Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Style, Theme and Technique in Art Licensing - Artist Kat McDonough


Phew! It's been over two months since I've been balancing some work while also entertaining several distant family guests. I am a little exhausted but happy to be getting back to my art projects and my first one this week is to introduce my next artist, Kat McDonough.

"I consider myself a work-in-progress. I've pursued a career in children's illustration for many years now, along with creating fine art and commissioned pet portraits." As much as she enjoyed making the art, she wasn't having the level of success she desired, nor did she feel passionate about her work, Kat says. Then she adds, "recently, I decided to take a good hard look at my career goals and my art. I actually began to ask myself if I should continue to pursue a career in art at all."

Artist Kat McDonough
Two serendipitous things occurred as she sent that question into the universe, to use her phrase. First, she joined a wonderful critique group of talented artists. And second, she received the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield as a gift. Kat says, "my critique group gave encouragement and guidance while I experimented with new materials and danced outside my comfort zone. The War of Art cleared up a lot of misconceptions I had about my professional approach to being a full time artist. It's a stop-messing-around, get down to business and listen to the right voice in your head type of book. These two influences recharged my art making and clarified my goals for the future."

© Kat McDonough
Style and Theme - She considers her art to be humorous, playful and sometimes making a statement in a subtle or humorous way. She uses pit bulls as her subjects in a lot of paintings. "They are America's misunderstood dog. And they are beautiful creatures to paint," Kat says. She thinks she loves painting cats and dogs so much because she loves the research.

Technique - "To liven up my work, I tried different mediums and tools. I've had great success with painting knives and acrylics using an impasto technique. Being a rookie with the knives, I had to let go of trying to achieve the perfect line or mark. Now I love the quirky marks they make. They immediately energized my paintings."

A teacher once mentioned to her that he had to find the right medium for his personality. Kat adds, "I should have taken heed earlier. Finally, I'm no longer fighting for control over the paint and it falling short of my expectations. Now I make art that is more me than any I had ever created before. I feel it has a broader appeal as well - exactly the kind of art I've always wanted to make." Her main technique is to paint, paint and repaint. "It's no wonder I never mastered watercolors," she says. "Acrylics allow me to paint until I feel it's right. I do very little planning.

© Kat McDonough
I choose a limited palette and make a simple drawing on the canvas. Once I start, the triangle of palette, canvas and me becomes my sacred space. I can't make a mistake. I refuse to doubt I'll get to the right place in the end. It must be what Jazz musicians feel like as they play. I get a rhythm going and I let my intuition decide when to stop."

But besides the dog, the kid, and the alarm, what gets Kat up in the morning? "My cats! They've become more stylized than my dogs and fit into all of my favorite themes: Americana, beach and folk art. Once I included them in a series of family portraits, they all got names and started telling me their stories. They're dying to be introduced to world."

© Kat McDonough
As for inspiration, furry faces are the focus of her work but her main inspiration is always character and narrative. "I relish a good story," Kat mentions. "I fall in love with intriguing characters. That is the type of artwork that inspires me, whether on a gallery wall, in a picture book or on a tote bag. It's what I hope my artwork conveys."

Now that her style has completely changed, she is painting, painting, and painting. Once she has a larger body of work, she'll approach those companies with whom her style would be a good fit. "For now, I have some items for sale on Cafepress and am investigating other places to sell prints and cards. I'm learning so much from great resources like your blog, Alex, and the generous contributors to the Art of Licensing group," Kat says. "It's a learning curve not unlike children's illustration. Patience, persistence and practice go a long way when you have a long way to go. I'm quite a happy traveler, though, with lovely companions."

© Kat McDonough

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