Katrina Wallis-King
Artists & Illustrators|October 2021
The newly-elected Pastel Society member tells STEVE PILL how bird nests, CBT training and willow charcoal have all played a part in her atmospheric mixed media art
STEVE PILL

Katrina was born in Windsor in 1963 and raised in Norway. She completed a BA in Archaeology at University College London and spent a year studying art at the SACI College of Art and Design in Florence.

Alongside her later career as a counsellor, Katrina continued to paint and make prints in her free time, before making the decision to devote more time to her art in 2018. Now based in Bath, Somerset, she was elected to the Pastel Society this summer, after being selected for its last three annual exhibitions. www.katrinawallisking.art

How did you first develop your affinity with the landscape?

My mother is Norwegian, so I grew up there. I’ve got childhood memories of skiing, swimming in the fjords, going out hiking and all the different seasons of the year, so that obviously left an impression on me.

When did art become a more serious pursuit for you?

It wasn’t until more recently. In 2018, I was at a crossroads in life: I was in my mid-50s and I had a reasonable talent for art, but I’d never paid enough attention to it.

I’d dipped in and out of life drawing classes for years. I would do one a year, which doesn’t sound a lot, but it is when you’re working. Whenever I did one, I was in seventh heaven. I was working in drug and alcohol services, helping people reconnect with all the things that matter to them, things that would give value to their lives, and I suddenly thought: “Hang on, Katrina – what about you?”

I decided I’ve got one life and I was going to give my art a go. I went off to a pastels workshop in deepest, darkest Devon. It felt like a profound experience for me. I was up close and personal to a live artist and I thought: “Hey, that could be me one day”.

Was there a sense you had found your medium with pastels?

Yes, pastels and charcoal as well, just because I always love drawing. They are the things I pick up most naturally. I’m really pleased I have stuck with pastels over the last two to three years, because actually I’ve found out much more about the medium. My drawing has got better and my use of colour.

Ok so what goes down first?

Firstly, I should say that nearly every subject I paint is somewhere I’ve visited and that matters to me. I will go with my sketchbook and my iPad camera to take references, then I will come home and draw a thumbnail to see if the composition works, before I upsize to what I hope to be the finished piece.

I work on gesso-primed mountboard generally, sometimes wooden board, and I break up the starkness of the white background with dilute acrylic.

Sometimes I want a certain colour to set the tone for the composition and sometimes it doesn’t really matter – it can be any colours that get splashed on just for the energy and process of breaking up the white so it’s not so scary. I might also distress the support’s surface, scratching where I know I also want to show drawn texture later.

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