Author: ZAPP Team
Date: January 13, 2014
This is part of a series of posts highlighting the art fair and festival industry. Know someone we should talk to? Email your suggestions!
Creative Conversations: An interview with mixed media artist Kathrine Allen-Coleman
Kathrine Allen-Coleman is a mixed media artist originally from Victoria, B.C., Canada, who now lives in Georgia. She has been doing art shows in America since 1998 and has also exhibited with her husband, painter R. Scott Coleman, at many events over the years. See more of her work at dresspaintings.blogspot.com
Over the summer, ZAPP intern Anna Charney spoke with Allen-Coleman about her evolution as an artist, her process, and overall experience in the art fairs industry.
ZAPP: How long have you been a working artist? What did you do before art fairs, and what brought you into the field of fairs and festivals?
Allen-Coleman: I have always wanted to be an artist, but I did have a few other jobs before I really was able to get my feet on the ground. Fortunately, they were mostly jobs that helped hone helpful skills. Newspaper photographer, picture framer, theatre techie, graphic designer. And a long stint at an art supply store (employee discounts!)
I learned about art fairs from my husband [R. Scott Coleman] who had been doing them for years. I did my first art fair with him the month we married, it’s been almost 15 years of shows since then. My first “on the road” show was at Power’s Crossroads in Newnan, GA. Scott and I shared a booth. And I think we both won an award.
ZAPP: Why did you move from Canada to America and how has that affected your life as an artist?
Allen-Coleman: Canada doesn’t have the same kinds of outdoor festivals. Artists [in Canada] rely much more on galleries. When I met Scott, he was an art fair artist and had a good client base. It only made sense to hitch my wagon to his star. It’s been a good star.
ZAPP: What is your educational background in the arts?
Allen-Coleman: I have an Associate of Arts from a small college where I was born in Victoria, B.C. I later attended numerous workshops with well respected artists in Victoria. But time spent working and dozens of bad paintings are the best teacher. To elaborate, I like the concept of 100 bad paintings. Where you need to paint at least 100 before they start getting good. Paint, and paint, and make stuff. And as far as teachers go, I started with a fabulous art teacher in middle school who made all the difference in the world. He stayed late with me and taught me how to develop film, throw pots, and he was the one who first introduced me to linoleum block printing. He also got me my first job in a pottery studio. He got me firmly planted in my path. But there have been hundreds of teachers since then, from those I attended classes with to the other artists on the street who teach me something every show.
ZAPP: How did you originally come up with your two main bodies of work, the (Elle)ements and dress paintings? What made you stick to these bodies of work and what is the process like? What inspirations do you get your ideas from?
Allen-Coleman: The dress series evolved as a way to tell stories from the perspective of a girl or woman. I stuck to this body of work because it was unusual and gives me a lot of leeway to experiment within the parameters of a dress on canvas. Acrylic paint, linoleum block prints, photography and stitching have all been a part of this work. The (Elle)ement series sort of spun off the dress series, with the linoleum block prints that I use on the big pieces becoming pieces on their own. My ideas come from memory, social norms and expectations and out of thin air.
“The Swimmer,” copyright Kathrine Allen-Coleman.
ZAPP: What is your studio like? Is it shared with your husband?
Allen-Coleman: Scott and I built a studio in our backyard. The commute is wonderful. Now, Scott and I share the studio, but I am slowly and methodically taking over the whole thing. An addition is in the forecast. It is a 20 square foot building with a loft, French doors and an entire wall of windows. Like our house, many of the pieces were salvaged. It is a work in progress.
There are many reasons why being married to a fellow artist is great, aside from understanding each others quirks. We both have a built-in assistant and often will help each other frame, offer advice, even work on each others pieces in a crunch. I did some of the work on Scott’s cupcake series, for example, and he has designed patterns for some of my pieces.
ZAPP: What has been your favorite or most encouraging experience at an art show? What made you choose fairs over galleries or museums?
Allen-Coleman: I have many favorite experiences, but I think the general camaraderie of art show artists is my favorite thing. Good neighbors turn into great friends. And solo traveling becomes random get-togethers and fun. There is always someone to lend a hand, and a friend on the road.
Galleries are fine, but I enjoy meeting my patrons and having a personal connection with folks who collect my work. A funny story is at least 13 years ago I was at the Dogwood festival in Atlanta and a gentleman came into my booth and bought a reductive linoblock print I called “The Good China.” I was so pleased because it was one of my more expensive pieces and the fellow said he was a graphic designer. I sold to a graphic designer in the big city of Atlanta! Just this spring I was next to a potter at a show, we became fast friends. Near the end of the show he asked if I’d ever done a piece called “The Good China,” he was the same graphic designer turned potter from years ago. He recognized just enough similarity in my work to make the connection. And I have one of his teapots in my collection now.
ZAPP: How do you plan out your schedule every year?
Allen-Coleman: I plan my schedule by applying to all my favorite shows and waiting to see what falls together. This has been a terrific year. Hopefully the good luck will carry on next year!
ZAPP: As an artist who has been exhibiting in fairs and festivals for several years, what are some trends and shifts that you have witnessed in this business? What do you see for the future of the industry?
Allen-Coleman: I am always learning something new. The economy of late has taken a toll on art fair artists, but it feels like things are turning around again.
I hope the industry keeps on going. The big outdoor professional art fair is definitely an American experience. A good way for artists to break into the market and climb to the better and better shows. I think over saturation of markets is an issue. Too many shows lessens the buzz of the events. Florida is an example of a place where many shows happen every weekend. The public just gets less interested.
Two of Allen-Coleman’s dress paintings, from left to right: “Do Good” and “Black Sheep,” both images copyright Kathrine Allen-Coleman.
ZAPP: If you could have given one piece of advice to yourself five years back, what would it be? Any advice that you would like to share with emerging artists that are just joining the industry?
Allen-Coleman: Don’t quit, concentrate on making better work. Form friendships on the road. Be nice. your neighbors are a great source of inspiration, information and kindness.
–By Anna Charney
Anna Charney studies studio painting and drawing at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She is a Denver native and decided to spend her 2013 summer back at home hanging around the ZAPP offices as an intern to learn about the arts festival business. While they share a last name and an excellent fashion sense, she is not related to ZAPP’s managing director, Leah Charney. You can see her artist’s gallery at www.annacharneyart.com.