These days I’m limiting the time I take to make a painting to about 4 days. Before I’d take months to finish a painting and at some point it stopped becoming enjoyable or even beneficial. With shorter length paintings, the painting process gets pared down to the essentials and the spontaneous part of painting is celebrated.
Essentially, I casually pick a subject, spend about an hour composing it and then start painting. A lot of improvisation happens along the way. The composition will gain its strength and balance during the sketching process as I begin to more fully understand the project. Ideas solidify, small impulses merge together, colors harmonize and contrasts come forward. A painting acquires an identity when a character emerges. It’s very fulfilling when that happens and also enigmatic. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, a painting’s character seems to have its own free will and comes or goes as it pleases.
Most of the time painting is an enjoyable process, one in which I’m not fully aware of taking a creative role. It’s quite freeing to feel that I’m just along for the ride. When I get too dictatorial, the work suffers a bit from ideas getting stale, feeling stiff and weighed down with obligation. A painting continues for as long as I can still recognize and grasp for interesting and beautiful things that are within reach.
Oh and of course, being a realist painter, I still want the subject to look like itself, or rather not strip away its essential visual identity and its unique character. So you may wonder where I draw the line between realism and creativity? In my next post, I’ll address that question, talk about realism in painting and being a realist painter. Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment below. See you next time!
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Expressing beauty through art
When I paint, I look for beautiful passages that offer me excitement and ways to further explore the initial interest that I felt for something. It’s like following a multitude of paths and seeing which ones connect together to form a bigger design. There are many different aspects to see and paint but ultimately I choose one that leads in a promising direction. Sometimes it feels like weaving a pattern on the fly looking for rhythms, color harmonies and shapes, using the visual information from the subjects I paint.
For me, the beauty of a painting is often found during the painting process itself since it requires a certain kind of looking and patience to see it. In other words, the time and sustained effort it takes to make a painting often runs far longer than what my first superficial impressions can provide. During the painting process my impressions change and gradually come together to a form a more balanced, structured and often more abstract perception.
I suppose I’ve chosen beauty as a main theme of artistic expression because I recognize it as a philosophical way of viewing life. Beauty is a harmonious outcome to previously disordered elements; it’s a meaningful way of understanding oneself and others in relation to civilization or to a wild chaotic natural world. It’s an optimistic approach, certainly, one that hopes that people will find better purpose in the moments that are peaceful and harmonious. Not that any painting is going to change the world but I’ve always been happy with making small but positive contributions on a manageable scale.
Beauty is harmony when experienced by our senses and intellect. We’ve learned to recognize it and to create it by naming its individual components and learning their organization. In music we hear it in combinations of harmonies, rhythms, tempos.
It is similar in painting where patterns, colors and compositions delight the eye. Beauty enters our senses, is comprehended by the mind and opens a door to the heart. When it enters, it leaves a lasting impression on a person. In apprehending it, one often gets the sense of a grander organization that has the power to weave meaning into previously unimportant ideas or things. To express myself in painting is to try and record this beautiful experience, this grander organization and in doing so make the world a more meaningful place.
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On art and inspiration
Often people will ask me who my favorite artist is, the one who inspires me the most in my career. Actually, I have two favorite artists.
and Salieri in Amadeus.
My heart goes out to them in a way that it doesn't to all the greatest artists that ever were because these are guys I can truly relate to. They persist even though their ability doesn't come easily and they struggle through the awareness of their own shortcomings and mediocrity. They are funny and poignant versions of an artistic character. To me, creativity and self expression flow when we can find an honest place in ourselves despite all the other roles we have to play. But that impulse must be continuously rediscovered as we learn, change, profoundly experience the ups and downs in life. Perhaps that’s the most significant aspect of art for me- the pulse it has on the human spirit.
On an every day level there is also an aspect of painting for me which is fun and continues to be exciting throughout each year. I enjoy the freshness of paint, a crisp feeling of color and an exciting design. Painting offers a chance to improvise with a style or mood using a familiar subject matter- in the same way musicians might play with a popular tune. For instance this still life of Apples plays off of a zigzag composition very much like Cezanne’s. However my style wanted to go with a different color harmony and a greater feeling of form and light.
Without food for the brain and excitement for the eye, the act of painting can be indescribably tedious. A painting is a physical recording of an artist’s emotional, brain, eye and hand activity, therefore the best paintings are those where the artist is completely involved and not going through the motions. Like a music performances, the best recordings are moments in history and when it’s over there’s no fun in doing it again.
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On being an artist
I have always enjoyed creating things with my hands. When I was young, arts and crafts was my favorite pastime, along with reading. I felt a great satisfaction in making something original and well crafted. Being creative was thrilling and offered a way to turn ordinary things into something unusual, a bit magical. My artistic beginnings sprung from imaginative fancies- daydreaming, tales of fantasy, adventure and discovery.
One of my favorite childhood books: A Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
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Who am I?
