Kathy Coates is a Charlotte artist who was born and raised in the Queen City. She uses a variety of mediums in her artwork and enjoys painting in both en Plein air and in her studio. As a lover of colorful things, I was immediately drawn to the color palettes she used for her oil paintings. I also loved the whimsy feeling of the watercolors and her sculpture of Hopper. In this post, Kathy shares with us how she started her journey as an artist, and what inspires her.
When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
I do not know of a specific time that I said to myself that I want to be an artist. From my earliest memory, I have been compelled to draw and otherwise create art, it was always just a part of me. My high school art teacher was an important influence in my life and also being chosen to attend The North Carolina Governor’s School in art. The time that I spent there had a lasting impression on my decision to pursue my art. Art is a lifetime pursuit; it is like many things there is always something to learn. You never get to the point where you say, “OK I’ve learned it all now”.
As a Charlotte native, how would you say your surroundings have influenced you as an artist?
Charlotte is and has always been a very beautiful city. In my art, I am drawn to beauty in all forms. I enjoy the challenge of trying to portray that in my work. I would say that the beauty of my hometown has left that impression on my art and me as well.
You worked as an illustrator for 5 years, what did you enjoy the most about this experience?
I very much enjoyed working with a national publisher. I enjoyed collaborating with the author, editor, and art director and going through the process of reading the manuscript, breaking that down into different pages, and imagining different ways of illustrating the text. The entire experience was very interesting.
Are there artists who inspire you?
I have been inspired by John Singer Sargent’s beautiful painting of the human figure, I love the boldness of Robert Henri and I love the way George Bellows handled paint. On a more current note, some of the wonderful Plein air painters of today inspire me. I love to see how they use color and value to create an environment with a minimum of detail in their paintings.
Do you prefer painting en Plein air or in your studio?
I am always happiest painting from life and ‘a la prima, either in my studio or en Plein air. If I chose a favorite, I would have to say painting en Plein air. I am doing all of those things and additionally enjoying other Plein air friends as well. Painting en Plein air also gives me a chance to be outside in nature, which is something I enjoy.
Is there a particular place you like to go for en Plein air painting?
There are so many beautiful places in, around Charlotte, and nearby areas. Some that I have enjoyed are The Duke Mansion, The Magill Rose garden, and some of the various farms on the outskirts of the city. I enjoy painting within those intimate settings as well as painting where there is a large vista and endeavoring to create that feeling on canvas.
You work with a variety of mediums from oils and watercolors to pastels. Which medium do you enjoy working with the most?
I enjoy all mediums; I have always had a curiosity about them. If I had to choose favorites, I would say that I enjoy watercolor for the spontaneity and quickness of it, however, I love to work in oil because of the variety of effects it offers.
Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces (imagination, life, photos?)
I am very inspired by life and beauty in all forms, whether it is a beautiful light falling on a subject or beautiful colors arranged in interesting ways to describe a scene or subject. I see beauty in many things.
In my sculpture, my inspiration starts with my imagination. I then refer to life examples and photographs; I work with the combination of all of these things to do the work.
In addition to work on canvas, you also sculpt. Tell me about the process of creating one of your sculptures.
I have always enjoyed working with clay or three-dimensional art. I spent hours as a child working with clay in addition to drawing and in general making art. When I do a sculpture, I like to do small pinch models or, in other words, preliminary sketches in clay to plan the piece. Then I work on the actual piece until I am satisfied with the work. I work from life and photographs as needed. Then trips to the foundry for the various stages to get to the final bronze and patina.
Out of all the pieces that you have created, is there a piece in particular that has meant the most to you?
I have always had a love and empathy for animals and nature, horses and dogs in particular. I have always had a dog and my dogs have always been very important to me. My sculpture “Hopper” is a portrait of my dog and studio companion, Hopper, whom I lost a few years ago. I am sure that I put quite a bit of love into this piece and I love having it to remember him by. In my “Winds of Heaven” horse sculpture, I feel that I put my love for this beautiful animal and all of the joy that I have experienced in the activity of riding and of having that special connection with the horse. I love having this piece to remind me of all of the happy times I have spent in this activity.