The moment I saw Kate Lewis’ architectural art prints via All Star Press Gallery, I knew her work had to be part of the IPaintMyMind Permanent Collection. I even purchased one of her originals, of the Guggenheim Museum.
Her odes to architectures greatest structures and stories lives in the intricately drawn lines of Taliesin, Wrigley Field, and The Green Mill (below). Over the last while her work has moved into colorful paintings and even more recently, a constant schedule of radical murals in vibrant color palettes, that also happen to turn your eyeball inside out due to their amazing depth, lines, and scale.
When Kate Lewis and I met up at The Coffee Studio last year & made a 45 minute meeting feel like hours of talking to an old friend, it just solidified my belief in her work ethic, the massive positive karmic balance she clearly rolls with, and a level of creative output that suggests she’s someone who could probably make art in any vein she wanted to.
Her client list has expanded significantly, garnering projects with Spothero, Chicago Blackhawks, Heineken, Square, and more. As we roll into 2020 with a slate of rad interviews, expanding programs, & increased impact, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate person to ring in the new year with, while getting to know a little more about the heart & mind behind all this great art.
Ahead, Kate Lewis delves into everything from how she hustled to paint neighbors mailboxes as a kid to her advice for any emerging artist trying to turn their art into a fulfilling, profitable, and growing artistic career.
If you are an artist who wants to get involved with IPaintMyMind, and have your art be a part of our arts education programming in CPS schools, submit your work here. We’ll feature you in an interview just like this one!
Evan La Ruffa of IPMM: Where are you from and where in the world are you right now?
Kate Lewis: I’m from West Palm Beach, FL originally, but have been living in Chicago on and off for the past 10 years. I always try to leave, I moved to NY & CA for a bit, but always find my way back here somehow…Chicago’s got me good haha.
EL: Did you make art as a kid a lot?
KL: Yea yea, of course! I have a great drawing from when I was 6 of a little blond girl in a house painting on an easel and saying “I want to be an rdst (artist)”…I really love that one, right down to the fact that I was drawing buildings even then. We grew up with no neighbors really, so my brother and I didn’t have friends to hang with down the street or anything. I think back then we learned to entertain ourselves in our own ways, and I always loved to make things.
EL: If so, did your folks encourage that? Do they now? You’re out here making a living creating art so they gotta be pretty impressed!
KL: My parents are pretty open-minded compared to a lot of South Florida folk, so they supported anything my brother and I really felt passionate about. My dad is an entrepreneur, so they encouraged us to explore and make mistakes and try things out, but to be smart about it, use our business brain. There was a lot of structure in my life growing up and I was a real math nerd in school, so I feel like that shows more than anything in my preference for geometry, order, angles, and so on.
I remember my mom driving me around as a girl so I could ask people if I could paint their mailboxes for $20, or sell little candles I made in sea shells at home. Really they always just wanted us to be happy, and that was what was going to impress them more than what we did to get there. For me it was art, for my brother it was pest control…who knew!
EL: You’ve been working on a fair amount of murals lately. Where? And can you give us a glimpse into the process of creating a mural?
KL: Murals, yes! Gosh, they’re all over and I hope they just keep sprawling out more. I got to travel a bunch this year and paint in other states, at festivals, on every size and shape surface, with crazy and fun brands, and with so so many mediums. That all has been amazing in that I feel like I’m on a fast track because I didn’t formally study art, so I get to learn everything organically as I go.
The process of making them is pretty much: conversation, design, installation. Those stages just look different on every project depending on the details, and there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes of every job that the actual painting itself is the fastest part of the process I think haha.
EL: What are you working on now?
KL: I can’t say! Isn’t that the biggest tease! Haha. I’m stoked though because all of the projects in conversation right now involve traditional painting, vinyl additions growing from them, sculptural elements, experiential installations, etc…all things I love playing with and learning and feeling curious about, so I feel like my brain is stretching as I’m realizing what’s possible.
EL: We purchased a bunch of prints of your awesome architecturally inspired black and white prints, tell us how that series came to be. Will you add to it?
KL: Ah thank you for doing that! Drawing architecture was what first launched me into practicing art full time, so it’ll always be a part of me, but right now my focus is on murals. I had a meeting the other day about some studio work I’ve been making on the side and just said “yea, I don’t quite know where these are coming from, I just keep following their lead and not thinking too much about why.” I guess overall that describes how I like living life…that kind of gut feeling to “do what you do when you want to do it, because you might not want to when you have time to” kind of attitude. It’s like “make what you want to make when you want to make it because you might not always have that idea.”
EL: If you had one piece of advice for a young artist trying to make a career of their artwork, what would it be?
KL: Don’t worry. Everything that’s meant to be will be. If it feels good, keep doing it. When you stop worrying so much about the process of being or becoming an artist, you start enjoying it, embracing the chaos, and that’s when things start lining up.
EL: If you had one piece of advice for any type of person trying to be a good human being, what would it be? 🙂
KL: Set a good example, smile, be vulnerable, be your best self.
EL: Were there any artists that were particularly formative for you, or that you studied a lot? What artists do you look up to currently, and why?
KL: MC Escher, Oscar Reutersvard, and Jos de Mey are all huge sources of inspiration, just in how they saw, digested, and recreated the world around them. They all strived to make the impossible possible, and attempted to deceive the mind with optical play. I’ve stared at their works for endless amounts of time it seems like trying to understand how they were able to train their brains to easily tap into the ability to create these complex visuals.
EL: For you, is art more logical or intuitive?
KL: Intuitive, surely. A game I like to play with myself on this drawing software is “how quickly can you make lines into a design without thinking about where they’re going beforehand.” It’s like a practice in following what feels right, rather than what looks right, and it goes on for longer every time I do it.
EL: If there was one place in the world you could visit that you haven’t been to yet, what would it be?
Kate Lewis: Hawaii! Not because of art, just because, because, because.
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