A CONVERSATION WITH KATHY CALLAWAY
Tell us a little bit about your life before you became an artist.
I grew up in Texas: El Paso, Odessa, and Houston. I swam competitively and was always horse crazy. I got a horse for my 11th birthday in Odessa, trained and showed him all over Texas and the US. We moved to Houston and I graduated from Kinkaid High School. I attended SMU getting a degree in Early Education and Art. After graduation, I married Charles and had two sons Clayton and Blake. I was a stay at home mom and moved to Austin living there while our kids were in school. We purchased property in Fayette County in 2000 and built a home moving permanently in 2004. We purchased horses and I showed them until health issues made that impossible to continue. I started painting there and am happily settled.
Did you do art or “artsy” things growing up?
Always! I loved drawing horses especially! The only painting I had done was for a play room that we added to our home.
In high school, we had a well known sculptor, Pat Foley, teach art. We had a 4 hour 6 week class in sculpting and I loved it. He taught us about expression, gesture, movement, and stories in a piece. We used wax that was hard on our hands. I later found classic clay which is part wax and part clay. It is still hard but easier to work with. After having my children, I had decided to sculpt them. But what really occurred is that I see something, some event, that sticks in my head and I think that I want to sculpt that. Sometimes it’s a long ago event that I remember and work out how to produce in clay what I see in my head. The challenges are fun and sometimes frustrating. I love the finishing challenges of mounting the pieces creatively.
When did you start to paint and why or how did you make the decision to do this?
I began painting in 2011. I had met Mary Quiros and been invited to a girls’ week in Steamboat at her house. She had a studio there also. I watched her paint—it looked so easy and fun. She asked if I would like to try and, of course, I said “Oh, yes!”. So she put together a local workshop and I am hooked.
I also found out that it just looks easy when Mary paints. It is challenging, invigorating, amazing, frustrating, exciting, and flexible. You can achieve looks that can only be created with water and no other medium. It would be impossible to copy as every time that you paint, it comes out a little different. Above all I love color! And I love the brilliance, transparency, and the mix of the colors. Watercolor is also easier and more cost friendly than sculpting. As Mary says, “It is only a piece of paper.”
Who was your first mentor or person of inspiration?
I would say that my father was my first person of inspiration. He was General Counsel of El Paso Products Company and he travelled the world negotiating and writing oil contracts. He loved art. When he traveled he always went to museums and galleries and loved to walk the streets where artists painted. He would buy art, oil paintings mostly, and bring them home, hang them, and explain what he admired about them.
Then came my love of sculpture. Where we lived in Houston, there were quite a lot of large outdoor pieces that fascinated me. Around the same time as that I got to know a cutting horse trainer named Jim Reno, who happened to be an amazing horse sculptor. He sculpted Secretariat, most of the AQHA trophies at that time, and pieces that were in numerous galleries in Houston and around the US. He explained a lot about movement to me.
Who is your favorite artist?
As far as painting, my first favorite is Jerry Ruthven who paints gorgeous Texas landscapes. Mary Quiros, of course, because her colors and compositions are vibrant and engaging. There are so many others around here, it is hard to decide—Bill Anzalone, Mark Kohler, Kenny Minzenmeyer, Karen Vernon, Sally Maxwell. I very much admire and appreciate their work.
As for sculpture, I adore every piece that Jim Reno has ever created.
Where have you studied or learned to do what you do?
In sculpture, initially it was Pat Foley. He taught us but also let us help him with his life size pieces. At Kinkaid, there are a few sculptures of children. He allowed us to watch and help apply initial wax, all the while instructing, explaining and giving direction.
Painting has been all Mary Quiros. Her lesson plans, ideas, techniques, directions, and encouragement have been amazing. Her kindness and time are unrivaled. No one is luckier than our class.
Where do you get your inspiration for each piece? How do you decide what to paint? Tell us a little bit about how you approach a new piece and the process that you use to work through one.
I have talked some about how an event or memory can inspire a new sculpture.
In painting, it is sometimes from pictures I have taken or places I have been. Pretty flowers always draw me and art magazines give me ideas. I draw on the watercolor paper and refer to the photos. I try to balance my colors, warm next to cool, making sure that the colors are repeated throughout the painting. I utilize different techniques to create interesting areas that are unique to watercolor and I include complementary colors. Other times, I am more experimental and pour colors, letting the paint flow, blend and mix. I also use some of the interesting techniques that Mary has taught in class.