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 blog ‘Painting and Drawing Diary’! Kate began her daily painting blog in 2012 and has been adding to it faithfully, day in day out. She says she started her enjoyable task because she had heard 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 was born in Keston, near Bromley in Kent. After attending college family life followed swiftly, with two children taking up her time and attention. When Kate had been out with friends for dinner, she would do a little painting to say ‘Thank you’ – many of her friends now have one or more of her paintings, typically hanging in the smallest room in the house, she says with a laugh.
When she returned to work, in an estate agents’ office, there were often quiet times and Kate used these moments to paint cards and, enterprisingly, sold them in neighbouring shops. This was the germ for ‘Cards by Hand’: hand-painted Christmas cards, cards for birthdays and other occasions.
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 challenging to find an appropriate subject but it is amazing what appears if you open your mind to it: old pots in the garden, baking ingredients, anything can provide a theme. Is it not a chore, having to produce a painting a day? No, Kate says firmly, she loves it. And her resulting 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 – laughing, 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 she wouldn’t want to simply copy. She seeks an abundance of sources as part of the inspiration to move forward with her own unique work.
THE RIGHT MIX
Kate’s subjects could be anything – people, buildings, flowers. She says pen and watercolour will always be her love, even though she 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 her cosy ‘studio’ 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”
Kate has recently seen success selling art, generated from her posts on Instagram. She happily reflects that she could not recoup the time spent creating the commissions in sales, but Kate says she continues to learn enormously from the process.
Being part of WOKAS has been important for Kate, not only because she has met people that share her interests but also because of the workshops and painting days. For the last five years, she has been part of the WOKAS committee and she currently contributes and helps manage the society’s website. 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. Kate has led, and curated, the creative online ‘Painting Challenges’ every two or three weeks on different topics where members were invited to submit their pieces. As a result, a substantial number of beautiful, interesting and stimulating works of art are now accessible on the WOKAS website but, as importantly, it has helped keep the society active and communicating.
“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 the mind to see surroundings differently and somehow art becomes intertwined with the rest of reality. Are there any projects in the pipeline? Nothing specifically, 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.’
Kate Rundell is based in Benenden.
Gunda Cannon was in conversation with her in June 2021.
Click on images to enlarge
Example of daily blog art - from 1st June 2021
Oil Painting of Roses
A commission based on an amalgam of photos