Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I'm one of those people that's not really from anywhere. I spent parts of my childhood in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois and then my family moved to Maine when I was nine. I think that makes Maine more home than anywhere else, but I'm not a "Mainah" as they say. After five years in London, my husband and I moved back to Maine in 2010. I love the Maine sensibility and I'm often told I have a Maine palette. I miss London a lot though, especially when I'm craving curry.
How long have you been doing your colored pencil grid drawings?
I started doing the grid drawings toward the end of my M.F.A. at the Slade, so probably about 6 years now. I had previously been doing drawings on the insides of security envelopes. I have thousands of of them, so that idea of working with a pre-determined pattern was already there. I bought some graph paper to map out something else I wanted to do. I don't remember what the project was, but I never did it because I was so excited by the graph paper that I just stuck with it from that point on!
Where did your art practice begin and how did it progress to what it is today?
I've definitely come to being an artist in a round-a-bout way. I always wanted to be some sort of environmental scientist, until I realized I was lousy at sciences. My problem was that I loved to experiment, but really had no desire to draw any conclusions from my experiments. That's kind of how I approach my artwork. It's a lifelong experiment with no foreseeable set of conclusions. I started out as any artist would, painting and drawing whatever was sitting in front of them and not really knowing my subject matter. Towards the end of my time at Colby College, I really started to play with color relationships and it clicked with me that I was never going to a representational artist or even an abstract one. I dove into the world non-representational/minimalist art at that time: Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse started to sink in. When I got to the Slade I started to blend the concepts of experimentation and non-representation and I ended up where I am now: completely obsessed with color and pattern relationships.
Where do the intricate patterns in your drawings originate? Do you sketch designs before starting on a piece?
My drawing process is completely additive, so I never quite know where a pattern is going. Each new color presents an added complexity to a pattern, so I do keep extra graph paper with me when I am working on a larger drawing, so I can test out ideas. But overall, most of my patterns come from domestic sources, meaning I'm drawn to fabrics, floor tiles, decorative plates, that kind of thing. There is something so relentless about ornamentation, it has a specific intense energy that I like to bring to my work.
What goes into one of these drawings?
This is the easy question: obsession! All my drawing take serious amount of patience and obsession, because once the pattern is set I just have to keep reproducing it. It's a very repetitive process, but there's any energy behind it, that I think is similar to playing music. Musicians don't get bored by the constraints of their instruments and I don't either with the constraints of the grid. There's always something else I can produce in it. It's infinite.
From the artist's Embellishment Series.
Aside from fine art, what other kinds of creative endeavors do you do?
Yes! I also have a new collaboration with my husband designing and binding sketchbooks called Broadway House Books. I love it because I get to use all the fabrics that influence me so much and get to make design patterns without having to figure out how it fits in the context of my fine art work. It's still pretty new for us, but we're selling on Etsy!
Kate Russo's website.