Inside the Artist’s Studio with Kathryn E. Noska

Kathryn’s artwork is on view in our juried exhibition “Small Works 2016”. Her work is available for purchase in our Online Gallery Shop:
store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


I hold an Associates in Fine Art and reside in Pennsylvania.  I’ve been accepted in numerous juried exhibitions and have won several local and national awards.  My motto, “Take Time to Find the Unseen” is realized through Symbolism, the language of my art.  I paint mystic still life in mythic landscapes using curious compositions, representational symbolism, and philosophic whimsy.

As an artist with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, (sensitization to extremely low levels of many seemingly unrelated chemicals, pollutants and toxins), I’ve traveled a winding road to find safe, nontoxic materials that won’t trigger any symptoms.  My goal is to express my personal sense of creativity – healthfully.

Come with me as I relate this journey…

Me in my studio

Me in my studio

I was trained as an oil painter from the age of 12, but by college I had to give it up due to reactions to the solvents.  I then worked with acrylics for many years, but my symptoms gradually increased because the formaldehyde and ammonia in acrylics was too much for my body to handle.

Knowing that I could not work with any solvents or chemicals, I stopped painting altogether and for the last 5 years worked on a series of drawings.  However, being an oil painter at heart with a strong passion, purpose and persistence, I went back to research in 2015 and learned about the solvent-free oil painting method used by many Old Master Painters.

Studio with still life setup

Studio with still life setup

My journey continued as I searched for a chemical and alkyd free oil paint.  After trying the paints from several very good companies, to which my body still reacted, I discovered Art Treehouse, which makes paint with cold-pressed walnut oil that are completely free of chemicals at all stages of the processing.  Huzzah!

The Art Treehouse colors and oils I use

The Art Treehouse colors and oils I use

Now that I am working completely solvent-free with slower drying walnut oil paints, I have to make some adjustments to my familiar painting process.

Stages of my painting process:

First, I develop a detailed drawing on grid paper using a harmonic grid to aid the placement of my composition.

The drawing composition on grid paper.

The drawing composition on grid paper.

Harmonic Grid I use to create a pleasing composition.

Harmonic Grid I use to create a pleasing composition.

Next, I trace it on a panel using a burnt umber oil transfer technique, then thinly paint a brunaille underpainting.

Oil transfer onto panel and brunaille underpainting.

Oil transfer onto panel and brunaille underpainting.

Once the underpainting is dry, I apply many mechanically thin layers of color often adding a small amount of umber and/or rubbing the paint down with paper towel to help them dry a little faster.  Because walnut oil is less viscous than linseed oil, I have no need for any additional medium.  I work with straight tube paint, only adding a little water-washed walnut oil to the upper layers as needed.

First layer of color applied thinly.

First layer of color applied thinly.

Beginning to add volume and details.

Beginning to add volume and details.

Both heat and light help speed the oxidation process of oils.  I place the painting inside an insulated box using the small amount of heat from either a low 25 watt incandescent or high wattage LED lightbulb to help speed the drying time – free of solvent and sensitivity!  (Of course it still requires patience.)  :-)

Paintings inside the heat box.  I use an old insulated cooler with LED lamp.  The box is kept closed :-)

Paintings in the heat box (old insulated cooler).  If using an incandescent, keep the lid open slightly to allow air flow.  If using an LED keep the lid closed – they don’t produce much heat.

Clean up is easy.  Walnut oil is expensive, so rather than use it for clean up I use a less expensive oil like grapeseed or sunflower.  I rinse the brushes in the oil and wipe them on a paper towel repeating this several times to remove most of the oil paint.  I then repeatedly wash the brushes using an oil soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s Unscented bar soap) until the soapsuds remain white.  The palette I use is a butcher’s tray which is cleaned up just as easily by wiping with oil, then with soap and water.

Symbolism of Finished Painting:  This painting depicts going within to sweep away negativity.

Grapefruit: One’s state of mind – sour or sweet.  Broom: Change; Material and spiritual cleansing; Clean sweep.  Book: Knowledge; Wisdom; Chronicle of existence.

Mind Sweep - Sour or Sweet.  8 x 10  Oil on Panel  © 2016 Kathryn E. Noska

Mind Sweep – Sour or Sweet    8″ x 10″    Oil on Panel    © 2016 Kathryn E. Noska

“Metaphor is the path I travel to perceive, consider and understand the world.  I faithfully represent the seen, exterior of objects while revealing an internal, unseen spirit, thus transcending reality.  My paintings become a means for uncovering the veiled layers of reality cultivating conscious awareness of my life path”.

Gratefully, my journey continues!  Thanks for coming along with me. To keep in touch with what I’m doing or to see more of my art check out my website KathrynENoska.com and Like my Facebook Page – Kathryn E. Noska.  I love sharing my process on Instagram, too.  Please follow me @kathrynenoska.


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Kathryn’s work in our current exhibition “Small Works 2016” (juried by Bleu Cease, Executive Director/Curator of RoCo; exhibition runs through January 6th). Kathryn’s work is available in our Online Gallery Shop: store.mainstreetartsgallery.com

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by artist Megan Armstrong.

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