{the interview series} Cathy McMurray

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Hoje trago-vos o belo trabalho de Cathy McMurray, uma artista Americana apaixonada pelas paisagens naturais da região onde vive. Entre o oceano e as montanhas de Cathy é fácil perdermo-nos... as suas pinturas são densas e de cores profundas, em parte devido à técnica de pintura por layers sobre painéis de madeira. Mas... quem sou eu para falar-vos sobre tudo isto? Leiam-no nas palavras da artista!

[Este post pertence à rubrica semanal {the interview series}, onde publico uma nova entrevista todas as quartas-feiras, com artistas e bloggers inspiradores que admiro, de acordo com o espírito handmade e um estilo de vida criativo. Tornem-se fãs no facebook e não percam nada!
Por motivos óbvios de extensão e compreensão do texto, tanto pelos entrevistados como pelos potenciais leitores do resto do mundo, a entrevista segue em inglês.] 

Today I bring you the beautiful work of Cathy McMurray, an American artist in love with the natural landscapes that surround her. Between the ocean and the mountains created by Cathy is easy to get lost... her paintings are dense and of deep colors, in part due to the technique of painting by layers on wood panels. But... who am I to talk about this? Read it all in the artist's words!

[This post belongs to the weekly feature {the interview series} where I publish a new interview every wednesday with inspiring artists and bloggers I admire, according to the spirit of handmade and a creative lifestyle. Become a facebook fan and don't miss a bit!]

Cathy McMurray
Portland, Oregon

spring day

1. Let’s pretend we don’t know each other and I’ve never heard about Cathy McMurray. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an artist from Portland, Oregon, where I was born and raised. So I remember the days long before beards, skinny jeans, and coffee became a hallmark of this town. I consider myself to be a simple gal who happens to like the finer things in life, particularly good food.
I enjoy making things with my hands, whether it’s a meal, a family blanket, or a painting to hang on the wall. For the past three years, many of these creations have been documented on my blog, Habit of Art.
I live in a 90 year-old home with my husband, two daughters, and a few small creatures. 

2. You used to teach art and now you have the pleasure to create and sell your own art. How was this creative passion born and which path lead you here?
Some of my early childhood memories involve drawing and making clothes for my dolls. When I was in primary school, I was enrolled in the Talented and Gifted Art program, which formed my foundational understanding and expression of art for the next seven years. I attended a small liberal arts college in Oregon thinking that I would major in economics (which I thought was the practical thing to do). But, it didn’t take long for me to declare a major in art after enrolling in my first art course. I had to be true to my passions in life and trust that they would lead me in a more fulfilling career path... and they did. After pursuing a degree in art education, I taught high school art for ten years. I eventually left one dream job to start another. In 2007, I opened a shop in Portland that carried well-crafted and sustainable clothing, art, and home goods. Due to the economic downturn, the shop was closed just two years later, and that’s when I concentrated my efforts on creating and selling my own art.


3. Your paintings are inspired by the natural world and your very own personal perspective about your surroundings. How are these compositions born? What inspires you? Share your creative process with us.
I have ventured across America and have seen many wonderful places. I have been to the Grand Canyon, to Niagara Falls, and to the Rockies in Montana and Colorado. All of these places are stunning and beautiful, but my favorite place is still my home state, Oregon.
I’m inspired by Oregon’s diverse landscape. Within an hour, I can be sitting on the sands of the Pacific Ocean or playing in the snow on Mount Hood. I love that my memories and experiences of these places do not change, unlike the urban landscape, which is in a constant state of transformation. As I get older (turned forty this year), I’m realizing I’m longing for time to slow down or for things to be as they were.  I think this is why I gravitate towards painting my natural surroundings.
Creating art is a very spiritual experience for me as well. The repetitive mechanics of painting and drawing can be very meditative. And the representation of natural wonders and forces in my work is deeply connected to my view of God, who I believe to be the Creator of earth and me.

summer hike

4. You use to paint on wood panels and often choose mixed media and painting in layers to express yourself. Tell us about your choices regarding materials and supports.
I can get bored working primarily in one medium, and often times, what I envision in my head can only be executed using a multitude of materials. Painting class in college was actually one of my least favorite classes (my focus was printmaking). But, I realized many years later that it had more to do with the materials I was using than the process. Once I discovered wood panels, I was hooked. I love the firm support and the warm texture of the wood. I also try to be conscientious of where art products come from, and many of the panels that I buy are made locally and/or sustainable.   


5. I’d love if you could share some of your favorite artists with us.
I have always been drawn to the bold colors and flat shapes in Matisse’s works. I absolutely love his painting, The Red Studio. The father of modern art, Kandinsky, is another personal favorite. As for current artists, I run across inspirational works every week while browsing the internet. Two artists that have caught my eye recently include Inca Pan and Nazarena Canvas. 

