Artist Interviews 2024

Katie Middleton  
By Johnny Otto

What is your background/education and/or influences that made you want to be an artist?

Art has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, mostly because I come from a family of artists. My mother and grandmother were both painters and always encouraged me to be creative, so it felt natural to continue my education by studying painting. Even though pursuing a career in the arts seemed risky, I couldn’t imagine myself following a different path because art and working with my hands is such an important factor in my life. I earned my BFA in painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York.

Can you describe your techniques that might be unique to your way of creating art?

I have been experimenting with a collage-like approach to oil painting. I like to use separate elements like pattern, color, and objects in nature, and incorporate them with figurative work in a way that almost flattens the composition. I’ll put pieces together that can feel chaotic and busy, and then when I begin painting, I enjoy trying to make the elements feel cohesive.

Like a lot of artists, I’ve had mixed feelings about how AI has impacted us, but I’ve also been curious about using it as a new tool for my work. I’ve recently started using programs like Midjourney sparingly to create strange and non-existent flowers, which I’ll use as reference images to incorporate in my paintings. As far as my models, I still prefer to do photoshoots with actual people.

What is your most memorable piece, something that when you finished it, it seemed to be a challenge met?

My most memorable piece was not actually about the piece itself, but the process of finishing a work after a long time of not painting for myself. I also work as a make-up and special effects artist for film and television, and I spent years focusing on my career and only creating art as gifts for other people. For some reason I felt like there was no way to juggle my job and still be a working fine artist, and I was wrong! Over the last couple years I set up a permanent workspace and pushed myself to balance my time. With this new drive, my first finished painting felt like a huge challenge met, and since then the floodgates have opened. I now feel fully immersed in my craft, and I find myself painting again any spare moment I have. I didn’t realize how much I missed the feeling of getting lost in a piece, and completing new works after a long hiatus felt like jumping a huge hurdle.

Who are your influences?

Visually I’m influenced by a combination of older artists like Gustav Klimt, Josef Albers, and Alphonse Mucha, but I also really enjoy following current artists like Brad Kunkle, Sarah Jarrett, and J Louis.

How do you approach the use of symbolism in your artwork?

I enjoy using symbolism in my work when piecing together elements, but in more of a vague way. I choose objects to surround a figure based on a feeling that tells a story about them rather than choosing something that already carries a specific symbolic meaning. I love how color palettes create feelings, and I’ll play and change different palettes and patterns in Photoshop until the figure’s surroundings are their own worlds.

Are there other artists that you'd love to collaborate with? Why?

My life as a make-up artist is a constant collaboration with actors, costume designers, hair stylists and directors, and I love the way everyone’s input and style manipulates a final product. Because I incorporate a lot of patterns and colors in my paintings, I think it would be really fun to collaborate with someone who specializes in textiles or mosaics. I also have been working with a model (Gabriella Ricketts) and a photographer (Marisa DeMarini) in my last two paintings to create reference photos, and this collaboration really changed the final product. They were able to use their specific expertise to make my ideas better than I imagined.

What inspires you while you paint? Do you listen to music? Is there a process that puts you in the mood?

I’m always listening to something whether it’s music or an audiobook. I love making playlists that are mostly upbeat and instrumental. I’ve definitely noticed how a song can influence brush strokes, especially within the more abstract parts of a painting. Also recently audio books have helped motivate me immensely. My two favorites have been “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin, and “Find Your Artistic Voice” By Lisa Congdon, which features a lot of inspiring artist interviews.

What is coming up for you? Any shows?

Yes! I’m really happy to be a part of some really great group shows this year and last year. I will have a painting at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum’s “23rd Japan International Art Exchange Exhibition” from June 15th-20th. I also currently have one painting at the Brea Gallery’s “Made in California” group show from April 27th to June 23rd, and two paintings at KCCLA & LAUNCH Gallery’s “Divergent Synthesis” group show in Los Angeles which is co-Juried by Virginia Moon & Peter Frank (May 2nd- May 31st.)

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