Even though Kat Collins has been drawing and creating for as long as she can remember, and got a degree in Fine Arts, becoming a professional artist didn’t just come naturally. She had to navigate through grad school, burnout, and six years in the wine industry before finding her footing.
Recently, she told us more about her background, her art, and how it helps her deal with being an empath …
When did you know you were an artist? Tell us a little about your journey and what drew you to art.
I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember! I’ve always felt the desire and passion to create and be creative. Drawing, crafting, and coloring was my happy place when I was a child and that continued throughout my teen years. I started taking one-on-one drawing classes with a professional artist as a young teen, as well as taking art classes in high school. I also joined the National Art Honors Society at that time. Drawing led me to painting and I discovered a love of using paint as a means of expression. I entered several high school art competitions and won a handful of gold medals for my paintings.
I was fortunate that my parents and my art teachers were supportive of my passion for art and creating and pushed me to keep going with it! Painting and drawing became a way for me to express my inner self and my view of the world. It became my safe harbor when dealing with typical teenage angst. As I got older, I realized that I see and feel the world a little bit differently. Colors, patterns (or lack thereof), shapes, lines, texture, and movement enthralled me. I could easily get lost in front of a giant Rothko painting at a museum, or the texture of a chalky pastel on my fingers, or simply staring at the various shades of blue in the sky (much to the chagrin of my softball coach).
I’m also an empath, which means I feel so much – the weight of the world is heavy on my shoulders. Painting became a way of releasing that emotion, that weight. I could put it to canvas or paper and let go of it. This release became the beginnings of my delving into abstract art.
When and why did you decide to pursue art as a career? Where did you get your formal training?
Initially, I never saw being an artist in and of itself as a full career. I was often told that if you want to be an artist, you also need to have another job that makes money — a sensible job — so you can be an artist. With that old perception in mind, when an Art Therapist visited my high school in my junior year, I discovered that I could use my art to help others, combining two things I’ve always loved.
So I went to college at Mount Vernon Nazarene University and got a B.A. in Fine Arts, minored in Psychology, and subsequently went to graduate school at Cedar Crest College to pursue becoming a licensed Art Therapist.
What I didn’t count on was the emotional toll that being a therapist would take on me as an empath and introvert. Over time, while working full-time, going to grad school full-time, and interning full-time, I burned out. I discovered that this path wasn’t going to work for me. I quit grad school and did a total 180, going to work in the wine industry. After six years in the wine industry, working at various wineries and getting a certification in Wine & Spirits, I realized I missed creating art and doing something more visually creative for a job.
Through all of this, I’ve created art on the side. My dream now is to at some point paint full-time and have my own art studio/gallery.
What’s been your hardest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
My hardest challenge is my own self-doubt and criticism! I don’t believe it’s something I’ll ever truly overcome, but learning to quiet that nagging voice has been helpful. I’ve found that being involved with a community of like-minded artists has been helpful as well as reminding myself that I paint because creating art is as necessary to me as breathing. It’s not about what others think or if it can show in a gallery, etc. Those are just wonderful by-products that may or may not happen, but not the main reason why I create art.
I’m most proud of never giving up on creating art, even when life was tough and got in the way. There may have been times where I didn’t produce much, but that’s okay. As long as I was making something, that was enough for me when I needed it to be.
I’m also excited about how receptive people have been to my art since I decided to pursue showing in art galleries and selling/exposing my art on a larger scale again. I had not done that for approximately 10 years, so to have an audience that embraces my art and me as an artist after a long hiatus has been reaffirming and energizing. Almost every painting I’ve done since 2020 has sold, which has been amazing! I feel truly blessed.
What’s your advice for anyone who wants to explore art, but can’t seem to find the time or feels intimidated by a blank canvas?
I’ve taught painting classes over the years and the most common refrain I heard from people was, “I’m not creative,” or “I don’t know how to paint.” My advice to them every time was just do it! Don’t think about the end result or if anyone will like it or not. Make a mark, any mark. And then listen to your body, your intuition, your feelings of where to put the next mark. The purpose is to create, to bring out that creative being that is innate in you (in all of us). As human beings, we are meant to be creative! Creating art isn’t precious. It doesn’t have to look like anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to create something ugly! What matters most is just doing it.
ART@EPL is the library’s exciting partnership with the Lehigh Art Alliance and the Lehigh Valley Arts Council. The series is funded through a grant from PA Partners in the Arts, making it possible for area residents to enjoy free art lectures and workshops from local artists working in pastels, charcoal, sculpture, and watercolor among others.
Visit the ART@EPL page to see all the artists who have led workshops and exhibited work at the library as part of ART@EPL.