We had the good fortune of connecting with Katherine (Kat) Knutsen and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Katherine (Kat), what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
There are a couple habits that have greatly helped in my success. One of those habits is to continuously inquire more about details around a project. When managing or directing projects, there are often what I would call “dark spots” in the process that need a light shined on them for better clarity. I take full advantage of being inquisitive as to ask lots of ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions so that I can better understand the scope, direction and purpose that each project serves.
Another habit that has helped me succeed is to always continue reading about subjects and fields that are right outside of the bounds of what I’m working on. This habit helps me to see a wider purview of how things connect and how the dynamics right outside of my work are affected.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I finally opened up my studio as a basic DBA in 2020. The timing couldn’t have been worse due to covid-19. But! It was a great first year! Previously I had experience working on commissions for clients, but I didn’t know how to manage the financial aspect of the different contracts. They didn’t teach us any of this stuff in art school. After I set up my business, I was able to more cleanly streamline everything.
After I formally opened my business, I began sending out proposals and talking to new potential clients. I was recommended to my first big client ‘SuperFlat’. ‘SuperFlat’ is an amazing mural-based non-profit located in New Bedford, MA. They approached me to create a 4-story mural that commemorated jazz musicians from the area who had made history. This project opened my eyes to the magic of project managing, hiring, lead design, and communications.
My business has evolved to become more of a visual art production company. I specialize in designing for illustration, murals, illustrated motion graphics, fine arts, and custom knitwear. The things that separate my business from the rest are my ability to work on a small and large scale, my passion for community engagement blended with my passion for the production pipeline, my background as an art professor, and my ability to create products that can exist through a variety of experiences on multiple media platforms. One of my first successes in this multimedia ability was animating for the Oscar Nominated Film ‘Loving Vincent’ in 2016, which came with its own set of challenges.
Naturally we all go through struggles as we grow in our studio practice and profession. One of my first challenges was not knowing how much to charge for the services that I provided. I overcame this challenge by reaching out to specialists outside my field and offered to have symbiotic discussions that could benefit both parties. I learned about the factors of what goes into pricing and they got to learn about the factors that go into visual communication.
One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned and continue to learn along the way might sound a bit obvious, but it is that “We are all in this together.” I learned that each party I engage with is trying to accomplish a set of tasks and that it is a lot easier for me to accomplish my tasks if I can help others accomplish their tasks. This approach taught me how to better integrate and interweave my practice not only in my professional community but also in my local community. There is the phrase, “Where two or more are gathered, I am there.” I’ve come to realize over time that that phrase is talking about the magic of what happens when two or more are on the same page and moving in the same direction, while each party individually works towards completing their goal set or task list(s).
Another great lesson that I have learned is how to be present. We are entities that exist, and each of us carry a different set of thought patterns that guide us through our choice patterns. Being present is taking the time to analyze what is happening around you in the moment, and responding to that information instead of responding to older thought patterns that are not aligned with what’s going on in the present moment. This is a fundamental lesson that has help provide a lot of clarity in my professional and personal life.
I would like the world to see that in my practice as a production artist, I have found a way to blend what I love to do with my passion for learning and engaging with others. I found this path by trying out a lot of other directions that didn’t suit me as well. I consider myself a visual manifester at heart and would love to continue to help others better communicate their ideas with the world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
With the weather taking us into the early summer, I’d have to recommend checking out the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden! Grab a coffee, book, blanket and a sketchbook and go spend some time drawing from nature in this gorgeous place!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shoutout to Charles Kelly. Charles is a retired biology professor at a community college in Statesville, North Carolina. Charles was an early mentor of mine as I began my transition from the nursing field into the arts.
I began taking a lot of art classes after serendipitously being introduced to the fine arts around 2007. I really enjoyed those classes and had excellent professors. Charles noticed that I was very happy in this new pursuit, and he gave me the idea to study for my MFA and then become a college professor. At first I thought it was a crazy idea. But then it dawned on me the reason I was enjoying the arts so much. That reason was because of my art professors. They did an amazing job opening my eyes to the world of art and the potential it carries. I would have never considered going in this direction so aggressively if it hadn’t been for Charles Kelly.
Jazz Mural aerial photo taken by photographer John Robson