I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.- Vincent Van Gogh
The enchanting works of Katherine Cheng Franke, AKA /Snowmask seem to be consummated from her dreams. They are poetically executed with visionary concepts.
She is our first recepient of the Traditional Artist of the Month award, and has taken the time to share some of her thoughts in an interview.
You are talented in many forms of art, but you seem to have chosen traditional as your form. What about traditional art appeals to you?
I love that it's real, that it can be reached out and felt with more than just the visual senses. Every aspect plays a part in the viewing experience, including size. A 12-foot painting doesn't look 12-feet on a digital screen, nor as impressive.
And then there's all the tools and toys, the treasure trove of methods, the endless discovery.
Traditional Art poses challenges for me that when overcome produce the sweetest rewards.
How does the work of other artists affect your own work?
The various techniques and styles employed by other artists is what usually piques my interest. Painting is all about mastering colour, and giving every brush stroke a purpose. I like to learn from the triumphs - and failures - of others.
There are times where I am attracted to a highly original concept, however I am more inclined to do something different, rather than copy. Hence the phrase, "I wish I had thought of that.", because I would rather develop my own concept than adopt someone else's.
How has books and movies effected your work?
Good follow-up question!
I am deeply influenced by books and films. The way a well of thoughts can be tapped from the contemplation of a single phrase is tremendously powerful.
Film also deals a heavy impact, in that moving images choreographed to sounds and music play a heavy role in how my paintings are visualised.
I have a long and deep relationship with dance; my ideas come to me in the form of Synesthesia, a Fantasia of elements in motion, timed perfectly with whatever music I am feeding off of at the time. In the end I am tasked with capturing one still frame, translating that to the visceral world, as a painting.
Walk me through your routine, when creating a piece.
An emotion will strike me, and then I lose myself in thought, sometimes for days, weaving an image in my mind while visualising the actual painting process. It's a wonderful sensation, imagining a painting, painting itself.
When I am ready, I begin to draft. Not sketching, mind you. Once I am set on doing a painting, I take it seriously from the beginning. I am just so careless and uninterested when doodling mindlessly on paper. It is destructive for me; it makes me loathe what I am doing, and that is never a good place to start.
So I begin with what will be the final draft, on hot press paper. I love drawing on paper.
In the past, when I did large and elaborate watercolours, I would paint directly over the draft. Therefore none of the original drafts for these watercolour pieces were preserved.
Now, I am painting with oils. Every draft on paper is integrally preserved. They are transferred via tracing paper to whatever surface I choose to complete my painting, be it linen canvas, panel, or aluminium.
My drafts are quite highly detailed, so if there are too many lines to contend with, I have a local commercial printer assist me with printing my draft on tracing paper, thus eliminating a time-consuming process. I still need to transfer the draft myself; at least I am spared the tracing ordeal.
I sit and stare at my tubes of colour for a very long time, and nowadays with oils I do have to make little colour studies.
And then I begin, for however long a painting needs to be painted.
When I am done with the painting, I call up my carpenter, have him come over to look at the painting, and we both decide what frame should go with it. He would build the frame,
I would frame the painting, and then it is finished.
When I look at your Facebook page, you seem to be constantly updating it with new projects. How many pieces do you usually work on at the same time?
You are very observant!
It is only recently that I started working on multiple projects. In the past I worked on one painting at a time.
You are a very giving artist who dedicates a great deal of time supporting other artists in addition to working on your own pieces. How do you organize your time?
It is all a matter of habit. I have been socialising with artists over the internet for what will soon be a decade. I put aside perhaps 2 hours for keeping up to date with my fellow artists' newest creations and activities, and the rest of the day is devoted to my studio. When I am really engrossed in a painting, I would go for a couple of days without mingling online, and find some other time to catch up.
I paint in much shorter sessions now, while still making the most of my day. Staring at a surface illuminated by some 300 watts definitely takes a toll on me. I have to be careful not go blind and lame by the time I am 30.
In your opinion, does society play a role in what people create?
Most definitely, unless one lives life as a hermit. There are artists whose work are entirely plays on society. Social conditions affect our lives and thoughts in creeping ways. If they can escape in our daily speech, and alter our perceptions however slightly, then surely they can materialise in the way we create. For the most part, I think it is on the subconscious level.
What are your thoughts on Originality?
It is difficult to be entirely "original" now because so much of other people's creations affect our own. It is not a form of thievery, just the way ideas are planted. True "originality" stems from genuine intentions. When an artwork is birthed from real feeling, and made with care and thoughtfulness, the outcome is almost always palpable, thus rendering its nature as "unique". There is originality in that.
What do you try to communicate through your art?
Stories. Stories charged with emotions, highlighting our greatest strengths, and greatest weaknesses.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I am working on three oil paintings. Two are serious pieces, and one is a portrait study. The portrait has not been publicly shared, and actually needs to be redone because I got the colours wrong...
I definitely love her artworks alot! they're beautiful, unique in concept and approach. There's a sense of true artistic style when admiring Katherine's creations and i don't think i'm alone with saying that her pieces would fit on walls very nicely. As for Katherine herself, i greatly appreciate her dedication and efforts to SN and cherish the fact of having to get to known her a bit in these recent times. Thank you for your inspiration and don't cease with posting Keith's cooking on FB. /Martin
I've heard she has an extensive sock collection and that she paints gingerbread caterpillars on discarded TV dinner boxes - in tempera. /Kolaboy
I fell in love with her gallery, at first glance. I like the way she plays with colors. /Aki
A brilliant artist, sharp sense of humor and possesses the ability to bring out the best in people around her! /Hillbillydeluxe
Aug 10th, 2011
What a great interview!! Katherine is such a talented artist... one of the first artists that stuck out at me when I joined SN, actually. Really great to learn her process for her work and some of her brilliant thoughts.