Thursday, November 23, 2006

Art Space Talk: Kathy Ostman-Magnusen

I recently interview artist Kathy Ostman-Magnusen. Kathy is highly skilled artist who has worked in a variety of styles. She utilizes many techniques to create her images. Her work is marked by a bold use of color and a real sense of line and composition.

The majority of Kathy's work is highly focused on the female figure and identity. She captures the daily lives, fears, and desires of women with her work The end result is a collection of images that reveal the strength and sexuality of womanhood.

Kathy is also interested in the mystical side of life. Thus, she paints images of angels, mermaids, and fairies. Her goal is to give life to these creatures through her work. These works often convey a message of spirituality to the viewer. The artist and her creations share one soul.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "Several years back I worked at a craft co-op in Santa Barbara. It was the first time I realized that there was real money to be had doing crafts. There was a potter in the co-op who was making consistent sales. My ex husband made me a wheel, we took an Adult Ed night class and learned how to throw. After about the 6th class, during a question and answer session, my ex announced that we were going to make our living doing pottery. The whole room grew dead silent and everyone looked at him stunned with their mouths open...iINCLUDING ME!

We did in fact quit our jobs some 6 months later, moved to the mountains in N. California and did just that.

I just want to interject however that I don't consider the 'production' of anything as art, rather a craft that stems from art."
Q.How has creating art shaped you professionally and personally?

A. "The souvenir pottery business gave me a lot of know how. One small step at a time while asking A LOT of questions along the way gave me a wonderful education and confidence.

Production pottery, production anything for that matter, is a soul robber. While I gained marketing tools and learned that to achieve my goals I needed to be a self starter, I also realized that money can turn someone into a machine. I painted during all of that time but I did not feel the freedom of expression I have found since I walked away from that business.

Marketing something that is mass produced, even though completely hand made is easier to handle than marketing art, from the heart. You take it pretty personally if someone rejects your soul on canvas. I find myself vulnerable to criticism but because my goal is also marketing my art I accept it. I want my work to get better and criticism is a part of that. I might cry and feel pathetic for a few days but then I press forward. I think I am a more balanced and centered person because of art. I AM also pretty spacie at times but as an artist but I don' apologize for that, it is just me going within."
Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "Several years ago I was at a crafts fair with my pottery. I had two of my paintings there that I was delivering to a nearby gallery. These paintings were from my "Erotica Series". This series really does not show anything that might offend anyone except for the expression on the face or the setting, i.e. one of my pieces is "Lap Dancer", yet she has her hands over her breasts. The paintings at that show were much tamer than that though. A man came up to me quite upset and wanted me to take the paintings away. I asked him, "Why?" What did he think he was seeing? He had no answer because he was only seeing the suggestion of what he felt was wrong. He became very flustered and walked away. I must confess I kind of got off by toying with him, but that is not the reason I paint my "Erotica Series". I continue adding work to that series because I paint women in all contexts and scenarios and I just don't think sex is a bad thing.

I have many ongoing series; Hawaiian; African; Cosmopolitan; Fairy's and Mermaids; etc. My ethnic paintings have social relevance because history vrs.society is implicated by the subjects expression and attire. An example of this is many of my Hawaiian paintings are taken from historical photos during a very dark period for Hawaiians. They lost their land, their Queen and their culture in one clean sweep. Their faces reflect the emotions that anyone would feel under such oppression. I paint my African Series in a different context. My goal in that series is to paint triumph, pride and strength. My mermaids and fairy's convey the hope for magic that we all long for. I just think we are multi dimensional and should not limit our thinking. We have all struggled in one way or another and should try to relate in some way to others in their sorrow or fresh awakening to fantasy."

Q. What are your artistic influences? Has anyone inspired you?

A. "Gustav Klimt, I have a series called "In Search of Klimt". I have tons of books that go on sale at Borders or wherever. Da Vinci and Michelangelo live in my house along with all the impressionists. I comb emotional content from anything I see including children's drawings. Art is everywhere and in everything. If a child or even an adult comes to me with a ball point pen drawing there is redemption in it and I look for that. When I find it, I find their heart and mine.

My husband has inspired me a lot because he believes in me and encourages me to create. I have a few friends like my friend and web-master Carrie who encourage and believe in me as well. They aspire to inspire and their gift to me is remarkable."
Q. Tell me a little about your background. Are your past experiences reflected in the work you do today? If so, how?

A. "I am a self taught figurative artist and illustrator. I believe that talent is passion and desire and the rest is practice. I also feel that anything can be learned from a book and inspiration is found even in a fallen leaf.

As I already said I owned and operated my own souvenir pottery business in Northern California. I had eight contracted workers and one full time shipper. Products were created, hand sculpt, wheel thrown and personalized to meet each clients specific needs. My company shipped to most National Parks, Disney World, J C Penny and over 1000 specialty shops all over the US. After 20 years in the souvenir business I decided to focus on her painting and sculpting."

Q. How long have you been a working artist?

A. "When I was a little girl I actually peddled my work to neighbors. I have memories of charging my mothers friends a nickel for my theater shows and art lessons for their children.

A true marketing sense came to play when I had my pottery business though."
Q. If you could pinpoint the characteristics of people who collect your art, what would they be?

