I was fortunate to run across Katie Halton's velvet paintings at Western Exhibitions in Chicago just a few weeks ago, so I'm stoked to be able to share her work here along with this fab Q&A! Make sure to check out the links below for much more of her work!
+ + +
Hi! Can you introduce yourself?
I am a Chicago-based artist originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I received my BFA in Photography from the University of Michigan (2004) and my MFA in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2016). My current work is acrylic painting on velvet. I recently had a solo show of my velvet paintings at Western Exhibitions in Chicago. I am currently pursuing exhibition, residency and teaching opportunities in Chicago and beyond.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I have been active in the arts my entire life. Besides visual arts, I also love dance and music. I was a ballerina for 17 years as well as a classical pianist, reggae keyboardist and punk singer.
What is your process like?
My current work is acrylic paint on velvet. I portray heroes, icons and loved ones, finding solidarity in deviants, drifters, and the overly sensitive. I pay homage to the European and Asian tradition of painting on velvet, while giving a nod to 1970's kitsch. I enjoy working at the intersection of high and low art.
Despite their simplified, playful appearance, I spend much time in "pre-production" for my paintings. I research every piece I make and almost always complete preparatory sketches. Factual information, cultural background and reference imagery are not only necessary but deeply inspirational. My work comes from a highly personal place of thoughtfulness and care. Research and planning reflects the respect I show my subjects. Though my work sometimes comes across as playful and humorous, it is highly reverent and meaningful.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
Trust your gut, remain true to yourself, and take all criticism with a large grain of salt.
Keep making stuff, whether you know where it's going or not.
Describe your studio.
My studio is a big old converted corner store with 14- foot ceilings and a working disco ball in Humboldt Park. My bedroom is a rehabbed antique refrigerator in the back.
What do you find most challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Making ends meet is definitely the most challenging part of being an artist. Being unsure about how your basic needs are going to be met is incredibly exhausting and worrisome. My goal is to be a college professor and have a bit of stability, while having time and support to pursue my work.
If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?
Frida Kahlo, my all-time hero. How do you persevere in the face of such adversity? (Check out my work for direct references and inspiration. We have a lot in common)
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Bold, cheeky, weighted
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
When I'm stuck, I ask myself what I'd like to see in my house. Then I make it.
Also, circulating mediums after completing a project is a regular part of my studio routine. I keep myself interested by switching between painting on canvas, velvet, collage, sculpture, and printmaking.
What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?
I currently love painting on velvet because it offers me all kinds of challenges. It has slowed down my painting hand, which is a good thing. When working on such a finicky surface, mark-making must be very intentional, and building up paint is timely and laborious. The results are not always predictable and I enjoy the surprising outcomes. I have also spent hundreds of hours on technical troubleshooting, experimentation and research, so I have really learned so much.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
1. Fellow artists
What keeps you creating?
Existential angst, necessity to express, reason to get up each day.
What are you working on right now?
A 6-foot wooden panel to decorate the exterior of my building. It will join four or five other paintings made by different artists. I am excited to display something that will become part of my community. I chose to paint the Buddhist tale of the Golden Deer, and the deer is composed completely of gold glitter!
I am about to embark on a series of four more velvet paintings using more dynamic fabric, including patterned and metallic.
And I am also excited to collaborate with fellow artist Silas Parry from Edinburgh, Scotland. We met at Vermont Studio Center in 2014 and he is coming to Chicago for a two week collaboration.
+ + +