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Gavin's Underground

Kat's Murals

by Gavin Sheehan
- Posted // 2010-09-27 -

Without pointing out any name in particular, some art is just dull. Doesn't matter how long the artist spent on it or the intention behind it, there are paintings that aren't very appealing in any right. Its the kind of tacky landscape works you'll find mass-produced for offices and schools around the country as a way to hide the bland and appear to be a somewhat humanized environment... until you look at the carpet choice. So you can imagine what a relief it may be for some to see something like this hanging in an office.
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Kat Martin started painting professionally as a mural creator just a few years ago, decorating the walls of children's bedrooms with friendly figures and images. But her skills turned to taking other artist's listless works (usually found at your local D.I.) and bringing new life to them with interesting additions. Matching the style of the painter before to make it appear as part of the original. We got a chance to chat with Kat about her art and the various work she does, plus her thoughts on the local scene.

Kat Martin (with hubby Jimmy)
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http://www.katsmurals.com/

Gavin: Hey K
at! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kat: I am 26-years-old and have been married for four years to my amazing husband, Jimmy. We own a home in Sugar House and have found a great niche living in Salt Lake. I clean houses part-time and create art all the rest of the time!

Gavin: What first got you interested art, and what were some of your early inspirations?

Kat: I have loved art my whole life. It runs in my blood. Both of my parents know how to draw as well as all my sisters. However, out of everyone in my family, I am the only one who is actually pursuing art as a career. Being one of eight siblings, my parents didn't have much money for toys (I never owned one Barbie) so the cheapest form of entertainment was a crayon and a piece of paper.
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Gavin: I know you've had some college, but did you seek out education for art there or are you more self-taught?

Kat: When I was younger I was mostly self-taught from the old phrase "practice makes perfect" with a bit of molding from my sister, Tara. My biggest influence was my high school art teacher, Marjorie McClure. She taught AP art at Brighton High School and was also an art professor at the University of Utah. I contribute any sort of admirable talent I have 100% to her. Marjorie treated her AP students like serious artists. Her high school class was set up exactly like her college art courses. She would critique our work after every project, provide a live model every Friday and always encouraged us to apply for local art galleries. After high school, I went to Salt Lake Community College for two semesters and then decided to move on. I am not a school person at all. Believe it or not, I even slacked off in the art classes I took because after a legend like McClure, no other art teacher could compare.
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Gavin: What drew you to doing paintings more than any other art form?

Kat: The style of paintings I’m currently working on is just what happened to really take off. Before this whole "creepy" movement, I mostly worked with pastels.

Gavin: How did the idea come about for you to start painting murals for people's homes?

Kat: I can attribute this to my father. He was the one who coerced me into not only doing cartoons, but encouraged me to do them on a large scale. He coached me on how to draw cartoons and the first ones I ever drew were life-size cardboard cartoons of three of my siblings. After that, I realized painting large scale projects are just as easy/hard as doing smaller pieces.
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Gavin: What's the process like for you in making one for someone's room, and what are the different kinds of designs you've done?

Kat: It depends on the client. One client wanted Yankee stadium, so I spent a lot of time measuring and making the proportions and scales correct before I could actually lay down the paint. Other clients simply say, "I want dinosaurs!" and then the possibilities are endless. The latter is more fun, but the former is more rewarding since it ‘s much harder to complete. I have done everything from a whimsical far away land to a modern geometric tree.

Gavin:
You also do still life and cartoonish material as well. Do you do them more to branch out your business or simply to expound on your skills?

Kat: Both. I like to keep a sketchbook and draw random people I see in public, like at the DMV for example. Other times, I’ll draw a little cartoon just to make a friend smile. Either way, both help me hone my skills. I do think that my very favorite type of commissioned art is a pastel portrait. It is quite challenging and therefore more rewarding when it comes out exactly the way I want. Every time I complete a portrait for a client, it’s heartwarming to witness their initial, emotional reaction. On the other hand, creating a cartoon is just really, really fun.
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Gavin: The big thing to talk about is the Revitalized Creepy Art that you've started doing. Where did the idea come from to start doing those?

Kat: My husband, Jimmy, saw this concept at a store and asked me to do something similar for his office. For a while, it was only something our house guests could enjoy... until I randomly created a painting with a Yeti for the SLUG Christmas party and the reaction was overwhelming. That party was the first time anyone else got a chance to see what I could do. Due to the reaction I got from the party, Jimmy went out and bought several paintings for me to "creature-ize" as a Christmas present and I immediately got to work. The paintings were wildly accepted by the general population resulting in an acceptance into Craft Lake City, Craft Sabbath and The Blonde Grizzly art show.

Gavin: How did you go about selecting the pieces you're going to buy and adapt?

Kat: I choose paintings that will be conducive to the acceptance of a creature or devilish twist. It really boils down to a landscape or a "mostly cheesy" scene. I also can take portraits of animals or any person and zombify them.
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Gavin: Do you usually have a set idea of what you're going to place within, or do you buy the piece and wait for something to come to you?

Kat: I buy the pieces knowing that SOMETHING will work and I then hold them up to Jimmy and say, "What should I paint into this?" Since he is the one who really motivated me into this whole genre, he not only gives me inspiration, but is a great test audience as well.

Gavin: You tend to do the best you can to match whatever you're inserting to match the style of the painting. How much of a challenge is it for you to perfect that?

Kat: I honestly didn't realize how successful I was with this technique until the feedback I received at Craft Lake City. Having an artist eye, I can clearly define my images from the original paintings. I feel like that detailed eye is why it comes off so effortless to the viewer.
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Gavin: What's been the public reaction to the adapted works? And have you ever gotten grief from people about painting over someone else's work or do they generally understand what you're trying to do?

Kat: The public reaction has been incredibly positive. I had several people at Craft Lake City tell me that my booth was their favorite. From the beginning, I was the first person to have issue with painting over someone else's work, but combined with my overwhelming favorable reaction and much research, I realized its a null issue at this point. If anything, it is received as saving old art work and making it new again with a parody twist. My slogan is: "Giving old art new death!" I am so excited about this new venture that I have a new website and an Etsy shop just for my creatures.

Gavin: Are there any plans for you to expand into doing a series of these with a specific theme, or are simply painting them as you go?

Kat: I ultimately paint as I go. A few pieces are part of a pair. I have two variations of a sea creature and a pair of Yeti and Sasquatch paintings.
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Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?

Kat: I LOVE the Salt Lake City art scene. This city is an amazing place to view the entire spectrum of the art world be it amazing architecture with outdoor installation sculptures, to classical galleries with traditional paintings. Without a doubt, it’s a great place to be an artist!

Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?

Kat: I would love to see the Utah Museum of Fine Arts rise to the level of other prominent art museums across the globe. It’s comprehensive, but comparatively very small.
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Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll as a whole and how it’s doing today?

Kat: I have always loved Gallery Stroll and have witnessed a change in the past several years. There was a time when Pierpont was the heart of the event and lately I have not seen that as much. There is an ebb and flow to that scene and I feel like no matter what, when you get the chance to attend, you will always leave feeling inspired and rewarded.

Gavin: What can we expect from over the rest of the year?

Kat: I was lucky enough to be in my first Craft Sabbath in September and combined with the monthly success of that show plus all the custom work I have been commissioned for lately, I feel very optimistic about not only finishing out the year with a bang, but going into 2011 with paintbrushes blazing!
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Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Kat: Well, I guess if you don't enjoy custom realistic portraits, whimsical cartoons and murals, or creepy creature art, I am also a fabulous house cleaner!


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