Today we’d like to introduce you to Katherine Chiu.
Katherine, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started art classes at a young age, experimenting with acrylics and oil painting. I grew up with Taiwanese immigrant parents who revered academics, yet still enrolled me in after school art classes around Los Angeles. I often drew and doodled while doing my homework. It wasn’t until high school when I took night classes at Art Center College of Design that I realized I could pursue art as a career. The night classes had a real impact on me-I ended up attending Art Center for college, where I studied Illustration. Through my studies, I realized how much I enjoy telling stories through my art, and I also learned that pursuing art requires an immense amount of hard work and discipline.
After school, I was hungry for work and took on graphic design jobs at Disney and Junior Drake. This led to me doing product design at a gaming company where I was art director for several years. Meanwhile, I was showing my paintings in gallery shows, and one of the people who walked through liked a painting of a kid I did and asked if I could paint a portrait of his kids. I was lucky because it turned out he was the president of NBC comedy at the time, which led me to paint portraits for his circle of friends. After a while, though, I started getting burnt out doing both the full-time job and the full-time art. A few years ago, with the encouragement of my husband, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job. I have been doing art full time since then, doing portraits/commissions, and art for galleries and fairs.
Has it been a smooth road?
I did design work for 11 years total and really felt like I was going down the wrong path. I wanted to paint full time, and it is incredibly hard to keep motivated and paint every day when you get home from work. It was scary to quit and commit to art full time since the path seemed so uncertain. I remember a teacher told me that if you don’t pursue your dreams, they will continue to haunt you. I felt that way and knew I had to go for it. Now that I’m painting for my day job, I found that the uncertainty it brings is something I can live with much more easily than the nagging feeling that I’m not doing what I’m meant to do. That being said, I don’t regret my time as a designer because it taught me how to work well with clients and run a business.
Please tell us more about your art.
I paint portraits of families and pets in a natural setting. If the family is local, I like to meet the family and do a photoshoot of them. I take lots of photos and compile them into a personalized painting, adding mementos that are important to the family, such as a kid’s toy or plants from the garden. I try to capture the spirit of the day and a sense of narrative of who the family is. Lately, I’ve been revisiting families ten years later and it’s a blast to see how they have grown and see what has changed and what has stayed the same.
Portraits have been around for centuries and I think it’s a fun way to personalize art and make it more accessible. Collecting art can be intimidating, but seeing a glimpse of yourself or loved ones in a painting becomes a lot more familiar and personal, taking on a new meaning. What I do is more of a take on an age-old tradition without the stuffiness. I also try to make the painting something you would be proud to hang because I know some portraiture can be rather cheesy. Creating the portrait is a blend of reality and fantasy and captures the best parts of you.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think as industries become more digital, there is a greater need for traditional art. There is something special about a piece of art that is a one-off, something that can’t be reproduced. Also, with this pandemic, the focus has shifted away from entertainment to prioritizing family and home life. Art is a way to commemorate that. And now that most people are spending way more time inside their homes, finding regular bits of joy there has become so much more important. I want to provide people with that.
- Family portraits range from $800-2000 depending on size
- Pet portraits range from $250-800 depending on size
- Website: www.katherinechiu.com
- Phone: 626.827.5104
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: kchiuart
All paintings by Katherine Chiu, Photo by Greg Wadsworth