When I first encountered Kate Adams‘ art, I immediately thought of Lord of the Rings and the novels of R. A. Salvatore (some of my favorites). The work reminded me of medieval times and conveyed a sense of adventure, of mystery, and of strength.
Other Cool Birds: Young Adult author, Jacqueline Woodson says that writers tend to focus on the time in their lives they’re still working through. Is there an element of truth to Woodson’s claim as it relates to Visual Artists (or to your work)? If so, how?
Kate Adams: I think I can relate in some ways to what Jacqueline Woodson is saying. Though my work doesn’t always represent a certain time or character like a young adult novel would, there are certain themes present in my art that I’ve wrestled with from a young age.
For example, I used to have a lot of anxiety about growing up and facing new challenges. As we get older, we learn to live with that fear, to not let it stop us. Still, probably as a subconscious result of these anxieties, my work often has an underlying sense of danger or mystery, like something could happen at any moment to disturb the calm. Woodson calls it “working through,” but I think it’s more about acknowledging it and turning it into a point of connection. When a little bit of that unease seeps into my work, it adds a sense of tension and emotional gravity to the art. Viewers can latch onto that on a deeper level because it’s something we all experience.
OCB: What are you painting or creating art for (as in, what is the deep-down driving force behind your choice to paint in the first place)? What is it about the act of drawing or painting or illustrating that speaks to you or resonates with you most?
Kate: I find peace in the process of creating a world of my own, and making it convincing enough to viewers that they get drawn into that world, too. Working as I do with a very strong loyalty to realism, observation, and detail makes the process all the more immersive. As I work, I feel like what I’m creating could actually exist, like there’s more to the world around us than we can see or touch. I want viewers to feel that same wonder when they look at my work. By making it so life-like, I hope to capture viewers’ imaginations and inspire them to see a different kind of reality.
OCB: What technique did you use to create “Star-Crossed,” and/or “Awaken?”
Kate: I typically work in scratchboard, which is a white clayboard that’s been covered in ink. I slowly build up highlights and midtones by etching white lines into the black surface with a knife. It’s a slow process, but I enjoy the amount of control I have over each mark, and the progression from dark to light gives the final work a really luminous effect.
OCB: Since you illustrate books for young readers, did you have a favorite illustration or illustrator when you were young (or now)? If so, why?
Kate: I remember reading these very dream-like fantasy books by Patricia A. McKillip that were illustrated by Kinuko Y. Craft. Craft’s cover illustrations were such a huge inspiration to me as a young artist. They looked like renaissance paintings, but more surreal and rich with tiny details from the narrative. At that time I already loved drawing and telling stories visually, but Craft opened my eyes to the possibilities of illustration. Her paintings always felt so separate from the modern world and even from history, like they existed only in the world of the story. That timeless and imaginative quality is something that I still strive for in my own work.