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Artist of the Week: Katie Johnson

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists and we want to showcase their work on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

We knew she was talented, but after reading her answers - she's also hilarious! Ladies and gents; Bellingham's own Katie Johnson...

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Katie Johnson: I’ve been drawing since I can remember. I drew anything from 2D waterfalls that mimicked Super Mario Bros. 2 (...pre-elementary school) to drawing portraits of the Malloy Brothers from Surfer Magazine (this was high school) and then eventually graduating with B.A. in Art Studio from Western Washington University in Bellingham. The two mediums I continue to work with is oil painting and then ink and color pencil for my illustrations.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
For the illustrated portraits I work from a photograph. Using the photograph as a reference I draw an underdrawing that maps anatomical features, light, and shadow. Then I ink over the underdrawing. Sometimes I include reference lines just to add a rhythm and/or a halt in flow of the image. After that I start coloring selected shapes with color pencils. I’m still referencing the photograph and light source. When I’m in the process it feels like a game of Sudoku.

The painted portraits are not as formulated as the illustrations. I tend to paint what brings me joy; be it friends mid-conversation, or quirky celebrities like Angela Lansbury, Jason Alexander, and Walter Matthau. The photographs I’m working from is a tool like a map or grid in which I can paint from. From there it’s a constant play of adding and subtracting marks that builds these pert characters from the canvas. The goal is for the viewer to see the painting and the subject at the same time.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
Other artists I respond to and observing their craft. And people. Whether it be the craft brewing industry/community I work with, friends that I’ve connected with, or the entertainer that brings me joy. I want to mirror the life I see.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I read this question and my head goes all over the place - answers flashing like the Las Vegas Strip. I like too many! So to aid this question I will answer it literally, and that would be the smooth beats of Michael McDonald. What a gem.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
The works of my own that I look at most tend be in sketchbooks or in the margins of notebooks. I have this 10 minute heavy handed sketch I drew of David Hockney - the medium is ink and oil pastel. I erased the image like an Alberto Giacometti painting and then re-inked half of the image- which were a few hard lines referencing glasses, a hairline, and a jaw line over hues of erased gesture marks and values of what was one of my favorite painters.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Honestly, studying under Kimberly Trowbridge and Cynthia Camlin. Both having two different approaches to painting. Kimberly Trowbridge had such an intoxicating and energetic style of teaching - much like herself. You couldn’t help but be consumed by assignments. Deriving every bit of visual information creating flow, rhythm, balance, intersections. She helped me to see. And then with Cynthia - Cynthia taught me to edit. What’s important? Why is it important? What is excess noise? Is excess noise important?

It’s been fulfilling as it has been discouraging, but the more work I produce I have a better understanding of what I’m doing as a painter and illustrator. It’s been encouraging to see successful moments and use them in the next line of works. The experience is most of the time is just making the

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
My website! I’ve continuously shown art in breweries and restaurants in Bellingham and the Portland area. I’ve also been featured on the cover of What's Up! Magazine and have been recently featured as The Spotlight Artist in February’s issue of Bellingham Alive Magazine. You can also follow me at ktjstudio on instagram.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I’m currently drawing 60+ portraits of the Bellingham beer community and will be printing a deck of cards to be sold around town. The project is called The Bellingham Brew Deck, which is a double entendre! A brew deck is a platform on which a brewer stands next to the kettle to brew beer.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee?
With a comedian in a car. Can you make this happen?