Painter Katherine Throne studied painting on a whim, but it is hard work and determination that have built her burgeoning career
You studied at two different art colleges. How did this come about?
Two years into an interior design degree at Kendall College in Michigan, in the US, I had a hunch I was missing out on something. The students on the painting floor above us seemed to be having way more fun.
I switched my major to painting, even though I’d never done a class – I just had a feeling it was where I belonged. It was a move that immediately felt right, and my love affair with paint began. At the end of my first year of painting I was awarded a Merit Scholarship.
Suddenly we’d been in America nine years and wanted to raise our two adopted daughters as Kiwis, so in 2014 we moved back to Auckland. I knew very little about the art world in New Zealand so I decided to continue my master’s at Elam to get an idea of how things worked here.
Delving into the art world led me down the path of art history, and that became my thesis. The flower emerged as this feminine icon of design, and I realised it was a wonderfully powerful motif to explore.
How did the floral theme arrive in your work? Is it inspired by your own garden?
While my concept is ‘the power of the floral motif’, my true love is the paint itself. My own garden is tiny and in its infancy so, for now, I’m always on the hunt for ramshackle gardens and rose bushes cascading over pavements. Everything I paint is within a three-kilometre radius of my home, and usually results in some wonderful conversations with the gardener whose door I’ve knocked on.
How did you start building a career as a painter?
I entered art awards and exhibitions while at Kendall and, when my paintings sold, I realised I could make a career out of it. After graduating, I set up a studio and work environment that allowed me to paint while my girls were at school. Instagram has been really useful in reaching a wider audience, but the key has been maintaining a big solo exhibition each year.
Selling my work directly and putting on the exhibitions myself taught me a huge amount about marketing and business. I have a degree in communications and a background in public relations so I’ve called on those skills a lot. You’ve got to be able to sell your work.
What are the most difficult things about being a self-employed artist?
I think the two biggest challenges are maintaining belief in yourself, and having the courage to take your work where it needs to go. That means entering awards and risking rejection, staging exhibitions and wondering if anything will sell. The highs and lows can be quite extreme and it’s really hard work, but the pay-off of doing what you love every day is immense.
How important is it to be active on social media as an artist?
I’ve learned that looking at what everyone else is doing all the time isn’t a good thing. It’s hard to stay true to your own ideas if you are continually judging yourself against others. While I love the supportive community of artists on Instagram and I enjoy going to galleries, I’ve found the best inspiration comes from fields adjacent to my own, such as floral design and the garden philosophy of writers like Katherine Mansfield.
What advice would you have for someone who aspires to a creative career?
Get a really thick skin and work hard. When you create something that is an extension of yourself, it’s hard to not take feedback personally. There will always be people out there who love what you do; go out and find them.
Any exciting new developments you can share?
I recently signed with Sanderson Contemporary in Newmarket, Auckland, and am working towards my first solo show there in June.
Interview by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Anna Briggs.