If constantly innovating is the cure against living a stagnant life, then Kate Sinclair has more than enough inspiration to paint from. It’s a promise her mother, Anne Sinclair, also an artist, made to her in youth.
“We will never be bored in life because we are creative,” Anne told her daughter.
Kate heeded her words tenfold.
Though she began painting in high school and even sold work, Kate originally intended to pursue a “professional job” in adulthood. Despite earning her degree in art from UNCW in 2011, over the last few years, she woke up, so to speak, to her true calling.
“It dawned on me: I am an artist!’” Kate told encore last week. “I have been this whole time! Silly, but concerning this revelation, I felt like I was the last to know.”
In the fall she will head to grad school at the New York Academy of Art in New York City. With her she takes a repertoire of work impressive in its scope (she’s best known for her realistic portraiture work, illuminated by swirls of color which highlight and indent famed faces from Abraham Lincoln to Einstein).
“I need to gain technical skills I feel I am lacking when it comes to drawing from life and articulating the right questions,” Kate explained. “I will be learning techniques of the masters that will help me overcome habits of immaturity I feel I have and hopefully come out on the other side better than ever!”
Before her departure, she is showing new work in WHQR’s current exhibit, “Diverse Works,” featuring five other female artists, including her mother, along with MJ Cunningham, Katherine Webb, Chris Farley, and Peggy Vineyard. “These ladies have come from all different stories and each offer professional insight to me,” Kate praised. “As the youngest member of the group, I have the advantage of learning what to do and what not to do professionally through their experience.”
“Diverse Works’ features a variation of artistic styles. Cunningham has made wooden boxes with objects inside that represent symbolism of imagery, along with using wax and paint textures. Webb paints from the natural world, while Farley has showcased musically themed imagery on yuko paper, which creates a watercolor effect. Vineyard has featured abstract shapes in a tryptic of persimmons. Kate’s mother went back to their home and painted scenes from the rooms they inhabit.
“My mom was always working with her hands,” Kate told. “Doodling while we were in a queue or repurposing furniture. Our house has been and still is a museum of interests: shells, art books, history fragments, drift woods, plants, paintings. I was lucky to have grown in an environment where expanding on your interests was encouraged. All the books were around, the tools, the brushes, paints, and canvas was there for me before I knew I even had an inclination. It is a case of nature and nurture; my mother and I actually have some oddly similar marks of distinction within our work.”
Kate’s subject matter in “Diverse Works” takes a hiatus from the portraits that have become signature for the young artist. Her latest abstracts delve into exploration of color and depth. Inspiration began when she traveled the waters on a motor yacht one summer, from the Virgin Islands to Nantucket. The opportunity arose after she worked for a family on Figure Eight Island.
“The property manager, my boss and former chief stewardess on yachts, trained me on the particulars of serving and housekeeping on a level that was unknown to me at the time,” she recalled. “I seemed to have found a hidden talent. I could iron bed sheets like no other!”
For three years, Kate found a serenity in the mundane and did house work as a career while continuing her art. This led her to the yachting world. “I could do the same things I was doing on Figure Eight but on a boat,” she explained. “I absolutely loved yachting where I worked with people from around the world. It was a huge growth in discipline. I have never worked so hard and played so hard simultaneously—a big downside was there was no room or time to paint.”
Yet, the memories of living on the water and the photographs managed to inspire pieces like “Looking Over the Side of the Boat,” a 36-inch-by-48-inch oil on canvas. Among the hard work with a 10-person crew, she would steal moments to gaze beneath the ocean.
“I found the undulating depth to be so gorgeous and a personal goal of mine to capture on canvas,” she said—“trying to decipher the bottom of the ocean through its varying personalities, ‘Kool-Aid’-colored Caribbean waters to stormy navies and churned up waters from the propeller.”
All of Kate’s work at WHQR sold within the first two week’s of the show’s opening, except for two pieces, including “Looking Over the Side of the Boat” and “Intertidal,” a 9-inch-by-20-inch oil on canvas. However, the collection isn’t finished, according to the artist. Though she will have left for grad school by press—wherein she will return to portrait work in her studies—Kate wants to finish the series by “exploring different personalities of palm trees from each island and the beauty of water.”
“I have just two more water paintings I hope to finish,” she noted. “I am also experimenting painting small. Sounds counter intuitive but small canvases are intimidating! I feel more liberated on a big canvas where there is room to move around in. Painting small is a skill I do not have.”
“Diverse Works” will hang at WHQR’s MC Erny Gallery through August 12, with a closing reception on Friday, July 22.