Interview: Katherine Corden
Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself?
My husband Dave and I are currently living in Madison, Wisconsin as he pursues his residency in orthopedic physical therapy. I’m working part-time as a physical therapist and part-time as a fine artist. We got married this past August and are taking our honeymoon this June to Italy! Once we return we’re planning to move back to Michigan – should be a pretty busy summer!
A little about my art background though…
I grew up in a very creative household. My mom teaches art and my dad is also extremely creative. My mom stayed home with my sister and I until my younger sister was five, and it was very natural for her to keep us busy with art supplies and activities.
Throughout school, art class was by far my favorite. Both my parents and art teachers recognized my affinity for art pretty early on and encouraged me to enter local art contests and to take on extra creative projects outside of school.
I’ve always felt lucky that we grew up in such an encouraging environment for creativity. My parents brought my sister and I along on all of their travels and introduced us to different cultures, histories and fine art. They also included us in their many home renovations and design decisions, teaching us the importance of creating a space that you look forward to returning.
We grew up in homes that were very layered, cozy and welcoming. I learned how art and design serve to complement the life and love in a home. Now when I create art, I always keep interiors in mind. I’m very aware that my work is going to be joining someone else’s home environment and I keep pushing my paint until I would be proud to hang the piece in our own home.
Your art has a wonderful and earthy feel to it. Can you tell me a little bit about what inspires your paintings?
I was born and raised in southeast Michigan, but my family spent our summers and many weekends retreating to the calm of northern Michigan near the Leelanau Peninsula. Between my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, they own five houses within a quarter mile radius of each other. Summers up there were very much out of a story book and this past summer my husband and I tied the knot in that little beach town.
I grew up with Lake Michigan but as I mentioned was also fortunate to travel a lot with my family growing up. I think those early experiences very much inform my perspective and style of painting. However, inspiration finds me in unexpected places – in the shower, visiting a new place, in a coffee shop, on a run… I think it’s those moments when you’re able to quiet your mind and get to a meditative state where true original thoughts can finally show up!
Since you turned your art into a business, what is something you have learned?
That you have to get comfortable leaning into something that isn’t necessarily popular. You can’t try to replicate something that’s already been done because we’ve all seen it already. It takes time to develop your style as an artist and it’s okay to scrap something – art is not precious. You don’t have to try and sell everything you make; it’s all part of the process and the practice.
You are very open about the business of being a creative, which I love, what prompted you to be so transparent?
I didn’t go to art school – I actually graduated high school at the peak of the recession in 2009 so I decided to go to the University of Michigan and I started on a track towards physical therapy. I then attended Northwestern University in Chicago where I earned my doctorate in physical therapy.
When I started pursuing art on the side of my physical therapy job, I had no idea how to manage the business side of my work. At the time I wasn’t too concerned about it because art was more of a fun thing on the side of my full time job. However, as I slowly started receiving more attention and positive feedback, I realized if I wanted this passion to continue growing I had to figure out what I was doing!
I learned from speaking with other artist friends that I didn’t miss out on any creative business strategy in art school – as it turns out they don’t teach any business skills there either.
It took me a lot of trial & error, asking questions, networking and investing in continuing education for me to get to where I am today with business management – and I’m constantly learning more. I try to be transparent about my journey and pay it forward whenever I can. So many women and artists ahead of me have helped me out and I’ve really enjoyed sharing what I can.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Pour over coffee made by my super sweet husband Dave!
Do you have advice for girls growing up today?
Be yourself. Practice self-awareness, and then practice being your best self. I think I understand this and get a little better at it every year, but I’m constantly working on it.
Do you have any female figures that you look up to? (real or fiction)
SO many! Gosh. I think my favorite people to look up to are women that I know or have met in real life – those are the lives that are most relatable to me.
I’m so proud to share a gene pool with my grandma, mom and sister.
My senior year of college I lived with the most stellar group of 9 women. We are planning a reunion to Austin, Texas this May and I can’t wait for the gang to get back together. Amongst us there are so many talents.
I think the coolest thing about our friendship is how well we encourage and support each other. We all have pursued a wide variety of life paths and frequently brag about each other’s adventures and accomplishments. Even though we might not all live in the same state, knowing we have each other’s backs has made those big life changes - whether it be moves, break-ups or new jobs - easier to navigate with confidence and security.