Katie Jacobsen keeps a busy schedule between driving down to St. Louis, where she volunteers with the East St. Louis Action Research Project’s theater workshop for middle school kids and acting in local theatre events on and off campus in Champaign-Urbana. The fourth-year theater studies major gets precious little time during breaks, but what she does have, she dedicates as amply as she can to her painting. Her work is currently on display at Cafe Kopi in Champaign and will also be up at the Artists Against AIDS Festival April 22-25 at the Gallery Building in downtown Champaign.

What’s your favorite medium to work with? Why?

I am all about oil paints-oil on canvas preferably. There is something about the viscosity of paint that has attracted me to oils since I was a little girl-I know that may sound weird, but it’s true. I love using a palette knife to spread it across the canvas; it gives a piece texture and dimension. Also, oil paint takes forever to dry, so you can play with one painting for a while, changing it, manipulating color. It’s very cool.

What kind of influence have visual arts like this exhibition and theater had on each other for you?

I have found that art is addictive. Once you get in there and start working, it’s hard to stop. Painting is where my passion lies, and I plan to pursue it further. I don’t know where it’s going to take me, but I’m having fun so far. Since I’ve started painting seriously, I’ve started to see art all around me, kind of corny but if you stop for a second and just observe, there is art everywhere! Especially in this town: music, dance, poetry, theater, photography-anything you could ever want. We are very lucky here.

As far as other influences on my work: I’ve started to research more on abstract artists. It’s important to understand who has come before you in any given field. I’ve found that I love Clifford Still and Mark Rothko; their stuff is pretty amazing, and I’ve always loved the Impressionists, particularly Van Gogh.

I was actually an apprentice for the Chicago painter, Wesley Kimler, a few summers ago. I learned so much from him. I did not paint anything for him, but he taught me what it meant to be an artist. We had a huge falling out, but that’s a story for another time. I will never forget that summer with him though, not for a million years.

What kind of reaction do you try to provoke from viewers in your work?

I want people to pull their own meanings from my work. I specifically did not title any of my pieces for that reason. Words can get in the way of what people see. I’ve gone in with friends to see my work at Cafe Kopi, and they’ll ask me, “Is that a waterfall?” “Are those buildings?” “That looks like a bunch of little animals.” I love it! The fact is though, I don’t sit down and say to myself, “Okay, I’m going to paint a giant school bus today.” I’ll put on some cool music and then go to town; that’s how it’s done. To answer your question though, I want people to feel whatever they want to feel. If they love a piece and feel warm and fuzzy inside-awesome. If they get pissed off and think it’s crap-that’s cool too. I’m not looking for anyone’s approval. Not everyone will like it, and I am definitely okay with that because there are plenty of people who will.

Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re creating?

Everywhere. Particularly sounds through music, and it also depends what time of day I’m painting or what I was up to earlier or if I’ve got a cold or if my roommate’s got the TV blaring or if my neighbor is smoking a cigarette outside, if I have homework to do, if I’ve had sex recently, if I haven’t had sex recently, if I’m angry-those usually go in only one direction. If there is a piece of crap painting sitting in my room, and I can’t stand it, that gets painted over and leads to something new. If there is a spider crawling on the wall. There is inspiration everywhere! It’s unavoidable.

How did you get started in the arts?

That’s a funny question. I guess I was nine, and I performed in a talent show at school. I sang the “Star Spangled Banner” a cappella. I was very nervous, but I got through it, and I thought, “Hey, this is alright.” So I kept performing-did plays all through high school- directed, did crew and that eventually lead to theater in college, which lead me to have an internship at the theater company Collaboraction in Chicago, where I met Wesley Kimler. I had always loved art up until then, but it wasn’t until he told me that I didn’t know anything, that I was just an 18-year-old kid who knew nothing about passion, beauty or art, did I start to do something about it. I was very angry with him, but he pushed me. He was right; I didn’t know anything, and I realize that now, and I still don’t know anything, but I’m learning.

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