Going to a restaurant or on any outing with Kate Rundell is not for the faint-hearted – the next morning you might see yourself featured in a pen & watercolour sketch on her ‘Painting and Drawing Diary’ on the Internet! Kate began her daily painting blog in 2012 and has been adding to it faithfully, day in day out. She says she started because someone told her that if you do an activity every day you are bound to get better. That she should hold this sentence as gospel is telling: Kate comes across as someone who simply gets on with things without fuss, is game to give something new a go to see where it will lead, with a vitality and zest that has a good dose of humour thrown in. If you scroll through the comments that accompany the sketches in her Painting Diary you will see that all human life is there.
“I make a piece of art a day to reflect my day”
Kate Rundell was born in Keston near Bromley in Kent. After attending a secretarial course at college family life followed swiftly, with two children taking up her time and attention. When she eventually returned to work, working in an estate agents’ office provided many rather boring lulls and so Kate used the slack times to paint cards and enterprisingly sold them in neighbouring shops – clear grounds for a strong telling-off, she recalls. But this was the germ for ‘Cards by Hand’: hand-painted Christmas cards and cards for birthdays. When Kate had been out with friends for dinner, she would do a little painting to say ‘Thank you’ – all of her friends now have one or more of her miniature paintings, she says with a laugh.
As her children grew older, Kate started attending adult education classes on watercolour painting. Watercolour, with pen and ink, remains her favourite medium to date as it is so versatile and portable. Once she had embarked on her ‘Painting and Drawing Diary’ blog she got into the habit of painting every day. She paints mostly in the evening, inspired by something that has happened during the day. She admits that sometimes it is hard to find a subject but it is amazing what you can come up with if you put your mind to it: old pots in the garden, baking ingredients, anything can be a motif. Is it not a chore, having to produce a painting a day? No, Kate says firmly, she loves it. And her style of pen and watercolour painting is eminently recognisable.
“Exhibitions are an ideal platform to try something new”
Kate joined WOKAS some time ago after having seen some of the society’s exhibitions. She was attracted by the fact that both professional and amateur artists exhibit together. Kate feels that for her the exhibitions provide an ideal platform to try something new. The trigger for that ‘something new’ often comes from one of the courses that she attends – laughingly she calls going on courses her ‘habit’. Kate has been part of a Headcorn-based adult education art group for some time and says that doing this has made her aware of many artists that she would otherwise not have heard of – for example the contemporary landscapes of Paul Evans that she admires. Kate feels strongly that it is good to look at other artists’ work and find inspiration there – she mentions Vicky Oldfield, the printmaker – but you wouldn’t want to just copy. An abundance of sources is what is needed to move forward with your own work.
THE RIGHT MIX
Kate’s motifs could be anything – people, buildings, flowers. She says pen and watercolour will always be her love, even though she is has been exploring other directions such as Japanese painting and oil painting with Roisin O’Farrell. Her most recent venture is collagraph printing and you sense her excitement at getting a designated printing room ready in the house. Kate says she likes working in the house rather than in a separate studio – so her painting is done upstairs in a little room and the blog is created at the kitchen table. Her enthusiasm for creating art is clearly fuelled by a social element, by having people around her. Kate says that although at one point she thought she would like to be a full-time artist she now realizes that she has got just the right mix: running a B&B in Benenden where the family now live, plus family life, plus painting.
“Interesting commissions have come in via Instagram”
On the subject of selling her art, she has recently been quite successful using Instagram. It’s via Instagram that she has also had some interesting commissions. One client wanted his cats painted against the backdrop of a Scottish landscape and another commission – a wedding anniversary painting – had to show the client, her husband, four children, chicken, cats, dog, pig and sheep in a woodland setting. This was an interesting commission in itself but even more so because Kate’s humans have blank faces. Kate decided on an A2 format, spending many hours getting the composition right as she had to work from a number of photos. You could not recoup the time spent creating this painting in the price but Kate says she learnt a lot in the process. She now hopes to sell more of her art through her website which is currently still under construction.
Being part of WOKAS has been important for Kate, not only because you meet people that share your interests but also because of the workshops and demos that she rates highly. For the last five years she has been part of the WOKAS committee who owe her a huge debt as she now manages the society’s website, ably assisted by her husband. During the lockdown months, as ‘real’ exhibitions were impossible to stage, putting on virtual, online exhibitions has been vitally important for all of WOKAS’ members. And instead of workshops and demos in Tenterden’s Highbury Hall there have been creative online ‘Painting Challenges’ every two or three weeks on different topics where the society’s members were invited to submit their pieces. The response to these challenges has been astounding and as a consequence a substantial number of beautiful, interesting and stimulating works of art are now accessible on the WOKAS website. Uploading the images and curating the exhibitions and challenges has been no small feat but Kate has tackled each project in her customary ‘can do – let’s see what happens’ manner and has made it work brilliantly.
“The pleasure of being an amateur artist is that
nobody has any expectations of you”
The answer to the question about the importance of art in Kate’s life comes as no surprise – and it comes without a moment’s hesitation: ‘huge’, says Kate. Throughout the day she sees the world around her through a painter’s lens – wondering whether this or that would make a good painting. And she goes to bed thinking about her unfinished work. Clearly, writing a daily painting blog trains your mind to see your surroundings differently and somehow art becomes intertwined with the rest of your reality. Are there any projects in the pipeline? Nothing in particular, says Kate, other than pressing on with the printing venture. She relishes the freedom to do whatever she wants and feels like, so who knows where that freedom will lead her next? That, she says with emphasis, is the pleasure of being an amateur artist – nobody has any expectations of you.
Any advice for other painters? ‘Keep a sketchbook – pick up the courage in a café to get out your pen and sketch what’s around you.’ Kate’s own sketchbooks are little gems – beautifully presented and filled with jottings of what she did, illustrated by sketches. And of course: ‘Go to classes – however good you think you are, you can always learn something.’
Finally, for the Painting Fairy Kate has a very precise wish: a never ending supply of paper please – ideally Saunders Waterford HOT pressed 300 – and some watercolour pans by Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith. That shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange, should it?
Kate Rundell is based in Benenden.
Gunda Cannon was in conversation with her in June 2021.
Click on images to enlarge
River Rother at Bodiam
Dungeness in early summer