It’s our pleasure to introduce our December Manc of the Month, Katie Patel. We met Katie at our Beyond Landscape exhibition in the Summer, and have followed her work ever since. She is a sweet soul and is constantly challenging herself with new work. Read on to find out more about Katie and her art.
Cotton On MCR: Please introduce yourself to the Cotton On MCR readers.
Katie Patel: ‘Hello, I’m Katie. I’m from Leeds but crossed the Pennines to Stockport over 10 years ago and consider myself a local now (honorary Manc)! In a previous life, I was a high school language teacher but about six years ago, after my daughter was born, I took the plunge to pursue my dream of being an artist. I now work from my home studio, enjoying projects, exhibitions, events and commissions. I mainly paint with acrylics, but I also love to draw, and I sometimes use a tablet and stylus to create digital paintings. Colour and contrast play a key role in much of my work. My subject matter is pretty varied, from landscapes and cityscapes to nature, abstract work and portraiture. A range of work keeps me on my toes, and I like this diversity to stretch me and keep my artistic muscles moving. I find that one type of work often informs another.’
‘Art, for me, is a powerful celebration of life. It serves as a refuge, a way of communicating emotion and exploring and rationalising the world as I experience it.’
COM: What’s a day in the life like for Katie?
KP: ‘My day to day work varies a lot. Some days can be full of appointments, collections, deliveries, going to my framers, meeting clients, delivering prints and cards to outlets, dropping off work. Others are spent in my home studio space working on paintings and commissions. There is also a lot of admin – not just sitting with a paint brush adjusting my beret! I try to stick to set days for commissioned work so that I can plan time slots and I have that mindset on those days. It also means I protect time to develop my own creative practice and explore new ideas, which is really important to me. It’s a massive change from my previous career as a teacher where every day is timetabled. It does require a lot of organisation and motivation, especially when a few deadlines appear at once. I also make time, where I can, for ‘art chat’ with fellow artists, and am lucky enough to have people who I consider mentors. Once a month, I volunteer at Stockport’s brilliant Arc Centre and I really cherish my time there. I work around my family, and the one daily constant for me is the school run – dropping off and picking up my two children keeps me in check!’
COM: What is your thought process when starting a painting?
KP: ‘It really does depend on the painting. I generally work from photos, so when I initiate a painting, I like to feel an emotional connection with that image in that moment; a sense of the story or meaning. I work from photos I’ve collected and edited over time, and they have to strike a chord with the mood I’m in so I can identify with and recreate something of that feeling. It’s often a mood or emotional reaction that I want to capture, for example in my painting ‘Breakthrough’ looking towards trees in the Winter sun – it’s the feeling of standing in that spot in the frosty cold with the sun on my face. Often there is a story or meaning behind the work, and I’m communicating that narrative when I paint. My recent painting ‘Out of Darkness’ is all about great things coming from difficult times, an idea close to my heart.’
‘Commissions have a very different process, there will have been discussions outlining the plan, and I have to really engage with the mindset of my client as I form the initial idea. I will generally do a small colour study or sketch an idea of what I’m thinking before I embark on the final piece. Once I’m confident I’m on track, I can then let my imagination go to work!’
COM: You recently took part in our Beyond Landscapes and Catapult exhibition, could you tell us how you found your experience?
KP: ‘I totally loved it and was so proud to be a part of it. When the advert came up, I heard it call my name! At that time, I’d been delving into different kinds of landscape paintings, and I knew I had something to offer this theme. I was super chuffed when my piece ‘Burning Rain’ was selected for exhibition. Saul Hay gallery is such a beautiful setting, and I was proud to have my work there with such an incredible range of work from Manchester Artists. Delivering an ‘Artist Talk’ at the exhibition was a whole new experience for me. I loved hearing about the background and process of the other artists and really appreciated the opportunity to talk about my practice and why I do what I do. Speaking to people in this context helped me realise how important it is to take risks, and to share and connect with others on our art journey.’
COM: What got you into art?
KP: ‘I’ve always loved art. I used to spend a lot of time drawing and painting as a child and I guess it was something I felt I had an affinity with. I remember copying illustrations from books and characters and taking paints and sketch books on holiday. I found a real satisfaction in copying things and making them look as real as possible. I won’t pretend that I was very knowledgeable about art and artists growing up (though I do remember doing a project on Turner at high school!) but I did love paintings which were full of life, like Van Gogh’s. Despite always loving the process of painting and drawing, it is only in recent years as I develop my own career, that I’m enjoying learning more about the world and history of art and the true power and magic art has to offer. I didn’t initially follow this path (my degree is in Hispanic studies), but I remember being told that whatever else I did, I could always return to art! After a few years of various jobs, travelling and decade of language teaching (which I did also love), I did! When circumstances changed after starting a family, it felt like it was ‘now or never’ to go for my passion, and I’m so glad I did!’
