Posts tagged “national multiple sclerosis society

Friday Interview: Katherine Warren, artist

Posted on April 18, 2014


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.


Posted on October 23, 2013



My younger sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis late last year. Shortly after her diagnosis, I signed up for two M.S. fundraising walks, one in Baton Rouge, the other in New Orleans. I was beyond grateful to the people who sponsored me on these walks because I was so sad about what my sister faces on a daily basis. I can’t make her ongoing pain and struggles easier (which is always frustrating for someone as anal and eager to please as I am), but I can walk in her name to raise money so that talented scientists and doctors can work to find a cure.

If you don’t know what M.S. is, here are some facts:

* It’s a chronic and often disabling disease of the central nervous system.

* The disease occurs when the immune system attacks the myelin (or fatty protective tissue) that surrounds nerves, damaging it and the nerves themselves. When the myelin is attacked and scarred, nerve impulses are interrupted or distorted.

* Person to person, symptoms vary and range from numbness in the limbs to paralysis and loss of vision.

* There are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease and help people live satisfying, productive lives. But  to date, there is nothing that can wipe it out altogether.

Having said all this and being totally aware of my sister’s struggles, I get up every day and look for reasons to be hopeful. She’s handling her diagnosis with humor (most of the time) and tries to find ways to manage her limits, lessen her stress and ask for help when she needs it. Although I am fully aware that she has bad, debilitating days, and hate that for her, I’m tickled beyond words that she has begun to paint again. Above is one of her works-in-progress, an impressionistic triptych of flowers in a field. She began this piece a few hours ago, after selling two of them last night on Facebook.

Disclaimer: I bought one of those two paintings. I’m a proud big sister. What can I say? Isn’t her work gorgeous?

To close, if you would like to get involved with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, here are ways you can help.

If biking and walking and other physical events are not your cup of tea, please consider making a donation to NMSS, either as a gift to support general research and education, or one to honor my sister, Katherine Warren.