I first saw Katalin’s work at the Handmade Market* and very quickly became an obsessive fan. Her woodland subjects have personality, whimsy, and folklore. Whether it be a crowned polar bear, a mouse playing fiddle, or a rabbit drinking tea, you can’t help but be drawn in by the wonder of them.
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
My name is Katalin Koos. I was born and raised in Hungary and moved to Canada 15 years ago. I’m a self-thought artist/illustrator with a huge love for photography, design, crafts and everything artsy.
I have always enjoyed drawing since I was a little girl. Both my parents and grandparents were very artsy and their artwork was displayed all over the house, so I was exposed to art-making early on. My mom taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider and sew and I spent my childhood days making clothes for my dolls, and I loved watching my dad while he painted portraits of dogs. However I grew up with the idea that art was just my hobby, and didn’t take it seriously until I moved to Canada.
At first I volunteered to paint murals for hospitals, woman shelters and daycare centers. I really enjoyed doing that, transforming empty walls into something magical (and I still do if I get the opportunity to take on a mural project). Then I decided to go back to college to study graphic design to further my knowledge and after graduating I started working full time as a graphic artist for a publishing company. But I realized my real passion is in painting and illustrating so I started focusing more on creating my own personal work and doing art and craft shows locally.
My love for creating art grew through the years and through continuous practice I learned more and more. I’ve never really been taught how to paint. It was self-discovery and painting is still a learning process for me. I always get excited when I try something new, and there’s still so much room for improvement and so much I would like to experiment with.
What inspires or influences you and your work?
My inspiration mainly comes from nature, animals, music and folk stories that I grew up with. I spent my childhood reading books with amazing illustrations and I still remember the feeling of wonder and awe when I looked at those. I think I try to recreate that feeling in my own work. My quirky animal characters are largely influenced by my culture’s folklore and children stories as well.
But really anything can spark an idea in my head like a word, or a song lyric, or even things that I see in my own backyard. Like the other day I captured a photo of a squirrel eating a big slice of pizza sitting on my fence. That will probably make it into a painting. I’m pretty fascinated with how closely you can observe wildlife in Canada.
I’m also obsessed with old instruments, especially violins, so they constantly show up in my paintings.
To me painting is like magic, it's like in a child's world where animals can talk and imaginary worlds come alive and anything can happen just like in folktales. Through my paintings I hope to engage the innate sense of wonder I believe is in everyone.
Tell us about your process. What’s your favourite part? Least favourite part?
My illustrations start with a desire to capture a story, feeling, or mood. I always listen to music while I paint and I think that influences my paintings as well. I don’t usually plan much ahead I just start with a quick sketch then I paint layers upon layers with my acrylics. It’s very meditative and I feel like I’m in my own world while painting.
I love the process from beginning to end but sometimes I get frustrated when I don’t have the time to work on a painting because usually I cannot wait to finish them. I have a few sketchbooks that are filled up with so many ideas and lists of things to paint that I can't get to yet.
Describe your workspace.
I don’t really have a designated workspace. I work from my living room at the moment. Sharing the space with my 3 year old has its challenges. Sometimes she starts drawing on my canvases to ‘help’. But it’s an easy fix so I really don’t mind. It’s fun to collaborate with my girls.
Where do you want to be in five to ten years (in art or life or both)?
Being a mom of three girls doesn’t leave much time for creating. I’m hoping I will have more time to do my art in the near future, and would like to transition from my daytime job to fully supporting myself with my art. I’m also planning on doing solo exhibits at galleries and learning new techniques. And hopefully I will have my own studio space in five years!
Why is handmade important?
Handmade items are more than just a product. There is soul and a whole lot of love, creativity and uniqueness in handmade. There’s so much care and love artisans put in handmade products and that comes through. I love handmade, and I buy handmade as often I can.
We have to embrace how things are made and where they come from. This keeps everyone more grounded and appreciative of things. And buying handmade is encouraging to continuing traditions. Everything used to be handmade and I think it’s important to support artisans so they can continue their craft and old traditions.
Where can we find or purchase your work?
I’m still in the process of setting up my Etsy shop, but I sell my art cards, prints and some originals locally at Craft Arts Market in downtown St. Catharines and I’m at the Handmade Market during the year.
My website/blog: artbykatalin.blogspot.com
*The Handmade Market is a travelling marketplace hosted by some of Niagara’s family-owned and operated wineries and produced by Jennifer and Mark Elliotson. Their fall show is only a few weeks away: September 18th & 19th at 13th Street Winery.