We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathleen Hudson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathleen, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career?
It wasn’t my initial plan, to be honest. I studied history & literature in college and planned to apply to law school. But I loved painting and knew pursuing a career as a visual artist was my dream job, so after some self-reflection in my final semester, I decided to go for it. I figured I could apply to law school later if painting didn’t pan out for me.
I’m so thankful I gave it a chance. I find a lot of meaning in what I get to do each day at the easel. When I paint, I get to use a visual language that can transcend the barriers of spoken language and even time. Anyone who sees a painting can interpret it and form their own response to it—it doesn’t matter where they’re from, who they are, what language they speak, or even what century they live in (if the artwork is created to last).
I paint mostly landscapes, and each painting I create tells the viewer about a place that I found moving or beautiful. I try to capture a sense of being there and really experiencing the light and atmosphere of a specific place at a particular point in time. I think many of us (artists or not!) have moments out in nature where we see something especially beautiful and are moved by it. In those glimpses we might feel more connected to each other and to land around us—and we want to hang onto that vision, to carry it with us. When I paint, it’s in the hope of carrying some of those moments onward and sharing them more broadly.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Making it as an artist is pretty much never easy (I have yet to hear of an easy case!) so I’m thankful I get to do something I love each day. I’m grateful that collectors find value in buying my work and seeing it every day in their homes. Several years ago, a fellow artist suggested that people buy paintings and immerse themselves in music or good cinema because we surround ourselves with things that elevate us, that push us to experience more joy and engage life more fully. I want that to be true of my work and it’s something I think about when I approach a new painting.
In terms of my own professional journey, it was a little roundabout since I embarked on my art career without knowing many artists and without having any gallery representation—I graduated from college in 2009 and no gallery I spoke with wanted to take on a new artist when the market had tanked. I mostly got by doing commissions, selling through word of mouth, and having shows in non-traditional venues. It was a grind, and I didn’t really break through and gain a national profile until I discovered plein air painting events (where a local organization invites or juries artists into a show, and artists come and create the works to be shown during the week beforehand). These events remove some of the traditional gatekeeping in art and bring artists directly into conversation with collectors—and that was great for me as an emerging artist. I now have some great gallery owners I work with, and I met them all through doing plein air events.
I think the key in all of this has been combining creativity with persistence. I received plenty of show rejections but kept improving my submissions and trying again. I had to think about lots of different potential avenues to pursue while keeping those things in line with my artistic goals. In the broader picture, the art market is rapidly changing as people buy more online, and the same goes for art instruction. I teach painting workshops and love seeing students’ work in person, so I’m now learning about some ways I could make virtual instruction feel more like in-person teaching.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The Denver Art Museum is worth a visit, and will be even more so once they open the floors under renovation. I love the Denver Botanic Gardens and it’s a treat to go in the greenhouses during cold weather…it’s like taking a temporary dive back into summer. My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary at Rioja and enjoyed one of the more memorable meals of our lives, so I would go well out of my way to try to get reservations there when we have friends visit. Finally, Cerebral’s experimental beers have been a highlight each time I’ve gotten to visit the brewery.
Regarding people and places—I’d really encourage folks to go to open studio tours whenever local artists organize them (or just reach out to a local artist whose work you like and ask if they’d let you drop in for a short visit).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I spent most of my childhood traveling and visiting art museums thanks to my plane-hopping mother, so I can draw a direct through-line from that to my career now as an artist who paints a lot on location. And aside from serving as the initial catalyst for my interest in painting and travel, she also plays a big role in encouraging my career now—mostly by being a loving grandparent to my two kids while I do several painting events each year.
I’d say another group deserves some credit as well, and that’s the very large and tight-knit family of plein air (outdoor) painters I’ve met throughout the US in the last decade. It’s hard to imagine another field where there’s as strong a bond of mutual support and encouragement. I’m continually thankful for it. Quite a few of my closest painting friends live here in Colorado (namely Jane Hunt in Boulder) so it’s a joy to be a part of this community.
John Crandall, Brian Frounfelker