Moomah the Magazine
GIRL CRUSH: Kate Lewis

GIRL CRUSH: Kate Lewis

Upon discovering painter Kate Lewis, we immediately loved her bright, gauzy floral washes and simple depictions of interiors. Heavy in color and pattern, while still playful and loose, Kate's paintings are instantly accessible giving off a nice warm glow. Her mother says she knew Kate was destined to be an artist when she won first prize at the county fair at age one... we guess her mother was right!

A country gal living in Chicago, Kate is a busy mom raising three young children with her entrepreneurial husband. She loves long runs along the lake and hours of yoga... but that hasn't happened in a while. Instead, she now finds peace in having an artsy house, getting an hour of yoga in once a week, and painting in her in-house studio with her kids close by. 

Having literally JUST had her third child, we took a few precious moments of her time to catch up and talk art.

How old were you when you decided to become an artist and how did you ‘know’?

I’m pretty sure I always knew I was an artist. I had a studio since late elementary school. At first, it was a table in the corner of a room. By high school, I had an entire room in my parent’s house dedicated to my art. Naturally, I majored in art in college although I had no idea how I was going to make money. I look back on that decision and am amazed and lucky that my parents supported my pursuit of art. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without their encouragement from childhood through adulthood.

Describe your process as a painter: what inspires you? how you conceptualize a painting? what gets you motivated?

I am an image hoarder. I have notebooks and notebooks full of images covering every page. I started keeping my images this way over 5 years ago. Last year, I discovered Pinterest. No words can express my love! I’m always sourcing paintings- people’s outfits, plants, bugs, interiors, table settings and window displays are all great sources of inspiration. Often there is one image that kick-starts the painting and gets me to a canvas. However, working with the kiddos around and in small increments of time means I work when I’m “motivated” and even when I’m not because I know I have a 4 hour, 2 hour or lately it’s been more like a 10 minute window to work and I better do it! Motivation/inspiration isn’t always present. My greatest motivation is: the kids are with a sitter, asleep, with their dad, etc. so I better hop to it before I miss my opportunity to paint!


What do you do when you have ‘artist block?’

I have learned to no longer criticize myself for having a ‘block’. My thinking is- I know something spectacular is on the other side. I don’t view them as blocks but rather a simmer-time. I imagine that an idea/painting is cooking and needs to stay on the stove a little longer before it’s ready, and I don’t know how long. Right now, I’m simmering. The combination of having a newborn plus a child who just entered her first official summer break after Kindergarten means we’re getting into a summer grove. Therefore, my work is simmering. Yet, I’m feeling the itch. It’s getting time to get back in the studio!

Describe a typical daily routine.

Honestly, I have no typical day right now! It’s summer, the weather is perfect so we’re outside a lot. I’m nursing a lot and not painting much at all! Soon, I envision morning exercise with the kids in the jogging stroller, park time, lunch and naps during which I have a few minutes to pick up a paint brush, simply sit down or shower (a rare event). After naps, I’ll arrange for a sitter to come a few days a week to be with the older kids so I can have a longer stretch of time in the studio. Next is dinner and bedtime. I predict having a bit of downtime at night to be with my husband. But, these days I’m heading to bed very early because of the night feedings. Then 6am rolls around, and it all starts again!


What artist/children’s book illustrations inspired you as a child?

Snowy Day and The Little House are the two books that stick out in my mind as my childhood faves. I love the collages in The Snowy Day and I recall the delicate drawings of fields and flowers in The Little House. I’m not sure I should admit this but some of my earliest drawings are of Bart Simpson. Although I didn’t watch the show, I was really into drawing the whole family. Drawing cartoon characters is a fun and easy way to learn to draw. I’m beginning to encourage this with Sadie.

Describe your most successful art project you’ve done with your children.

This may shock some, but I admit that I do not do art projects with my children. I’m even a little anti-art projects. However, if I had to name an “art project” it would be the cardboard house experiment. The winters in Chicago find us indoors A LOT. Out of desperation, I tried out one of the prefab cardboard houses. I put it in the studio and over the course of six months, they painted, glued, and finally deconstructed the house. It was a wonderful transformation and a very cool play space.

My philosophy is to provide them with materials and step back. I make sure they have plenty of crayons, colored pencils, markers, paints (I love watercolor paints because they don’t dry up and rarely stain), and paint brushes. I also make sure they have a variety of papers, fabrics, strings, ribbons, glue, tape, a hole puncher, scissors and recently I introduced Popsicle sticks and a stapler. These days they use tape and string the most! It is so inspiring for me to watch what they are creating.


How does being an artist assist your parenting?

As an artist, I approach my paintings as a process, a journey. I have an idea of what I want to accomplish with the work- to be beautiful, inspiring and uplifting. As I’m working on the painting, I’ve learned to work through the ugly transitions as I keep my intentions in the forefront of my mind. In a similar way, I have specific intentions in my parenting- to raise loving, mindful and giving children. Some days my parenting practices don’t always lead to Sadie, Eli and Knox fulfilling my intention. However, I continue to move forward trusting that I am helping them to become who they are meant to be.


In the end, I have faith that each movement of the paint brush and each color decision I make will lead to a successful painting. In a similar way, I trust that each parenting decision I/my husband and I make will lead to loving, mindful and giving children. Often, I have to let go of the original image in my head of what I intended the painting to look like because on canvas it is evolving into something else. Often, it is something even better than I had imagined and sometimes it’s just plain different. And, with my children, I often have to let go of what I initially intended whether it be how far apart they are in age or something as silly as what Sadie or Eli choose to wear that day.

My approach as an artist is organic. I give myself the freedom to explore and discover my work each time I’m in the studio. As a parent, my job is to teach them to live and learn through their own discoveries. I find I can facilitate this best by providing fun environments for them to play and be creative in. My studio and their play-space is one example. Our backyard is another. It was transformed a few weeks ago with dirt mounds, a slide and a special spot for mud-pie making. As an artist, I encourage and hold sacred creative play for them. I feel it’s my responsibility, especially in the age of technology at their fingertips, to fight for imaginative, inspired and unstructured play everyday.


Working alongside my children playing and being open with them about my process and work. I love that they know exactly what mommy does for work. Alternatively, I cherish being able to be an observer while they play. Often, if I’m stuck with a painting or project, I can look over and see them creating a whole imaginary world with string and a cardboard box. That kind of creative energy is magnetic. I love it! It fuels my work.



Kate works on so many different styles, from watercolor, to fabric art and even sewing on paper. Check out her work here and if you are inspired, why not try out this sewing on paper activity from another of our favorite mommy artists >>

Posted in: Discover & Learn   

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snapbackhatsfans said…

Good for health!

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