The influence of artist Kate Mary’s background in Interior Design creeps into her vibrant drawings. Favouring oil pastels and acrylic paint, Kate is inspired by crisp architectural lines and how they relate to the rhythmic shapes found in the plants that often intertwine these. Having graduated from an honours degree in Interior Design at Glasgow School of Art in 2019, Kate now resides in East London, where she draws from everyday observations of London architecture and combines these with memories to create her unique, otherworldly works. In this interview Kate explains why she loves oil pastel, and how feeling dictates her colour choices as much as observation.
Lisa: Can you tell us about your relationship with drawing?
Kate: I draw everyday. This used to be predominately on computers when working for design companies but I hated losing the haptic qualities of working with my hands. The connection between my hands and eyes when working is really important and I think without it my work would lose something. Hand drawing and sketching focuses my thoughts and highlights the important aspects of the subjects I see.
Lisa: You use oil pastel quite a lot in the works that you show on your Instagram. I feel oil pastel gets a bit of a bad press, I’ve heard people say it’s ‘only for amateur artists’… what’s the appeal of the medium for you?
Kate: Oil pastels have this immediate and visceral nature which enhances the mark making. They allow me to work with their influence, to some extent dictating areas of the drawing. I see a relationship between the medium and the subject, the marks bring a life and movement to the drawings, in the same way that spaces come alive when populated.
I often use brightly coloured pastels that have an almost naïve quality. This is a playful response to our urban environment, an attempt to bring joy.
Lisa: The drawings feel very assured and intended – you make a mark and you leave it – and as a result the pictures are fresh and breezy looking. Do you make prep sketches before you get the pastels out, or are you determined to allow the marks to lead you so you don’t need to make adjustments?
Kate: I do make prep sketches before working, often these are done outdoors when I see something that strikes me. For these I use a mixture of coloured pens and pastel; there’s no detail, it might just be a pattern or a texture, or a rough composition. They allow me to understand and experiment with colour and texture.
Lisa: What sort of paper do you like to use and do you use any solvents or mediums with the oil pastels?
Kate: I use acid free, unbleached paper, Daler-Rowney ranges are quite good. Working with oil pastels it is best to use a relatively heavy weight paper. I don’t use any solvents or mediums to fix with my work as these aren’t sustainable. Moreover, I work between all ranges of pastels (for broad colour) and they all react differently with branded solvents. This does mean that the work has to be framed behind glass in order to protect them.
Lisa: Do you have any other favourite drawing materials, and favourite brands?
Kate: Winsor and Newton drawing inks, again have this immediacy which I love for sketches.
Posca pens have a great bold colour range, and are really easy and clean to work with.
Oil Pastels I generally use Sennelier and Caran d’Ache as I find their colour range beautiful, although they have very different textures.
Lisa: How do you choose your subject matter and do you work from photos or life?
Kate: As an interior designer I am inspired by our built environment and how it affects our well being. When choosing a subject I fuse personal memories of spaces with my imagination to create vivid recollections of moments. I often make quick preparatory sketches (en plein air), take photographs and make notes about a space while there. Noting the sensory engagement of a place to work on these more when I get back home, alongside any photographs.
Lisa: How important is it to you to draw every day?
Kate: It’s incredibly important, even a one minute sketch can describe more of an object or space than any notes or photographs. It instills and captures more of the experience.
Lisa: What in your opinion is essential to a successful drawing session?
Kate: For me good music or an amazing podcast is essential. I love the modern house and artfully podcast for getting inspiration while I work!
Accepting failures, seeing the parts of preparatory sketches that don’t work and building upon them.
Lisa: You have a really lovely colour sense. How do you pick the colours you are going to use for each work?
Kate: The colours come from my memories of spaces, how that place made me feel. Whether it’s cold or hot, the sounds of the place, the materials that make the environment, the smells floating into the air, the way the light falls through the architecture or dances on the material it meets, it all impacts the colours I see and helps me understand them further.
I work a lot in single colour, this simple technique highlights the textures and mark making and invites people to view closely.
Lisa: I like the combination of ruled lines and hand drawn lines in your work. Can you share some of your thoughts about the relationship between the two in your work?
Kate: Generally I like the architecture to have the harder, straighter lines, grounding them in a reality of kinds. This might also just be my design training stepping into the works! These are balanced with the softer line qualities found in the foliage, and pools for instance, the blanketing extras of life.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Kate: My website is katemary.co.uk where you can view and purchase original works and giclee prints. I also post regularly to Instagram @katemaryart