COM: Your website talks about this transition, from working in teaching to starting your own business as an artist. Do you have any advice for our readers who may want to do the same?
KP: ‘Everyone’s situation is unique and it was a change in my circumstances at the time which made me take the plunge. The important thing, I guess, is that I knew deep down that this was a dream I’d always wanted to pursue and if you want to do something enough, you have to give it every chance. I would say that you have to chip away at your craft and work at it whenever you can. You have to be highly motivated in this field and know that there is an interested market. It often starts with family and friends and grows from there. One piece of advice which I had to constantly remind myself of, was to ‘be brave’. Having had no experience in this field, I approached places (cafes/shops/galleries) with my work (and with an open mind!), and more often than not, it led to something! You also have to be good at dealing with any knock backs and making them work for you. Take advice on board and frame all feedback constructively to make it serve you going forward. Definitely learn from mistakes for next time, but there is no point ruminating. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t expect which can bring up surprising leads, for example you may have work on a wall somewhere and then that leads to a commission. That’s what happened to me with my first ever ‘proper’ commission from the wall of Bramhall café ‘Marjoes’. On a practical level, join a local artist group or network, get involved in events (like those offered by ‘Cotton On MCR’) and consider volunteering I would also recommend ‘The Artist’s Handbook’ by Mark David Hatwood as a good practical read!
COM: What would be your dream project to work on?
KP: ‘Ooh, good question, probably a collaborative project with people working towards a common theme. As artists, we often work in isolation, but I think it’s really important to work together! It can be very powerful and it’s great to gain insight into the work of others. A while ago, as member of Stockport Art Guild, I took part in an art and poetry (ekphrastic) exhibition at Stockport Art Gallery. As artists, we had to create a piece of art based on a song of our choice, then a group of poets wrote poems based on the work we produced, and then we had to chose one of these poems to create more art. I chose the song ‘Dignity’ and a beautiful poem called ‘Anguish’ by Andy Millican. Both sources of inspiration made me paint from a totally different place, and it was so interesting to see the other creative interpretations. I also took part in an exhibition shining a light on menopause and the changing seasons in women’s lives. This joint project, curated by Sam Rhodes, again pushed me in a whole new way as an artist – I painted a portrait of my Mum, which I’m so proud of, and which only came into existence in this context. As artists, I think this is what we need – to constantly stretch ourselves in new directions to see where we can go.’
COM: You have an upcoming exhibition at Gallery Inch, can you tell us about that?
KP: ‘This is the Winter Open Call Exhibition at Inch Arts community art gallery in Altrincham, organized by their Gallery Manager and resident artist Ruth Fildes. A couple of years ago I took part in a pop-up art gallery with an art collective just around the corner, and a few of my lovely artist friends introduced me to the place. The piece I’m showing there is called ‘In Flow’. It’s a large acrylic painting, and one of my recent ‘water reflection’ series, exploring abstraction on the surface of water. I feel very grateful to have such a chance to show work there along with my fellow artists. I went to the preview recently and it’s a great show (on until 4th Feb). Tom Croft was asked to judge, he’s a bit of a hero of mine as I took part in his Instagram initiative #portraitsforNHSheroes in the pandemic. I was lucky enough to have one of my portraits in his book that resulted from this. Creative hubs like Inch Arts, do really support communities and artists like me. I’ve also enjoyed such opportunities at Technically Brilliant gallery in Warrington and Eden Gallery in Newburgh, and of course, the fab exhibitions run by Cotton on MCR!
COM. Aww thank you! What are your plans for 2023?
KP: ‘I have so many ideas and lots of source material that I’m excited to get my teeth into – some on a larger scale than I normally do. I have a few commissions lined up for different points in the year involving portraiture and figurative work, which should be a nice challenge. I’d like to attend some life drawing classes to develop my skills.’
‘I’m looking forward to exhibiting work in a variety of settings, entering more Open Calls and developing my practice by looking at different mediums like pastels. There is an art book about Manchester due to be published next year ‘The Manchester Art Book’ and I’m delighted that one of my digital paintings has been selected for it. So watch this space!’
COM: If you could live in any artwork, what would it be and why?
KP: ‘I love this question! I’m often attracted to paintings which have the reassuring warmth of a sunset glow and a certain use of colour. There is so much work I love. I could happily jump into any piece of work by Van Gogh or Monet or contemporary artists Hashim Akib or Norman Long. I just love the way they use colour, and how they capture light in their paintings. Some things just speak to your soul. I’d live in the artwork ‘Landscape near Chatou’ by Fauvist painter André Derain. Those colours sing for me, and I could soak up those hills and fields in that sunset radiance forever…’