Q&A with Artist Kat Simonson

Kat Simonson showcased some of her artwork at the recently held Alberta Culture Days Pop-Up Art Show in Grande Prairie.

Kat, you are from this area and went to school at Spirit River Regional Academy (SRRA). Is there anyone who influenced you to pursue your art?
Born in Grande Prairie, I grew up about 15 kilometers west of Spirit River. I started taking the bus to school at the Spirit River Elementary, before it became St. Marie’s Catholic school. I was transferred over to SRRA after with my classmates in Grade 2, I believe. Graduated from SRRA in 2015 and have stayed close to the area since, jumping from GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) in Fairview, to living and working in Grande Prairie today. I guess you could say those who were creative and artistic around me when I was young are the people who helped me realize my passion for all things drawing, painting, crafting and everything in between.

Why do you make art?
I love the feeling of getting lost in creating something. When I’m painting or drawing, it’s a meditation-like state I find myself in. I’ve only recently started using my art as a way to connect with myself, and it’s rewarded me with a deeper sense of self, and what’s truly important to me. My art style has also changed because of it, and I’m excited to see how it will continue to evolve.

What inspires you?
Nature has always been a big inspiration for me, my culture, and recently my spirituality has started to come into my art. Like many people would agree, I find inspiration flows better when I’m in a good place. For example, when I’m fresh out of an energy-healing session, I create beautiful, out-of-the-norm things.

Who or what are your biggest influences?
Circling back to the people who were artistic and creative around me in my childhood, my mom and my grandma. My mom, from what I can remember, was an arts and crafts master. From scrapbooking to making her own Christmas wreaths, memories of her hunched over the table with focus and intent will always stay near and dear to my heart. My grandma was the first person who showed me that you can paint on rocks, and how to bead a necklace, and trying her hardest to teach me how to knit and crochet. She only started watercolour-painting in her later years, and they are creations my family will cherish.

Where does one of your paintings start, is it something that builds up inside you and you have to purge, or is it a slow-growing seed that takes time to come out?
Sometimes I get a good idea of what I want to do; other times, I have no idea what the finished product will look like until the very end. My latest and seemingly most popular, is buddha sitting in a lotus flower with an infinite background. I drew inspiration from my growing spirituality and had an idea of what I wanted, but what I thought I wanted versus what I ended up with were two different things. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when my ideas come to fruition, but sometimes it’s even better to let my subconscious artist take the reigns and end up with something even better.

What do you say through your art?
It’s not often that I purposefully try to convey messages through my art. I like the idea that people who look at all sorts of different art forms will take whatever message resonates with them. For example, people sometimes relate hidden secrets with the Mona Lisa. I believe whatever a person feels or thinks when they view my art is right to them.

Do you work best in a quiet area or do you get part of your inspiration from a piece from music?
Although a quiet environment is nice and preferred compared to the chaotic city soundscape, I like listening to music or a podcast for some background noise. Music, being an art form itself, can certainly add to the inspiration if it’s meaningful, and pertains to what I’m creating. It also keeps one from being overwhelmed during the painting process. At least, that’s how it is for me.

What would you like people to take away from your art?
Following up on my answer to a previous question, people will take away what resonates with them. I’m happy if my art makes a person think or feel anything, no perspective being right or wrong. That’s the beautiful thing about art, I think – that 100 people can look at a piece of art and each take away a different perspective. I believe whatever a person feels or thinks when they view my art is right to them.

Do you follow artistic trends?
To be honest, I’m wondering what the current trends are and if I’ve ever followed any in my painting career. Perhaps you could consider mixed media something that’s trending for me as of recently, but it’s been around as long as there have been creative minds. So, I suppose the short answer is no.

How do you price your art?
This is still something I’m trying to figure out. I’ve only ever sold two paintings, both at the Pop-Up Art Gallery that has since past. It was my first opportunity to show/sell my art so I can only get more confident in my work’s worth from here. As a parts technician by day, I’ve had co-workers suggest pricing them the same way we would use a margin report, each price of canvas and materials used, hours spent in front of the canvas, etc.

What piece you have done to date that are you most proud of?
My buddha, I’d have to say, is my pride and joy; it’s lovingly been labelled as my baby. I have other pieces that have evoked a feeling of pride but not quite like Buddha sitting in a lotus flower.

How do you know when a work is finished?
It’s hard to say. I’ll finish a painting only to come back to it months later and go, “Huh, this could use something here and something more over here.” Even my Buddha, I’d say, isn’t quite finished. Only once I can sit with the piece and truly know it’s done can I really seal it up and be done with it. Call it procrastination or waiting for divine timing, it’s my process.

Do you have an element you enjoy working with most?
When it comes to paint, I use acrylic the most because it’s the one I have the strongest relationship with. I enjoy the transparency of watercolour, and I can appreciate their potential. I enjoy pastels, sketching and colouring, and recently I’ve found a way to incorporate my drawings onto my paintings, which has been fun, and is a great example of the mixed media style I mentioned earlier.

You are still very young and already so talented. Where do you hope your ability will take you? What is your dream goal?
I hope one day people will source me out to do live painting sessions once I get more confident with the idea. I’ve watched people paint live pieces over the course of three days in 2018 at the Shambhala Music Festival in southern BC. I admire the way it can bring artists and like-minded people alike together like moths to a flame.

As I mentioned earlier, right now my art is somewhat my own version of self-help and reflection, but I’d like to see what it becomes in the future. Without making any expectations for what I want it to be and when, my art will take me wherever I need to be when I need to be there.