Drawing inspiration from international folklore and childhood fantasy films, Katy Horan creates imagery with her own, unique language and neo-traditional aesthetic. Her work has the disarming qualities of children's illustration while putting forward some intriguing motifs and narratives that add a layer of depth. Using a natural palette with muted tones adds to the feeling of calm that her work evokes.
Originally from Texas, she received her BFA in 2003 and has been something of a wandering star living and exhibiting in several cities. Katy now works and resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Can you tell us a little background history to yourself and the development of your work?
I can be a little ADD sometimes, so my path has not been the most direct one. For the longest time, I wanted to illustrate Children’s books. I went to art school and majored in Illustration. I tried a lot of different approaches to art and my style fluctuated a lot. I even dabbled in set design and animation. Seriously, I could never sit still artistically.
After I moved to Brooklyn, I kept creating work to build my Illustration portfolio, but my style continued to stray from what children’s book publishers look for, so I got many rejection letters. At that point, I was really inspired by the art coming out of LA and San Francisco, so I just started switching my focus in that direction and luckily at one point galleries started to show. So now, I work on telling stories through individual paintings and drawings that hang on a wall rather than in a book. I do really hope to find a way to create books in the future.
What is the difference between “noodling” and working?
I am convinced that good work comes from noodling. Noodling to me implies experimentation and a more relaxed exploration of ideas. My stuff is always better when I have gotten into the flow, so even if I am really stressed and know I have a ton of work to do, I force myself to noodle a little in order to get into that flow.
"Collaborations are like a vacation. You just can’t have the same control with them, so it’s nice to let go a little bit and allow them to be what they are going to be."
Collaborations are like a vacation. You just can’t have the same control with them, so it’s nice to let go a little bit and allow them to be what they are going to be. I haven’t gotten to do too many. Just the few I’ve done with Meg and the collaboration that happens when you put a show together. So, they don’t really have much direct connection to my work, but I’d like to do more in the future.
You’ve posted a stream-of-consciousness “list of thoughts and inspirato” which includes “folktales (southern US, native american, russian, irish)” – What is it in particular about folktales that interests you and feeds your work?
It’s the sense of history that I like. They can tell you a lot about culture and heritage. I also really like how cultures that are worlds apart will share very similar themes and characters, so they can be very universal in their messages. I guess, for me, they sort of work as an antidote to our current society with at times feels really technological and cold.
You contributed work for Jacob Covey’s Beasts art anthology, can you tell us a little bit about your contribution and its creation?
I really owe a lot to Jacob! I was really struggling to get my work noticed when I was invited to partake in the book. The piece I did for that book was actually a sort of turning point. My beast was the Banshee and in researching her, I started learning about the idea of the “sacred feminine” that is found in so many ancient cultures. It’s a view of women that has been somewhat lost. It really sparked something in me. The Banshee is a good example because it is said she takes 3 different forms: Young maiden, divine mother and old crone. It’s sort of the holy trinity of matriarchal or goddess worshiping cultures. A lot of my work now explores the idea of the feminine from all the pre-Christian/pagan societies. So thanks Jacob!
You occasionally teach art to small children; has this influenced your work and is there any advice that you would give to parents in nurturing their children’s artistic abilities?
It’s been a while since I taught. I do miss it. NY is a hard place to teach. Being uncertified and without a Masters, it’s difficult to get paid well doing that.
I think the willingness of imagination and sheer lack of fear that goes into a kid’s art making process is so inspiring. I try to make art that way…whatever is in your imagination is what you should paint. It is a hard thing to maintain, but a good goal to have.
I worked in an environment where I taught art to kids with their parents present and it could be a little frustrating. I think the lack of self judgment in art making is something to nurture in a child for as long as possible. I think that a good thing for a parent to do is ask the child questions. When the kid has the chance to explain themselves and their art it builds confidence.
Are there any other artistic disciplines outside painting and line art which interest you or which you would like to learn?
Oh so so many! I want to learn to quilt and to make books. I crochet now and would like to get better and incorporate it in my work. I also would like to explore my ideas 3-dimensionally, through sculpture or even puppetry. There is also a part of me that dreams of making stop motion animations. I studied it a little in school and I think it is one of the most magical art forms. I am finally realizing that it might take my lifetime to achieve all of these goals, and that that’s ok.
What advice and or warnings would you give to aspiring artists?
Sometimes an artist hits it big right away when they are very young, but that is rare and a little dangerous. If you really want to do it, you have to accept that it is a lifelong journey and a lot of times, a struggle. I think a lot of young people want to become that 22 year old art star, but I think that taking the time to really find your originality is more important, not to dis the young ones… there are a lot of really talented original young artists out there, but it’s ok if it takes you a little longer to hit your stride.
Also remember that even if you do “make it”, it will still be so hard. That’s all it is…it is super hard to be an artist, but if you love making what you make, it will be worth it!
What’s that enchanting melody?
I don’t know, sounds good though. Maybe it’s a little Barbara Streisand or Bette Midler?
What adventures would you like to go on with your dog companion, Lady Sassafras(Lady S for short)?
Oh you know, crime fighting, dragon slaying, grocery shopping. Pretty standard!
Thank you, Katy.
ArtBureau.org article by Katy Horan
Creative Skin Exhibit
theBeholder - Katy Horan
Little Paper Planes - Katy Horan