Hi, I’m Kate. This is my blog, an area that I’ve created to share some personal details, updates on my work in progress and conversations on topics that are close to the work that I do. Thank you for taking the time to check it out! You are welcome to leave comments or questions in this area as it’s a place to meet and exchange ideas and opinions.
But first please allow me to share a few personal details about my life.
I grew up in Urbana, Illinois, a small, charming city of cobblestones, supercomputers and cornfields, where 9 nobel prize winners since 1956 were born or lived.
I’d like to share with you a few of my nostalgic places there; places that are objectively great, stand out in my memory or have loads of character.
The best deep dish pizza of all time: Papa Del’s Pizza
Where you can view a Rembrandt alone in a peaceful, intimate space : The Krannert Art Museum
A hopelessly out of fashion and splendid Bavarian-style hotel where I’ve eaten posh lunches and sang karaoke: The Jumer Castle Lodge.(Now the Urbana Landmark Hotel) Note: In a curious twist of fate, the old hotel was saved when a new Chinese buyer from California bought the failing landmark in 2010 with plans to remodel and reopen. Due to various circumstances, the initial investment money did not prove sufficient for the planned renovation and the hotel is currently in an odd state of limbo.
Where I got my early start at figure drawing and oil painting: The University of Illinois sponsored Saturday Drawing classes for the community- established in 1964 and still going.
My Educational Background:
After graduating with a BFA at the University of Illinois, I received most of my instruction in drawing and painting from Anthony Waichulis, Studio Incamminati and the Angel Academy of Art . The method of this kind of training is modeled after the traditional atelier. In the modern day “atelier” style school a complete progressive curriculum in drawing and painting is developed by one main instructor and transferred by demonstration and work from instructor to the student. It is similar in this regard to an actual atelier, where the apprentice would receive the highly individualized techniques, recipes and aesthetic perspectives of one master of the atelier or workshop where they were employed. In the instance of a true apprenticeship contract, there is usually a commitment through the complete duration of the training and for a significant amount of time afterward. The specificity of this style of training often has a notable influence on the artistic perspective of the student, thus the emphasis given to the “lineage” of the artist. This is very different from the buffet style selection of short term classes from different teachers that many art schools offer today.
If you are interested in reading more about this, please leave a comment below as there is a lot of information out there that I would be glad to link to. At any rate, I’m very grateful for the quality of instruction that I received and the commitment that my teachers made to keeping this method of instruction alive.
See below for the direct “lineage” of each of my instructors/schools to better understand how my art was influenced and from which style of painting my methods originated.
Anthony Waichulis/ Trompe L’oeil———–>Anne Schuler————-> Jacques Maroger/
Angel Academy of Art/ Classical Realism———–>John Michael Angel———–> Pietro Annigoni/
If you want to see a cool chart that traces the connection of students and teachers of painting from 1935 all the way back to the 1435, see Timothy Stotz’s Flowering Staircase.
Currently I live in Los Angeles with my talented husband Adrian (a fellow oil painter and portrait/figurative artist) and our amazing flame point Siamese cat Amir who plays fetch.
We live in an area of LA called Elysian Valley (affectionately nicknamed Frogtown by the locals).
It’s a community of artists and families who enjoy the central location (just north of downtown), the uncrowded neighborhood and the large warehouses next to the LA river that are being rehabbed into some great spaces. Our studios are located in one of those buildings where we enjoy high northlight windows and are able to paint during the day with ideal indoor natural light. By the way, our neighborhood hosts the annual Frogtown Art Walk that is always a fun event where you can get to know the artists in the neighborhood.
Here is a picture of part of my studio: (very messy right now, I did not tidy up before the photo).
My outdoor potted garden including plants I adopted after painting them.
Lately I’m buying the cut flowers from Trader Joes which are incredibly long lasting if you use plant food, trim the stems, place them in a clear vase and keep them in sunlight. My last roses lasted for 3 weeks (no kidding!) and they even started growing additional shoots. I was able to get two paintings from them:
I will probably paint them again in death because there is something very graceful and dignified about them in their current state. Besides, I still feel very attached to them now. Thanks for reading. In my next post, I will write about why I’m an artist. Please feel welcome to comment or check back!
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New work available at:
12 W Rd, Orleans, MA 02653
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New works available at:
1261 Delaware, Denver, CO 80204
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Kate Sammons: The Black Coat
S R Brennen Galleries
555 Canyon Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501
The Black Coat
Oil on Linen Panel
31 x 23 inches
View at S R Brennen Galleries
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Kate Sammons: Hampton’s Flowers
12 West Road, Orleans, MA 02653
ARTSPEAKS at Collins Galleries will showcase the achievements of contemporary creative minds in the field of Representational Art. This series engages renowned artists from varying disciplines with collectors in creative conversations – giving voice to vision. ARTSPEAKS at Collins Galleries will offer a rare encounter with distinguished talent in an intimate setting.
Oil on Panel
11 x 14 inches
View at Collins Galleries