A. "I think they relate to my passion. We seem to long for the same rainbow or dream."

Q. Discuss one of your pieces. What were you thinking when you created it?

A. "Anticipation" 36x24 oil on canvas, dated, Sept. 1998 part of my "Passion Series" was actually a breakthrough piece for me. I had been painting my "Victorian Series" for months, spending hours on modulating the colors. I paint a lot from photos. My goal with the "Victorian Series" was to put in as many colors in the skin tone as I could. Looking at a photo or life long enough a lot of colors begin to show themselves that normally go unnoticed. Modulating many colors I became frustrated and board after finishing 10 or so of them. I had a canvas that I had painted a dark blue and decided that maybe it would be ok to just play.....and not modulate at all. I found a picture that I liked, studied the colors, filled my brush a fresh for each stroke and applied them to my canvas. I have not modulated since. I continued painting with this color palette naming the series "The Passion Series". I still tried to fit every color in the rainbow on my palette as I do to this day adding small nuances wherever I can. I would add here too that the series before "The Passion Series" was "Hawaiian Legacy" which is predominantly done in sepia, tones."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "I use oils mostly because I think they demand more respect . I love new things and being versatile so I play around with many mediums; clay and metals; watercolors; silk; sand blasting and chemical glass etching and acrylics."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how has it helped your art career?

A. "I continue to attend "The School of Possibilities"."

Q. If you have a degree, how influential was the school where you studied?

A. "I have taken very few classes. I took art in High School but was not considered to be noteworthy in any way. I never actually learned anything there. High! I took a sculpture class at a Jr. College that I loved. I learned how to make a great patina in that class."
Q.Where can we see more of your art?

A. "My website:

Monkdoogz Urban Art
547 West 27th Street
New York, NY

Morris Library
UC Berkley, CA.

Wailoa Center
Wailoa State Park
Hilo, Hawaii

Makana Lani
116 Kamehameha Ave.
hilo, Hawaii

Aloha Outpost
Pahoa, Hawaii"
Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "The above are all ongoing except for Monkdogz Urban Art. I have a show coming up there early 2007."

Q. What galleries have you exhibited in? Can you provide links to their sites?

A. "I have been in a whole slew of different galleries that have taught me different things. One being get it on paper! Another being keep in contact with the gallery owner, they may just disappear one day with all of your paintings."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "I see more and more passion especially on My Space. I am in awe of some of the artists on My Space and feel my passion validated by them. People seem to be into more color."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A. "It all depends on where your heart is. You can create business around anything that you love and believe in. You have to believe in yourself. You have to decide when you wake up in the morning that every part of you is about art and you have to act on that. There is no such thing as writers or painters block and you need to accept that. It is all about passion and pressing forward and getting better. Notice your competition but connect with who you are 'more'. Play! Have fun with your gift because it is just that, a gift."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "Oh yeah! It still is. I have tons of paintings that, ' where are ya gonna put them?' You still have to paint or sculpt them though or you will stunt your emotional growth as an artist and human being for that matter. I have private showings for some of my "Erotica Series" Monkdogz Urban Art has and will again show my "Lap Dancer"."
Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "When I left my pottery business and ex husband. I walked away with ten boxes, my easel, paints and canvases. I had become brain dead doing 120- 180 face mugs and comical souvenirs a day. It was a choice to walk away. It took me a few years to find myself again. I am getting closer to that point of getting back the little girl inside of me, who started making paper dolls because she loved it."
Q. In one sentence... why do you create art?

A. "I can't help myself."

Q. What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?

A. "Hawaii equals tourists and that is pretty much the story except for a few galleries and the art councils.

I have been very involved with the art groups on Kaual. The artists on Kauai are some of the best you will ever see. There is a very strong feeling of camaraderie between artists there. Some would say they have cliques like any art group but I have a theory about that. Bring chocolate chip cookies, wear a big smile and volunteer. I wrote an article on being rejected from art shows, that include my cookie recipe, that can be found at: called, "Juried Art Shows; Nothing Personal Girl! " or just type, Juried Art Shows; Nothing Personal Girl! on google and it will pop up several times.

Artists Groups on Kauai:
Garden Isle Arts Council
sponsored in part by The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Hawaii.
Kauai, Hawaii

I was President of GIAC 2001-2002
I am still a member

Kauai Society of Artists
sponsored in part by The State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Hawaii.
Kauai, HI

I served on the Board of Directors 2001-2003
I am still a member "
Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A. "I am VERY political but don't paint it except for the reference to historical Hawaiian oppression that I mentioned before."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "In some of my work like with my "Mermaid Baby" series, or "Euphoria' from my "African Series" I try to convey magic and hope and fantasy. The belief that yes the Tooth Fairy is well and comes often despite your grown up doubting."

Q. Does your cultural background play a part in your work?

A. "I am Swedish and Norwegian and live in Hawaii. I paint Hawaiian, African, Asian and I guess white stuff whatever that might mean. I appreciate the diversity. A common denominator of them all is that I paint mostly women.... cause I am one."

Q. Do you have any further advice for emerging artists?

A. "Always paint or sculpt in SERIES... each image sent is 'part' of an ongoing series."
Q. Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?

A. Don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't do something.... you can.

I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Kathy Ostman-Magnusen. Feel free to critique or discuss her work.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wow, what a wonderful treat to hear more from Kathy and get another look at her stunning work. I was fortunate enough to see most of these pieces as originals, but it gives me chills to see how see creates real people that seem to breathe on canvas.. Kathy, you are a tremendous inspiration to me.
Tara Golden