6. You’re also passionate for photography. Is this just a hobby or something more? Tell us about it.
I would love to do more with my photography, but there are so many hours in the day and the kids need to be fed and tended to.  In our previous home, I used to spend some time in my darkroom. But that was when I wasn’t painting, and I was shooting in film. One day, I imagine I’ll set up my darkroom equipment again. From time to time, I’ll have a photo shoot, but I do look at my photography as more of a hobby.  

open sky

7. I know that you’re preparing an upcoming exhibition, which opens on the beginning of June. This is exciting! Tell us more about it.
My art is being featured on Buy Some Damn Art, which is a site that showcases and sells original works by up-and-coming artists. Kate Singleton, who started BSDA, and I connected in 2009, shortly after starting our art blogs. We collaborated on a Portland/Brooklyn artist interview series a couple years back.  It’s been great working with Kate again, and I hope everyone will check out her site. 

mountain rim
lake ridge

8. You have a recognizable style and through your work your name travels all around the world! What means do you use to promote it?
Regarding marketing, it definitely helps that I had experience as a shop owner promoting other people’s works. Right now, I just focus on uploading new work into my Etsy shop every week and writing consistently on my blog. The key really is constant activity and networking, which brings more exposure. 

9. Would you share with us a regular day at work?
I work from home, so I just head downstairs for the day to work on my art, fulfill orders, or spend time on the computer. I’m a list maker, so that helps me stay on task... for the most part. When I work on my art, I like to have two hours of uninterrupted time, which can be difficult when sharing an open space with the rest of the family. A lot of nights, I like to work after everyone has gone to bed. I find that I can be the most productive during this time.

10. Would you give us a glimpse of your working space? Describe it and tell us what you love most about it.
I have three different work stations.  There’s my art desk, where I paint.  Then I have the cutting table, where I have the paper cutter. This is where I trim my printed art and package up my orders. The third work area is my printing and computer station. I’m very particular about keeping printing work separate from where I paint, and usually I choose one or the other area to work in for a period of time. 
Funny enough, the thing I love most about my space is the sink. When we remodeled the space, we put in an industrial stainless steel sink, very much like the two oversized sinks I had in my classroom. I like that it’s deep and can clean up very easily.

11. Share your passions and hobbies with us.
I do enjoy working on home projects. This week, my husband and I rebuilt a large rock wall in front of our home only using the stones from the previous wall. When I have some free time, I also like to sew, crochet, and garden.

12. You live and work in Portland, Oregon, a place where so many inspiring artists live. Tell us about what you love most about it. Would you like to live anywhere else one day?
When I was a young girl, I said that I would always live in Portland. After college, I actually lived in Eugene, Oregon for 11 years. Eugene is a much smaller town than Portland, but it has an active arts community as well, and it is one of the greenest (as in scenery and eco-friendliness) places around.
I could see my husband and I landing somewhere in Europe for an extended stay, but Portland will always be home to me. I love that it’s by the sea and the mountains. And the people here are down-to-earth, quite friendly, and are conscientious about their carbon footprint. Plus, Portland has some of the best cheap eats! 


13. If you could live in any historical era of your choice, what would it be? Why?
I enjoy watching films based on Jane Austen books and the like, but I could honestly only handle wearing a corset for a couple of hours.  I actually count my blessings that I was born in contemporary times.  I have the luxury of working for myself as an artist... something that was unrealistic for most women even a century ago. 

14. What advices would you give to someone who would also like to become an artist?
Be disciplined. If you want to make a living from your art then you have to treat it like a job. Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to promote your work, but marketing and networking are absolutely essential. And all of this takes time, so be patient and surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire you (and give you honest feedback!).  

15. What are your plans for the future? And your most unrealistic dreams?
My plan is to keep doing what I’m doing, although I’m hoping to slow down the pace a bit this summer.  In the past year, I had a number of amazing opportunities and experiences, and they all came at timely moments. So, I am really looking forward to seeing what the next year brings.  
One of my unrealistic dreams is to build an art studio in the backyard.  I can barely keep up with weeding my garden, so I’m not sure how I’d be able to carve out time to build a dream studio.  But dreams are for chasing, so I’ll keep working on making this one a reality.


Now a quick question and answer game so we can find a bit more about you and your tastes!
Tell us one:

book: I like to collect classics
music: anything from 80s to classical to r&b
movie: foreign
color: blues
object: pojagi (wrapping cloth) my Korean grandmother made
animal: panda bear
drink: fresh juice
food: spicy squid
season of the year: spring
travel destination: Berlin-Prague-Vienna trip
piece of clothing: my Prairie Underground hoodie
secret: I’m not a big crier but I cry at every Little House on the Prairie episode

Thank you for sharing your beautiful art world with us, Cathy! 


  1. i didn't know about Cathy's work!
    it's amazing!!!!
    great interview!

  2. I LOVE your mountain paintings Cathy! They are so expressive and exciting. Thanks Ana for introducing me to this amazing lady and her amazing work. Katie. xxx

  3. Thanks, Ana, for the feature! And hello to Evdokia and Katie.


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