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Surfer, grandmother, and self-taught artist, Kati creates semi-realist portraits in pencil, graphite, charcoal, ink and paint from her home on the Tweed Coast.

14-Feb-2019

Designer Spotlight: Kati Designs

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Self-taught artist, surfer & coast dweller, Kati: ‘As a self-taught artist I suspect I break a lot of rules, but ignorance is bliss’

Hi, my name is Kati. I’m married to Omar and have 3 adult children, (2 daughters and a stepson spread over 3 countries.) I'm the owner and self-taught artist behind Kati Designs (previously K80 Designs). I create semi-realistic portraits in combinations of graphite, charcoal, ink and paint.

Privately commissioned portrait of a young woman by Kati Designs

I was born in NZ, but I've had a longstanding love affair with Australia and have bounced between the 2 countries most of my life. But since my eldest daughter married an Australian and had a son, this has become my permanent home.

Surfer, grandmother, and self-taught artist, Kati creates semi-realist portraits in pencil, graphite, charcoal, ink and paint from her home on the Tweed Coast.

Omar and I live with my brother and his wife, 5 mins from the beach in Black Rocks, Pottsville. All four of us surf and adore the beach so living here on the Tweed Coast is like being on a permanent holiday, its an incredible area.

Artist, Kati, enjoying the view from her local lookout at Hastings Point: ‘Living here on the Tweed Coast is like being on a permanent holiday’

In 2016 my husband Omar encouraged me to quit my "real job" as a Sales Rep and pursue a creative way of life. As I have a fairly solid background in Graphic Design, I wasn't sure exactly which direction I would follow but I knew it would involve art in some form.

In an age of shortening all words for the sake of efficient texting, I had become "K80" (Katie) and adding the word "designs" didn't appear to limit my creativity into just one genre, thus K80 Designs was born. I’ve since started to re-brand as “Kati Designs” as the abbreviation was causing some confusion.

Work in Progress: Progression of a monochromatic portrait drawing into a finished piece with watercolour accents, entitled ‘And She Was’

I was stoked to discover the Madeit community and have been selling as a hobbyist since March 2018. As an introvert, the idea of fronting up to a market place and "selling" myself (which is how it feels selling my artworks) was and is, completely overwhelming.

But here was a place tailored exactly to my needs. I have a space to showcase my available artworks plus receive personal support, networking and promotion to a much wider audience than a traditional local market. All the while never having to leave my safe space! Its ideal.

Kati at work in her Pottsville studio apartment: “I’m a great believer in working with what you have got and getting stuck in

We live in a world where many things are mass produced. So, it's wonderful that more people are beginning to embrace things that are made by hand in small quantities. I love that no two handmade items are exactly alike, variations in colour, shading, texture, shape and grain are inherent in a handmade item, this really makes every purchase a "one-of-a-kind."

Work in progress: a pencil and watercolour portrait entitled ‘Illumin-Arty’ by Kati Designs

My workspace changes with the wind. Sometimes its in the garden or on the deck, other times in our studio apartment escaping the midday heat.

Kati at work on some portraits outside her home in Pottsville, NSW

Part of the reason I choose to work on smaller scale paper artworks is because of the ease in storing both the working materials and the finished pieces. I don't have the luxury of leaving pieces out that I’m working on (which would be ideal) but I’m a great believer in working with what you have got and getting stuck in, rather than waiting till you have got what you want, in order to begin.

Drawing detail: close-up of an eye from one of Kati’s portraits

Kati Designs detail of ‘Chemalis’ original artwork: ‘the human form, the face, eyes, hair, it just holds my attention’

My inspiration always starts with photos. I particularly love the human face. I try to draw other objects from time to time but find I get bored, however the human form, the face, eyes, hair, it just holds my attention.

Kati at work on her computer, mocking up ideas for her next drawing: ‘I mock up my idea in a photo program and play with light and contrast… then I start the drawing process’

I spend a lot of time trying to refine and visualise the idea I have in my head - I find the internet and photography websites like Unsplash.com really useful. To begin, I mock up my idea in a photo program and play with light and contrast in grayscale to see if it would work as a monochromic piece, then I start the drawing process, using the photo as my reference.

Kati at work on a pencil drawing at her desk: ‘I love the simplicity of drawing with pencil on paper’

I have tried a lot of different mediums but it always seems to come back to pencil. I love the simplicity of drawing with pencil on paper and how much control it gives me over the finished artwork. It's amazing how something so simple can produce a really strong image.

Work in progress: Progression of a drawing of a young bearded man

During the drawing phase I use a full range of pencils from 2H to 6B. I'll often use black watercolour, acrylic or charcoal for the really dark shadows and back biro or pigment liner for linear work.

Finished artwork: The finished piece of a young bearded man by Kati Designs

As a sickly child I spent a large amount of time off school drawing. When I was about 10 years old, I was selected by my primary school teacher to receive additional "extension" classes for children who showed artist ability. These were just one hour a week, over a year and pretty simple, but they were easily my most favourite memory of school.

Photoshoot of finished Kati Designs artworks

During my final year at High School, my art teachers suggested I complete a four year "Visual Communications Diploma." One of my teachers arranged for me to attend an exhibition at the college showcasing the 4th and final years students’ artwork. This had a massively detrimental effect on me. I weighed myself against those artworks and came away feeling talentless and discouraged. So, I gave up any hopes of an artistic future and obeyed my parents’ ‘sensible’ decision to go work in a bank.

Kati in her late twenties, standing by a sign she painted for a local surf shop before she started working as a graphic designer:’I gave up any hopes of an artistic future and obeyed my parents’ ‘sensible’ decision to go work in a bank.

In my late twenties, while I was a stay at home mum with a young family, I started hand painting signs for local businesses. I went on to purchase an iMac and some software and taught myself to do Graphic Design. For the next 10 years I worked as a freelance graphic designer. However, a messy divorce, single parenthood and 50-hour work weeks resulted in a bad case of burn out. I stopped making/creating in all forms and spent the next 7 years in administration work.

A commissioned portrait of a couple on their wedding day by Kati Designs: ‘Having my family’s support helps me immensely because I struggle every day with a lack of self-belief.’

In 2011, I married Omar, a fun loving, vibrant Brazilian, and after a few years, the desire to draw returned. He was quite shocked when he first saw my artwork as he couldn't believe in those 4 years together, I hadn't mentioned that I could draw. (Which shows how completely I had turned my back on my creative side.)

Original artwork on plywood by Kati Designs, entitled ‘Private Eyes’

Having my family’s support helps immensely because I struggle every day with a lack of self-belief. As a self-taught artist I suspect I break a lot of rules, but ignorance is bliss. It’s taken me a few decades, but I love that I finally now get to call myself an "Artist."



Visit Kati Designs to find more stunning semi-realist portraits, or to commission your own original piece: k80designs

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