Nepotism alert: Katherine Warren is actually my younger sister. I wanted to feature her because I’m really proud of her for a wide variety of reasons, one of which is that she has decided to follow her passion after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis about a year and a half ago. At the beginning of April, her work was featured in a juried art exhibition in Fredericksburg, Va. Although she did not win, it was good exposure for her and work and something that gave her the added confidence to keep doing what she’s doing. Because the thing is, she’s really good at it. What follows are excerpts from a recent conversation I had with her about her work and life:
When did you decide to become an artist and why?
It never really dawned on me until I was applying to colleges that that was even an option for study. But it was all that I really wanted to do because it made me happy.
How long had you been painting before you decided that you wanted to pursue this line of study and work? What about the discipline appealed to you?
I can’t even remember when I started painting. It was just who I was. It was a complete escape that helped me express myself. It’s really that simple.
Why did you turn to painting as opposed to sculpture?
I preferred two-dimensional art because I saw things as pictures. I thought it was more artistically exciting for me to explore on a 2-D surface. And to be able to add shape and volume and texture on a 2D surface was more of a challenge.
You didn’t originally go into painting as a career. Why was that and how did you journey back toward your passion?
Art school does not show you how to be a professional working artist. In my twenties, I worked as a makeup artist and I worked well into my thirties in that field. That was a creative outlet for me because I was able to paint faces. Now I’ve had some changes in my life where I have been afforded the opportunity to focus solely on my art.
You’re referring to your diagnosis of M.S. How has that diagnosis helped your art and how has it been therapeutic for your disease?
At this stage, I’m just looking to create beautiful things that make me happy and touch people. My diagnosis has taught me to slow down, be more aware, and to really listen and see what’s around me. I don’t stand every day when I paint. Sometimes I have to sit. But I still have the same emotional meditative relaxing experience when I pick up a brush. The act of pushing paint will never change for me. It’s magical. Being able to portion out the right colors, mixing the right amounts makes me think a little more. I’ve messed up and I’ve created colors by accident that I’ve put in sealed containers for use at a later time. I’ve learned to balance and I’ve learned to create ways to simplify the process, such as I have my paints organized by tone and my brushes organized by the technique they offer.
Tell me about your series of flower paintings. How did that come about?
Fatigue is a common symptom of MS. With that said, when I was finally prescribed a medicine to address that fatigue, suddenly my creative juices started flowing. I became consumed by the idea of growth and reaching toward the sky. It became a metaphor for me and my life. And I do prefer wildflowers, things that grow in abandon, things that aren’t planned. I’ve made 40 paintings over the course of two months.
How has social media helped you get attention and buyers for your work?
When I began painting again, I had posted a painting on Facebook. But it wasn’t as a “look at me. Buy me.” That was never my intention. I just wanted to show people I was painting again. Within the first hour, I had sold two paintings. Shortly thereafter, I gained two commissions and I built a body of work. Now I am looking forward to exhibiting on my web site and becoming more active in my community. I believe this has given me the opportunity to stay active, even with my MS. This is my business and I can choose to do it in any way that my MS will let me. I think that what draws me to art and painting and drawing is the process of seeing something, not just looking at it. I want to embrace the lights and darks of it. I think that’s the thing you have to learn in life, that there’s always light and dark, and you have to find the balance and accept that.