Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: What brought you to Lynchburg?
Kate McClure: We moved here last summer from Waco, Texas. My husband Paul got a job at University of Lynchburg as a professor of sociology.
SB: Had you all heard of Lynchburg before?
KM: Paul went to Washington and Lee for undergrad so he had been to Lynchburg. I had never been to Lynchburg but immediately fell in love with it.
SB: We love hearing that! What reeled you in?
KM: The charming homes, the mountains, the downtown area. It’s just got a great, warm welcoming feel but there are still big things happening here. And the art community is amazing. It’s tight knit yet there are so many opportunities.
SB: When did you first discover your artistic talent?
KM: I’ve always been good at art—drawing and painting—from my earliest memories. I’ve always been an artist and I can’t imagine not being one now.
SB: Were your parents supportive?
KM: Absolutely. As a child, they recognized my talent and put me in special art classes, including an art academy where I grew up in Memphis. My mom said I was like a sponge. I would see something then sit down and paint something like it. I was always absorbing, always inspired, always painting… on everything. I once tried to paint a design on the door frame of my room and my parents were like “No, no, no, no!”
SB: We’ve had moments like that in my house, too! So, you ultimately decided to pursue art as a career path?
KM: Right, I went to Auburn and majored in fine arts with a focus on painting. I studied classical art in Florence for a little while. I’ve taken different workshops and classes along the way so I’ve had a lot of training and great experience. Over the years, I sort of found my niche in terms of what I enjoy and how I can also make a living, which is portraits with a focus on children.
SB: Walk us through that process. When you have a portrait client, how do you get started?
KM: With kids especially, I talk to the parents about the child’s personality so I can really capture that. Then I take photos of the child and that’s what I work from. I really love to capture something, a moment where they are really natural and not forced. Because kids just have that wonderful quality about them. Then I choose a photo that I think best showcases the child’s personality.
SB: Parents can be tough to please sometimes. Do you ever get nervous before you hand over the final product?
KM: I used to in the beginning but I don’t really anymore. I’ve done so many of them. But I’ve never had something not work out. I wouldn’t show it to a client if I didn’t think it was exactly the way it should be.
SB: How long do you spend on each piece? Do you paint every day?
KM: Not all day every day but I typically book up six months to a year in advance. So when I start on it depends on when I have the next spot open.
SB: You also have your own artwork on the side.
KM: In my spare time, I focus mainly on painting landscapes. Most of the portrait work I do is more realistic so when I get to do landscapes, I like to play around with color and get more loose and abstract.
SB: Are the landscapes a way to sort of get the creative juices flowing?
KM: Exactly. It’s nice to switch back and forth because I will go to landscapes or my own art and then I will miss portraits again and vice versa so I think it’s important to switch it up.
SB: What types of scenes inspire you?
KM: Since moving to Virginia, the landscape here is so beautiful and that is really my main inspiration. But it’s always based on something I see. The mountains, the fall colors, the birch trees, the farmhouses. Things like that.
SB: What do you do with your landscapes and other artwork?
KM: I had a show in Lynchburg in March and have another show happening Memphis in a couple of months. I sell out of my studio to anyone interested in those pieces.
SB: What’s next for you?
KM: I will always be doing my portraits. I work with lots of families, and I love that. Since moving here and being able to settle, I’ve been able to focus on showing my own artwork, which is really fun and exciting. I hope for more opportunities down the road to expand on that.
SB: You are proof that making a career out of art is possible. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
KM: I’m really passionate about this because there is so much training on how to make art but training on how to market and sell art is harder to find. I was lucky and found a woman out of California who has a business training course for artists. I worked with her for several years and it made all the difference. I think artists need to get that training if you want to do it full time and it be your main source of income.
SB: You need to have a strategy.
KM: Exactly. Not just, “I’m hoping somebody will see me.” It doesn’t work like that. The competition is too great. Also, my advice to aspiring artists—work really hard at developing your craft and be patient. I think back to when I started doing this full time 10 years ago and how far I’ve come. You have to be patient but if you stick with it and are committed then doors will open.