The Q&A: Katherine Streeter

By Peggy Roalf   Monday December 8, 2014

Q: Originally from Massachusetts, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in New York?

A: I went to school in Boston, then moved to San Francisco for five years before returning east. I've just celebrated my 16th anniversary of moving to New York City, and for all but two of those years, I've been living and working downtown (Lower East Side, East Village, and the Meatpacking District (back when it was still the Meatpacking District).

This city was founded on the spirit of motivation and growth, which I feel still exists. Living here inspires me to be mentally and creatively awake.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A: I keep many sketchbooks, from tiny moleskines to 14-inch hard-bound ones. They are all in different states of fullness. Some have not been touched in years, but I know I will return to them.

(I like the idea of the books spanning many years when they are finally done.)

The way I work on paper is similar to the way I work on the computer; using both mediums balances out my different needs. Tactile surfaces and paint are a lovely thing when I am working on paper, but speed and efficiency is needed at times, which the computer aids with. Hand-made things are more precious to me though, and working on paper teaches me to live with imperfection in the work. 

Q: What do you like best about your workspace? Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change?

A: My workspace gets a lot of sunlight which is great. 

The main thing I would change is space—I always need more space. Collage artists can be borderline hoarders, so I could use about a hundred flat files. (I can only fit one though). 

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: A flat surface to work on. 

Q: What is your favorite part of the creative process? 

A: The happy accidents are my favorite surprises while working. The dreamy quality of the process is also nice—that is more mediative. I like when I'm in a zone, and then the piece takes a sharp turn and forces me to figure out something visually.

Q: What was the strangest or most unusual assignment you’ve taken? What did you learn from the experience?

A: A long time ago I used to be the illustrator for the sex column of Using collage for X-rated topics can be tricky. I appreciated the challenge of figuring out the line to not cross. 

Often, I had to be literal instead of using metaphor, so it taught me how to be subtle while being visually suggestive. 

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: Glue!

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: When I need inspiration, I walk around. 

The layers of buildings are divine to me—I can look up all day and never stop being amazed. 

The city builds and builds upon itself; new design and architecture next to century-old structures—it's all put together into one view, which is a totally different view if you turn around.

I love that my home is like a constantly changing stage.

Inspiration from the sidewalks: people, fashion, graffiti, posters, window displays (my favorite ones are unfinished or in-progress), discarded furniture, old signs and painted brick, lights and directions. 

Everything has a purpose but it's all so decorative too, even if it's not meant to be.

Q: Where do you teach—and what do you like best about teaching?

A: I teach here and there. This spring I'll be teaching at Rhode Island School of Design and University of the Arts. I like many things about teaching—one of the nicest things is that my parents GET it, because they were both teachers. 

It is important to contribute, and it feels really fulfilling for me to be able to see students who progress, grow, and put their wings on. 

I also love talking about art, and the classroom experience is so open and inspires all of us (teachers and students) to go beyond the first few layers of thought, opinion, or idea.

Q: What advice would you give a young artist about applying to an art school or college?

A: Don't focus too much on the money, but plan to be creative about making a living or doing what you can do to survive until you are on your feet in your career. 

I see a lot of students who are very concerned with how much money they will make, which is extremely understandable of course—part time jobs and working where you can is essential, but if you can make personal art without trying to see how many dollar signs are attached to will be better for your art while you are figuring out your voice.  

Q: If you could be anywhere but where you are now, where would that be?

A: I'd be in NYC about 25-30 years ago, shopping for loft space. 

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Avocado and cheese toast with tomato soup, because the colors and the tastes make me equally happy. 

Row 1: Three pieces done for 
PlanSponsor 2012-13. Art Director: SooJin Buzelli \
Row 2: (left side): Harpers Magazine 2014 Art Director: Stacey Clarkson (right side): Art created for collage exhibit in Ireland 2011 Curator: James Gallagher 
Row 3: New York Times Booming Blog 2013 Art Director : Laura Chang 
Row 4: Art created for Post-It Shows 2012-13 Curators: Esther Watson and Mark Todd.
All art ©copyright and courtesy Katherine Streeter.

Katherine Streeter is a collage artist and illustrator based in New York City. Her commercial work appears in the New York Times, PlanSponsor, NPR, and Harpers, among others. 

She was included in Cutting Edges; Contemporary Collage, published by Gestalten, and was profiled in the recent Creative Quarterly Journal. Her work has been selected for many American Illustration annuals, including the current volume, AI33. She was on the board of ICON8, and will be on the board of ICON9, The Illustration Conference, happening in Summer 2016.





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