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Inside the Studio: Kate Maura

Toronto based artist Kate Maura is utilizing both the latest technology and traditional forms of art to transform the way we see art. In 2019, Maura earned her BFA from OCADU. Additionally, Maura’s work was involved in Mackenzie Investments Foyer for Inclusive Spaces and Project 31.

During COVID, Maura was teaching Plein-Air painting by the lake, when inspiration landed on her, in the form of a butterfly. Her new series, inspired by the fluttering forms and movements, which she found so mesmerizing, is entitled “On a Cloudy Day.” Maura was drawn to the kaleidoscopic effect created when the butterflies hovered around her. Inspired by the metaphor of transformation, Maura created her multimedia images.

Maura’s process, which she calls synthesis art, includes plein-air drawing from observation and sketching the world around her. Then, she sketches digitally on the iPad, layering abstracted wing-like forms to recreate the ephemeral fleeting moment as the butterflies take flight. This image she prints on canvas. To complete her images, she paints in acrylic over the digital work.

Taking daily walks around Lake Ontario, where she lives, Maura and her dog Clooney experience the beauty of the morning mist. This inspiration creeps into Maura’s images. Additionally, Maura’s Irish Heritage and her yearly trips to Barna, near Galway, inspire her work. Maura finds colors for her mixed media images in nature such as water, sky, clouds, flowers or rocks. Maura creates beautiful images in order to focus on the beauty that surrounds us.

I was able to catch up with Maura and ask her a few questions about her process and her art. Read on to find out what Maura has to say about the role of color in her art.

Kate Maura, Clarity of Light, 2022, Gallery Wrapped Mixed Media, 20 x 20 inches

The butterfly has become your muse. Can you describe how that came to be or what you find so inspiring about them?

Yes, the butterfly, I learned after researching this creature, is a metaphor of transformation and crossing into other worlds. Not surprising as it changes dramatically from a cocooned caterpillar into a flying insect.

The butterfly kept coming to me while I was teaching a plein air drawing class and I was fascinated with its movements, the unusual forms it made in little groups and its beauty. I like these abstracted shapes; they feel beautiful and other worldly. I draw the butterfly taking quick sketches. It was so fun to observe. I overlap them too. The approach while sketching is like in real life drawing studios. I used to assist teaching in those classes at OCADU after I graduated. I really enjoyed that challenge of capturing the essence of forms within 20-30 seconds.

The imagery I began to enjoy creating as it was not subjective, it was purely capturing these fleeting moments of beauty in which I felt transformed, immersed and engrossed by nature. As a kid we had a farm and many chores to do. I remember escaping to a spot way up the hill under a tree just to relax and be, enjoying the beauty of all the land and finding a calmness there that was very comforting. I do feel the need to be in nature every day. On a personal level I have gone through tremendous change in my life over the past 7 years, and so on many levels I connect to the butterfly.

Here is one other connection I felt to the butterfly in relation to its movements. I danced classical ballet for 12 years and when they flutter, I see this like a dance. I think some of my abstracted imagery, at times, has a figurative sense like a dancer in motion.

How do you create your artworks?

I create my artwork starting with plein air drawing and connect to that space with all of my senses. It takes some time to really get into the space and allow your senses to respond on paper, feeling the energy all around. It’s a heightened, beautiful feeling. Things happen when you’re drawing plein air. I bring pencils and colored pencils. It is the whole immersive experience I’m interested in as well as the butterfly which exists within these spaces. I also follow it, taking photos and videos. I will sit and draw when they are engrossed within a garden space and there are several around, they linger for quite a while. It can be several hours because they fly between different gardens and return again and again.

It is then onto digital where I cross another world and bring my sketches there to play. This is not in sequence of my day. It is the sequence of the elements though of the artwork. I layer the drawings which create a sense of movement. I play with opacity as a visual language to speak to the ephemeral and informed by the colors from the space.

Then these digital files are sent to print on canvas. Once printed I paint overtop, finding new ways of seeing and responding from memory and from another point of view. It is the process in itself that captures transformation of the original sketches. I’m using both traditional and contemporary ways of making which speaks to how we transform as humans. Learning about our history and new ways of seeing brings a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we can get better.

Where are places that you find yourself working often? Do you have a studio?

I do have a studio where I play with my initial sketches, I cut them out and create little 3D collage drawings, getting me warmed up. I’ll read some poetry by John Odonohue or other Irish poets connecting to my roots and books from my late father’s library and then I’ll sit in my family room and get into my iPad and play on it with the sketches. This is always in the morning and by noon I’m done. I walk with my puppy Clooney later and that’s when I’ll draw in butterfly season. I will also visit the printer to pick-up works in the afternoon. The painting also happens in the morning if I have work ready from the printer. I really enjoy working in the morning when my mind is clear and can be lost in creative play. I also enjoy working on different things. I move into where I am drawn to work. It’s not methodical or sequential, it’s how I feel or what I wish to do.

What role does color play in your works?

Color is so important and really affects one’s mood. I seem to find the cabbage white butterfly all around this area where I live, and I’ve learned how calming white can be. That’s the feeling I get when I’m immersed in nature, so white is important in the work. The other colors are informed by the place within my digital play, so from memory of the flowers, sky, or the lake. Sometimes, once I am painting, depending on recent experiences, I might push more of certain colors already there. I’ve transformed them with new experiences since drawing plein air. So, in a way it’s not just about the first location where I was drawing, I also incorporate how I’ve changed since then and how I’m seeing the work with new eyes.

What does a day in your life look like when you are creating and when you are not?

If I’m not making in the studio or on my couch, I’m inspired by so many other things. I’m always gathering ideas from reading, imagery I find on a billboard or a leaf or shadow shapes, it’s endless. I’m taking photos all the time and affected by everything. It subconsciously goes into the work.

I so enjoy the beauty of the everyday that surrounds us. It’s infinite and I am so open to notice. I feel continually amazed and in wonder of the beauty that surrounds us in the smallest of things you know. I am still in touch with myself as a kid escaping from chores sitting under that tree.

Who has been a mentor in your life? Who do you hope to be a mentor for?

I’ve had so many wonderful mentors in my life from professors at college in Alberta and OCADU in TO, to my classmates and friends and family. I feel in a way we are all mentors to each other. We can all learn something from the people we meet. Though I think my father was the one who really influenced me the most as a mentor. He encouraged me always to find what I’m passionate about and to devote myself and give the time to keep learning and improving and keep going to see how far I can take things. I think encouragement is the best gift to give as a mentor. I do hope I do that for others that come into my life.

What projects or shows are upcoming for you? How do you think your art will evolve in the future?

How my work evolves will depend on my experiences as I move through my life, as it unfolds so it’s not anything planned, it will be based on what I’ll be drawn to or interested in at any moment in time. It’s fluid and unpredictable, such is life.

My upcoming shows are, after Aqua in Miami, I’ll be at The Artist Project in Toronto. Then, I hope to be in the Hamptons in the summer 2023 and Clio Art Fair in Sept 2023. Fingers crossed. Who knows what else might present itself, I’m open to it.

Maura’s work can be purchased through Alessandro Berni Gallery here.


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