One-on-one with Katherine Rasmussen

Today Boneshaker Press presents you Katherine Rasmussen who contributes to the second volume of Encounters with the Imaginary. Katherine lives in California, USA and specializes in Design and Visual Storytelling. To view more of her work, visit her website.

What’s your background?

Born in San Diego and growing up in Norway, I’ve been given a unique perspective on the world. I grew up wandering through beautiful forests and daydreamed about dangerous creatures and magic that lived in the woods and mountains. Now, living in Los Angeles I still catch my mind wandering through those Norwegian woods.

What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

I’ve always been a daydreamer and a bit of an introvert. When I was a kid I liked to hide in my room to watch movies and draw in my sketchbook. I started drawing even more in junior-high when I was seated in the back of the classroom next to a girl who I had a lot in common with. We quickly became best friends and influenced each other a lot creatively. We’d sketch during each class (sometimes even paint) and geek out over movies and cartoons. To this day, we remain close friends.

Nisse Longcrop

When did you decide to dedicate yourself to art?

All I’ve ever wanted was to learn to draw and paint well so that I could tell compelling stories. Where I grew up, I had no familiarity with the entertainment industry. I remember taking art classes in high school and being frustrated at the poor quality of art education available to me. My art teachers focused more on “artistic expression” rather than learning the technical skills needed to do just that. There were no good options for me in my hometown.

One high school summer, my american uncle hooked me up with an internship at amazon game studios. When I met their art team in California it opened a whole new world for me. I came to the realization that I could, in fact, make a living as an artist! There are so many who do.

Adventures of Fish kid

Do you remember the first piece of art you made that you were really proud of? The one that made you say “yes I am an artist!”

Yes! It was a surreal experience. I attended the very first Watts Atelier illustration bootcamp in Encinitas, CA. It was an intense week! I did my very first illustration in oil paints of a viking on a ship heading into battle against a monstrous sea serpent. I hadn’t been painting very long and did not expect to go so well. But with the help of some amazing instructors and mentors, I finished it, framed it and loved it. Later on, I sold it to help pay for my next workshop! It was the most satisfying feeling.

As I was driving home I had the sense that the past week had been the happiest of my life. I knew that painting was what I wanted to do. Then I got a phone call from my dad. He told me that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. For a while things were a bit of a struggle. My mother fully recovered. I started dating a guy I actually met at that workshop (we’re still together after 3 years).

It became clearer each day how important it is to spend your life doing what you love and appreciating the people that you love. Life is unpredictable and precious. Spend it wisely on what makes you happy.

Do you collect anything?

Books! Specifically art books. I have to regularly thin out my collection because books are such a pain to move and space is limited. I also collect good reference objects and props. I just love to study. I love to paint traditionally as well and have accumulated far more art supplies than I have room for.

Strabgeand Norrel Fan Cover

What sacrifices have you made on behalf of your art career?

I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I left my friends and half family in Norway to move to the US. I did not go to college, despite having several tuition free options. I had my heart set on one plan. I got a full time job. Lived well within my means so that I could spend my earnings and free time on drawing and painting classes to get good and build a portfolio.

Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

No! I’d be terrible at anything else. Creative people who don’t use their abilities wither away. Since I decided on being an artist I’ve not have a backup plan. This is it.

HOWEVER, sometimes you just don’t feel like making art. Sometimes you have to go out and experience the world. When you come back, your experiences will influence your creative decisions. It’s important to allow yourself some time to do this.


What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

Don’t worry about what other people are doing or what’s expected of you. Embrace your obsessions and the things that make you, you.

How has your practice changed over time?

I’m influenced by new ideas and art every day. It starts becoming distracting. I’m slowly becoming more focused and goal oriented. When I practice I want to have a specific goal to achieve. I want to add a new tool to my arsenal for each piece of art that I complete. Design is all about decision making.

Sea Witch

How do you keep your creative spark? What keeps you motivated?

There are a lot of things that inspire me, but they don’t keep me motivated.

Stories, movies, books, games, folklore, doing studies from life or doing small pieces just for myself keeps me in love with painting. I’m also lucky to live in southern california.There is a high concentration of amazing artists and creative people here. My boyfriend is an illustrator/concept designer. He’s a huge help to keep me motivated at times when I’m struggling. We share a studio space and help keep each other in check.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Be patient and resilient. Don’t rely on motivation and inspiration.

Departed Soul

Professionally, what’s your goal?

My goal is to be happy and find out where I fit. There are so many things I want to do! The hard part is deciding which path to take. Illustration and concept art span a lot of different industries. One goal of mine is to be a part of a larger project, like an animated movie or series. I’d also like to launch my own project, an illustrated book perhaps.

What’s your main challenge when beginning a new piece of art?

The main challenge when starting a new piece is setting limitations. Decision making is tough for me, but making solid decisions early on sets up a good project. The closer I get to finishing a piece of art the fewer decisions there are left to be made.

Also, I just get really hungry when I’m sketching and thumbnailing a variety of ideas. I have to keep snacking or I’ll hit a wall.

Illustration for Encounters with the Imaginary vol 2

What is the most vital/indispensable tool in your studio?

A soft pencil paired with a long point pencil sharpener. It’s honest and versatile.

What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?

I’m starting to get obsessed with cartoons. I watch more kids shows than a healthy adult should. I watched over the garden wall about a dozen times. I’m exploring visual development as an option and tailoring another portfolio specific to animation.

I’ve always wanted to have a bit of range in art styles, but I think it would be really fun to work on a cartoon or an animated movie. There’s something about simplicity and shape design that effectively tells a story that’s become increasingly appealing to me. It’s an odd feeling because I’ve always liked cartoons, but I hadn’t considered that as an option for me until now. I’d love to see my art actually come to life!

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