Make chats to artist Katherine Lodge about her life and work and how doodling can lead to to an impressive carrer!
Interview by Ursula Lake
Images by Katherine Lodge
Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself
I grew up in Surrey in a very creative family. My parents are both artists. My father, Bernard Lodge, a graphic designer, designed the iconic logo and original opening titles for Dr Who.Later he worked on films like Bladerunner and Alien. My mother Maureen Roffey, worked with Mary Quant designing her original swing labels and then had a successful career illustrating children’s books. We were always encouraged to make art and it was something we all did together as a family. It was just the way our normal home life was.
I was dyslexic but never diagnosed. I struggled a lot at school but my parents always maintained that I just needed to get through the education system to reach art school. I was grateful for the goal as it helped dampen the stress of school life and reminded me that writing and reading wouldn’t define me.
I studied Graphic Design at Middlesex university but after a year I did an exchange to NYC to The School of Visual Arts. I always say the New York is where I found myself. I realised that my endless doodles were more exciting to me than my graphic projects. While there I discovered the print department and was taught by the painter David Sandlin who encouraged me to turn my doodles into prints. I decided New York was where I was meant to be and I never returned to Middlesex University or a BA program. I also discovered I couldn’t afford SVA. Instead, I took print classes which is where my passion was which led to a group show in Soho. On returning to London, I applied for the Royal College of Art and they luckily accepted me without my Bachelors degree. Through the RCA I travelled again to Chicago and worked with another hero, Jim Nutt, an artist from the Hairy Who art movement.
Q. You were an illustrator for children’s books before, that sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more?
A. When I left RCA I started illustrating and designing children’s books. I found it was a way I could be completely free with my artwork and actually get paid. I worked with the author Angela McCallister and illustrated The Clever Cowboy and Shoe Shoe Baby which were written by my father. My father started illustrating too in his retirement and for many years me, my parents and my sister, Jo Lodge were all illustrating children’s books at the same time. We all had very different styles to each other. I worked on a series, Let’s Find Mimi which had sold in 15 countries. It is a fantastic industry but has become much harder to make a living from. More and more publishers aren’t paying royalties and offer a fixed fee instead which is a shame. Now it’s more that the sales team make creative decisions about book covers. When I worked there twenty years ago, the art directors were in control.
Q. We love the colour and vibrant, strong energy of your work. It feels a bit architectural in places and also a bit tribal. How would you describe your unique style and your working process?
A. Thank you and I see that as well. My work does have a tribal feel and I’m not sure how that’s evolved. I have many influences and a very varied group they are. I paint from the gut, it’s completely spontaneous. I listen to music while working and sometimes the rhythm leads my brush strokes and therefore the pace of the artwork is dependent on the sound. Pattern is strong throughout my work and sometimes my love of textiles takes over.To me-my art is abstract, I identify myself as an abstract artist.
Q. Who or what motivates you to pick up your brush or pen?
A. Myself. Nothing else. There are times when the urge is so strong it’s easy and other times, I’ll find excuses for not making art. For the last two years my husband has been working abroad so I’ve travelled a lot to see him. Los Angeles has been frequently visited and on each short visit I’ve overflowed with ideas. There were the emotions of that too, of only getting to be with each other for a short time. This intense mood added to my work. Taking short trips is really good for my thought process. I get away from my usual daily life and see things in a new light. I now live in what a taxi driver called ‘a witness protection home.’ A black wooden house hidden on a hill, in the country. I hated the solitude at first but now thrive on it. Nature has become part of my work. In the summer evenings, I go the woods just to listen to the night jars.
Q. We hear that lockdown was a transformative time for you, can you tell us more?
A. I know for most people lockdown was really hard. I suddenly had my husband home who should have been working in France for three months. My teenage kids home all the time too (hard for them) but spending time with them made me so happy. I’d always wanted to make art for myself but felt afraid to do so. You find blocks to stop you being creative. I see it today in friends, planning to make art in the future. You just have to do it. There’s never a better time than now. You have to put yourself out there no matter how fucking scary it is.
But having all this family time, no socialising , allowed me a safe place and time to start making my first truly personal drawings and identifying myself as an artist. I always was.
Q. Is social media important to your work or the way you communicate it to the world or is it more of a necessary evil?!
A. So, a friend who had a successful flower business, told me how Instagram had been instrumental for her business. I had never done instagram before and decided to put my first drawings up. I remember a Japanese artist in Osaka saw my drawing and sent me a lovely message. Then another guy who lived on beach in Hawaii reached out. I was immediately struck by the way my work could be seen around the world and how artists could support other artists.
After six months an art collector wrote to me and he has been a huge support on this journey.I would say it can be a great platform, just limit your time spend on there.
Q. We can imagine your work translated into fabrics in the way that Sonia Delaunay or Raoul Dufy did. Do you have any plans in that area?
A. I have recently been approached by a company recently so we will see where that goes. They are looking to make some of pieces into textiles. I’d like to think about different ways of working for sure. In truth, I originally wanted to study textile design when I was younger but was talked out of it. I don’t see any restrictions for my work at all and I’m pleased you saw that in the work.
Q. Was there ever another career path you considered?
Not really. Pattern, painting, print and art was always my direction.
Q. Can you name a painting or work of art you would love to own?
There are many! I was recently very moved by a painting by my brother, David Lodge. It’s an oil painting of my grandma and father. But I’m hoping that by hinting enough, I’ll get that one day. A painting that I will never have but would love, Scorched Earth by Mark Bradford.
Q. What is next for Katherine Lodge?
I’ve just ordered more large canvases and I’m planning to paint more and more. Every time I sell something, I invest in more paint, canvases and brushes. I was trying to work small to save space but there is nothing better than seeing your work on a large scale. A friend once said, make art when your happy, make art when you’re sad. My plan is to do exactly that.
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