When I was five-years-old, I had the pleasure of watching my first ever ballet, The Nutcracker. Though my memories are somewhat hazy of the experience, I clearly remember the main components that had me enthralled as a child; the beautiful ladies in their glittering costumes that danced like daisies in the wind and the sweet symphonies of the orchestra that rang through my inexperienced eardrums. It was a magical evening, I remember waltzing all the way home, my fathers hand in mine, imagining that I was too were a daisy in the wind.
Unfortunately my dreams of becoming a ballerina have remained firmly in my 5-year-old’s dreams. These days, I am a writer and Art Historian. Rather than the endless limbs and movements of prima ballerinas, I examine and appreciate the finery and fluidity of brushstrokes as they dance on paper.
For a fleeting moment, those whimsical memories of that magical night at the ballet flooded back when I discovered the work of New York-based artist and illustrator Katie Rodgers.
Before my very eyes were a sea of ballerinas painted in white on a black background. I instantly thought back to the ballet where the snowflakes waltzed and white figures danced under an enchanting midnight sky. Marrying both art and dance, the two mediums I am fanatical about, I was inclined to find out more about this artist who had reignited this powerful memory for me.
Katie revealed that it is fundamental to keep an open mind and an active imagination, just like a child. She was a curious child who was always fascinated by watching art unfold, line by line. Her earliest memories of art involved wearing crayola markers as lipstick, and commanding her parents to draw things for her after dinner.
As Picasso so eloquently put it, ‘there are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun’. Katie transforms that yellow dot into an entire galaxy of stars with her beautiful paintings. Each has a life of its own, in particular her famous shadow dancers.
Katie said: “The Shadow Dancers mean a lot to me. I only just started creating them about two years ago, but I feel as if they’ve been with me since I was a little girl. They are quiet and mysterious, but they are full of life and curiosity. They move as if they are dancing through the world and they appear wherever you look for them.”
She added: “What I love most about them is that they may mean one thing to me, and something completely different to someone else. They are simple and don’t have many detailed features, so someone can relate to them in their own way.”
Katie is a master of crafting the female figure, her models are often adorned in glorious ball gowns executed with fine precision and detailing.
Katie celebrates her identity as a woman through her paintings, and in that celebration, she is able to worship the woman in all of her mesmerising splendour and femininity. I was intrigued as to why she preferred painting the female form.
She said: “There are more curves and fluidity to drawing the female figure, but beyond that I am a woman and feel more connected to it. It’s something I know personally. There’s something very strong and beautiful about being a woman.”
Katie’s alias ‘Paper Fashion’ has amassed a staggering 1.7m followers on social media, which is increasing drastically by the day. With such a dedicated global following, Katie’s work has caught the attention of some of the most elusive powerhouses in fashion, such as Cartier, Elie Saab and Valentino.
She revealed: “It is incredible to work with such prestigious brands. I feel very fortunate that my work has reached them in some way, which is most often how I get these opportunities. It’s a wonderful challenge to create something that speaks my voice and vision while complimenting theirs.”
Extending beyond the boarders of most fashion illustrators, Katie is not only a wonder with watercolours. She uses an eclectic array of materials to embellish her art, including; sequins, beads, glitter, lipstick, leaves and sometimes even her food.
Originating from a small town in Atlanta, Georgia, Katie was lured to the bright lights of New York City. I was interested to find out where her ideal location would be to travel to in order to gain a fresh perspective, and to see how this would reflect upon her art.
With more than a hint of wanderlust, she said: “Somewhere where I’m completely surrounded by nature. I’m dying to visit New Zealand, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, and Norway, I love a snowy winter.”
I immediately conjured up images of nymphs and pixies prancing around an enchanted winter wonderland forest and creating mischief and magic all at once, a similar composition to her ‘Shadow Dancer Forest’ piece.
Katie invents magnificent works with such ease that are also aesthetic perfection, I wondered whether she ever gets painters block.
To my surprise, she confessed: “All the time, I go through phases pretty often. It’s important to work through it though. I sometimes step away from my work to get a fresh perspective, but often the best way to get through it is to keep working. One thing leads to another.”
When she is not painting, Katie leads a life filled with travelling, sailing, and seeking as many adventures outdoors as possible. An intrepid explorer at heart, she seeks artistic inspiration across all four corners on the globe, however, it rarely compares to the ideas she gets from a simple walk through the park.
Katie’s creations are bold in design and pungent with colour, and often three dimensional with texture but always remain elegant in composition. Filled with star catchers and shadow dancers, her work is reminiscent of the sheer glamour and sophistication of the past and the whimsicalness of a child’s imagination.
Art is perceptive and Katie’s work is no different. Her paintings can mean a different things to all that encounter it but we are all united in appreciating just how extraordinarily talented Katie Rodgers is.