchbook Revival” Facebook group.
  • Looking at all the amazing work by other artists inspires me so much!
  • Browsing art supply stores! (Not always good for the wallet.) J

What are your plans for the future?

My future goal is to try to get involved in our local art community by sharing and selling my work at art festivals, art walks, and street fairs. I’m a shy person, so this will be the biggest challenge for me by far.  

Friends keep trying to encourage me to have an Etsy account or sell my work online somehow. I have looked into it, but it’s a big-time commitment I probably can’t manage as a full-time teacher… but maybe someday. Did someone mention early retirement? :))

What does happiness mean to you?

This is such a simple question but seems so hard to answer. J Happiness seems like a luxury, a privilege that many don’t have—so I feel a bit guilty. I should be happy 24/7, but I do grumble a lot about not having enough work/life balance as my job can be demanding, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. I’m getting older, so with that comes a whole new set of identity crises. I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do, etc. etc. :D

So, for me, happiness is probably a combination of 1) feeling comfortable in my own skin, 2) connecting with my family, and 3) having uninterrupted time to be creative and produce beautiful things.

Here are some amazing pictures of her artwork. She paints beautifully from portraits to landscapes to flowers. With vibrant colors and lots of character.

KIMONO

 KINTSUGI

 MALALA

 MT. RAINIER

MAXINE HK PORTRAIT

Thank you everyone for stopping by my blog today. I am interviewing people I’ve met online because I want to share with the world the amazing people that I get to be friends with.

Subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest news and specials happening at Jennifer Sher Art. 

Love + Light 

Jenn Sher  ⚛️🌀💟

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