We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathie Bennett Chan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathie Bennett, how do you think about risk?
I was drawn to art from an early age. With no art classes in my small town Louisiana school, my earliest art education consisted of watching Jon Gnagy’s “You’re an artist” on Saturday morning black & white television, the “Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw” kit my parents gave me for my birthday, and art/craft projects in Vacation Bible School. Learning to sew in high school provided another outlet for my creativity, but within me there was still a huge desire for greater expression lying dormant and basically unrecognized. When I graduated from High School, I knew for sure that I did not want to be a secretary, so in college I enrolled as a nursing major. Then the life changing event happened one evening nearing the end of my first session (summer school). I met a girl who was an Advertising Design major. As I watched her glue little colored chips of paper on another piece of paper I was hooked. That’s all it took and I changed my major the next day. Having had no formal art training, I was on a huge learning curve, but I was on my way.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Graduating with a Bachelors in Advertising Design and a minor in Painting, I moved to Dallas and was hired by Zales Corporation in Dallas to work in their graphics department on a special project. From there I was hired by Dallas Times Herald to work in the art department. After moving to Houston in 1971, I worked for printing companies, type houses, with other freelance artists but did very little painting. After 17 years, working in the more graphic/technical side of art, I was longing for a more free and creative expression, so I started painting on clothing. In 1988, I quit my job as lead in the art department and started painting on clothing full time. This was probably the most risky, difficult, challenging, exciting and yet fun time in my career and life. There were times I was truly in “starving artist” mode. Then there were times there was so much demand for my work that I hired seven other artists to help me produce the orders. Easy, NO, but so incredibly rewarding. During the 8 years I was painting on clothes I was learning to connect with others. I hired a rep to take my designs to Dallas Market and met others that would purchase my work wholesale and take it to shows for resale. One took my designs on the rodeo circuit and another got one of my designs in the American Airlines catalog. Two children’s clothing stores in Houston were ordering regularly. I had no plan when I quit a 40+ hour a week job with a steady income; I just jumped in as a full time artist but to me there was no other way and no turning back. Connecting with others was key for my growth and success. Then there was an astounding turn of events. At the end of 8 years of incredible growth and blessing, my art business abruptly stopped. The pastor of the church I was attending needed an administrative assistant (the now word for “secretary”) and every time this was mentioned I felt like I was supposed to accept the position, so I did. What a journey that was. I traveled with him and his wife from the east to west coast and even internationally assisting them as they taught in meetings and conferences. During this time, my son was entering his junior year in high school and there were some things going on at the school that were not a good influence on him, so we started the home school experience. When he graduated and was accepted at Texas A&M, my time with the ministry was coming to an end. I decided it was time for me to get a “real” job with health insurance. Another amazing turn that led me to work for a deepwater drilling company. During that time I went from knowing nothing about that industry to being promoted to a supervisory position. And again, had the joy of getting to travel internationally and even visit the offshore drilling platforms and drillships, After a 15+ year break in consistent artistic endeavors, creativity began to flow again. Having been drawn to polymer clay for a while, I purchased several colors from one of the local craft stores. In 2012, as I was sitting at my art table making beads and contemplating a name for a new business, In my spirit I heard, “You were created Like No Other just as I AM Like No Other.” As I formed each bead in my hands I was reminded me that I was formed the same way (Psalm 139). We all need to know this truth about ourselves – the Creator God and Father designed each one of us and loves us “Like No Other.” The jewelry was just the jumping off point, In 2012 I attended a weekend painting retreat featuring Tracy Verdugo, an artist from Australia, and started painting again. After retiring from my corporate position in 2013, the following summer I moved to Denton to be closer to family and another amazing opportunity came. I was introduced to Mindy Faubion and, in time, we began teaching a monthly class at Beulah Acres in Corinth. This once a month class is very inexpensive and open to anyone who wants to explore art in various types of media. To find out more about these classes and other opportunities to expand your artistic desires go to BeulahAcres.com. I love lots of color and at times break the rules to put colors together that theoretically aren’t supposed to work. Being inspired to find textures, tools and mediums not commonly used in collage paintings to create something Like No Other is fun and stimulating. A couple of years back, I was introduced to the acrylic pouring technique, so many of the backgrounds in my latest paintings are poured. In the poured paintings, I look for an image to develop beyond the pour. Exploring other mediums to see what they will do and how I can combine them in my paintings is a really fun thing too. Also, I have developed a step-by-step process that I believe even the most doubtful but desiring artist can do and find success in his/her finished painting. One of my most favorite quotes is from Pablo Picasso – “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” The product line of Like No Other includes acrylic/mixed media paintings, watercolor/mixed media greeting cards, hand-built ceramics and mosaics from broken ceramic pieces, jewelry…mostly earrings and anything else my artistic heart desires. This I can tell you for sure, my fantastic journey has been Like No Other.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love the outdoors, so one of the first places I would definitely take her to is the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center in Denton for a hike to get the city kinks out and take some pictures. It is so beautiful there. We would also hit Downtown Denton Square. Would love to take her to Jupiter House on the Square for breakfast and Boca 31 on Bell lunch. Another great place to hang out and have a cup of coffee and a sandwich is Zera Coffee on McKinney. Venturing out from Denton, Monkey King Noodle Company in Dallas is a good place to eat when exploring the shops in Deep Ellum. Dallas Butterfly Museum and the Fort Worth Arboretum are wonderful places to take photos, too. Since the friend I am thinking about is also an artist we would spend a couple of days visiting the art museums in Dallas and Ft Worth. McKinney’s downtown is also a fun place to explore. You can go in just about any direction from my home base in Denton and find the best time ever. In fact, a week is not long enough.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Over my 50+ year career, there have been many that have encouraged and influenced me. As I think back over my career, some of the greatest encouragement was from the companies that hired me to work in their art departments. Then there are the individual artist – Holly Hunter Berry in Houston, Selah Gay in Austin, Robin Huttash with a Creative Art Studio in Denton, Mindy Faubion and Stacie Forest in Denton, the Visual Arts Society of Texas (VAST) and all the people that purchased my art. I am also a member of Creative to Thrive by Matt Tommey – great encouragement and inspiration.
Linkedin: Kathie Bennett Chan
Samuel Speights, Kathie Bennett Chan