Katie Stromlund 1 of 2 featured artists

The work of Katie Stromlund. Photo provided

The work of Katie Stromlund. Photo provided

We’re barreling down on yet another gallery show at the ArtWorks Center, and Katie Stromlund is one of two artists featured starting April 8. Katie has been an artist at our ArtWorks Festival in the past, and brings her initial background as an art major as well as her ultimate Bachelor’s of Science in Interior Design to each piece, marrying her passion for the latter with her practice of the former. The art she creates is illustrative, approachable, and striking, and we’re thrilled to be showcasing her work here at the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street.

Read on to find out more about Katie’s process, background, and why she paints the things she’s afraid of.

Grace Heimsness: You started off in college as an art major, but switched to a BS in Interior Design. Was there a sort of “aha” moment that made you switch, or how did that decision happen?

Katie Stromlund: In high school I took all the art classes that I could. At the suggestion of my art teacher, I toured the Minnesota State University, Moorhead’s Art Department and fell in love with it. During my sophomore year there, I was working very part-time at a wallpaper studio, and found I really enjoyed consulting in that capacity. I decided that interior design felt more like my calling. So, I transferred to NDSU’s Interior Design program and finished my college experience there.

GH: How do you choose your subjects?

KS: I enjoy painting things from nature. Trees, skies, creatures, flowers, fruit. Sometimes I’ll paint things that I imagine for a nursery or children’s room. Often, though, those are the pieces that adults gravitate towards – a giant whale to hang above the sofa, or a sassy fox for the foyer. Sort of ironic and ridiculous and great.

GH: Your style is really striking, and I found myself stopping over and over to linger at your booth at last year’s ArtWorks Festival. How would you describe the way you approach a canvas, and did that style develop organically or as a result of your training in college?

KS: Thank you! How do I approach a canvas? You know, I’m not necessarily very thoughtful about it– I’d describe my style of creativity as manic plus therapy plus song-sometimes-dance. The way I position things on the canvas has a lot to do with the principles of design I learned in school. I like pretty things, but I also like weird and random things. I think my art sort of reflects that.

GH: Have you always been mindful of your ecological footprint while painting? How did you arrive at the decision to use repurposed frames, and do you make them yourself?

KS: In college, I sat through a seminar about the green movement and the ways the building and design industries were trying to become more mindful about the environment. I don’t remember the statistics but I remember how horrified I felt about the amount of carpet alone that was being discarded annually in the name of aesthetics. That horror stayed with me. When I first started painting, I scavenged my home for things to repurpose into canvas. My husband had a stack of 2x4s that had been salvaged from an old building that he turned into the frames and I found some old table cloths and curtains that I stretched over them as the canvas. It worked so well that it’s what we’ve been doing since.

GH: Was there ever a moment when you thought you were “done” with art? As a writer I’ve gone through several of those periods, and I know a lot of artists, regardless of medium, do as well. If so, how and why did you pick it back up?

KS: Ha! Yes, I’m done with painting every few months. But I can’t ever stop for long, a week or two, tops. It’s a creative outlet that I need, and the best therapy ever.

GH: When you start a piece and are working on it, are you thinking at all about how the viewer will approach it? Do you have a specific audience in mind, or are you creating for yourself?

KS: I usually paint for myself. Things that I would hang in my own house, in my kids’ rooms. Sometimes, I’ll paint things I’m afraid of – like birds, rabbits or moths. Sometimes it helps to see things in a different light.

Celebrate the Stromlund/Hamilton Gallery Opening with us at 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday.

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