02 April 2013

THE GALLERY: Queen Of The Cats, art by Kristina McLean

One of our primary goals here on Creative Sweet is to recognize talented people. In our series THE GALLERY we'll feature some of our favorite artists, local and otherwise, to share with you all. Today we are excited to introduce you to Kristina McLean, the woman behind Queen Of The Cats. When we happened upon Kristina's work we were instantly drawn in by the array of colors and of course, the kitties! Kristina gave us an excellent background on herself and we loved getting to know more about her, her art, and the music project she's involved in with her soon-to-be husband. Seriously, so much talent! We didn't want to leave anything out, so check out her Q & A below:

Kristina McLean

Creative Sweet: Tell us a little about yourself! Your background, how you started painting, how long you've been at it, anything you'd like to mention at all really: 

Kristina: I grew up in the suburbs in Mississauga, ON (Canada) in a place called Meadowvale, which is still my favorite place and I dream of moving back there sometimes. My brothers were my best friends. Some of our favorite things to do were playing street hockey with the neighborhood kids and riding our bikes to our local arcade, Wizard's Castle. My older brother and I would stay up late and ink comics in our sketchbooks.  It was time consuming and a bit messy, since we would end up spilling a lot of the Indian ink on the white carpets. I've always had a connection to art, but the first real memory of wanting to be a painter in terms of a vocation was in Grade 2.  I just thought to myself, yeah this is something I always want to do. In Grade 3 I did a project on cats and drew every breed of wild and domestic cat. The actual project was something like 5 pages of writing and almost 200 pages of drawings.

I still love everything I loved growing up. I was a teenager in the 90's and all things from that decade are still my favorite things (like regular fitting jeans not the skinny jeans that seem to never be going out of fashion and feel like they are painted on, Nirvana, plaid shirts, Beavis and Butthead, etc.).   Also, my love for neon stems from my childhood as well and I incorporate those colors in my paintings as often as I can.

I was lucky to grow up in a family that nurtured my artistic side. My mom and dad would drive me to the art supplies shop and never complain when I spent forever trying to decide what colour of paint to buy. My art teachers in high school were also super awesome and would encourage me to follow my dreams of being an artist. I studied Art History, English Literature and Visual Art at the University of Toronto. I've had many jobs from kitchen help to flight attendant. It wasn't until after I had my children that I started pursuing art as a full-time career. Since I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, it was the perfect job where I could set my own hours and be my own boss. My two children and soon-to-be husband are my world. They always are the first priority and inspiration to all my artwork. The internet is an amazing place (it still really blows my mind) and sites like Etsy allow me sell my artwork and build a really cool fan base.
First drawing
CS: Like a lot of people, we like cats. We know you paint things other than cats, but we have to ask, how did it all begin? Were cats the first thing you painted or do you enjoy painting them more than other animals and people?

Kristina: Cats are my favorite animal. The nickname my brothers gave me when I was a kid was "queen of the cats". My Aunt bought me a book on all the different breeds of cats, which I still use as a reference.  I would spend hours looking at all the different fur patterns and specific details that makes each breed unique. I never really limit myself to just one thing in terms of art. When I started selling paintings on Etsy, it was mostly bird paintings. I go through phases depending on my mood. I really like painting portraits of girls too. Realism to me seems kind of outdated. I can snap a photo of something and it would be a perfect portrayal of that moment in a realistic manner, so it seems obsolete to make a realistic portrait. My favorite quote is by Picasso "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." That resonates a chord in the way I feel about art too. 

9 Bird Faces
CS: Do you have any fuzzy felines of your own?

Kristina: I currently have three cats. They are all lady cats and are adopted from rescue organizations. Their names are Bambi, Princess Zara and Hazel. There are lots of great local rescue organizations who do amazing things saving cats. There is always at least one cat on my lap while I paint.

CS: Some of your pieces feature true-to-life color palettes, but many are painted in bright, bold colors (who doesn't love a purple cat or girls with bright pink hair?) is that just your style, or is there more to it? Is it a process where the colors you paint with reflect your mood, or maybe music you're listening to, or is it just a natural process where you decide as you go?

Kristina: The process for my work is mostly spontaneous. I don't keep a sketchbook or do any drafts before I paint. I also don't have any strict preconceived ideas prior to starting a painting. I just let the painting evolve as I go along. I love the contrast of neon with faint pastels. Right now I want to focus more on portrait art. The face tells so much in terms of a story and emotions.  

Himalayan cat
CS: The detail in your paintings is evident, especially the pieces featuring animals, since the brush strokes and techniques you use make up their fur. How long does it take you to complete a painting on average?

Kristina: I've had to adapt my painting techniques and style to fit my lifestyle. I squeeze in painting when I can. So I'm generally painting for a few hours when the kids go to sleep or when they are at school. I work pretty quickly. On average my paintings take 2-4 hours to complete. I like always having something new on the go.

CS: We read that you do custom work for people of their pets. Have you had any odd painting requests?

Kristina: I have done many cool custom portraits of people and pets. All of them have been fun and I feel honored when people ask me to paint their family/pets. Right now I am not really doing custom portraits because of my limited time. Maybe some day in the future I will start doing custom portraits again.

Custom portrait
CS: Do you have an all time favorite piece that you've done?

My favorite painting is always the one I am currently working on at that moment. It's the most relevant to how I am feeling. I don't really think too far into the future or live too far in the past because then I will miss out on what's happening right now. I wake up every day and just enjoy it for what it is.

CS: If you don't mind, share 3 random fun facts about yourself with our readers: 

Kristina: 1. I love water and I hope to one day live near a lake. I love fishing (especially early in the morning. My boat of choice is a rowboat. It's quiet and doesn't pollute.) 2. My favorite tv programs are cartoons and reality tv. To name a few Beavis & Butthead, The Regular Show, Jerry Springer and Cops. 3. I cut my own bangs (and have been doing so since I could use scissors.)

CS: Are you involved in any other creative endeavors?

Kristina: I'm also in a band with my soon-to-be husband. (We both grew up in Meadowvale and knew each other when we were teenagers.) It's called Yeti Snow. I sing and play keys, synths and drum machines and Mark plays bass. I was classically trained on the piano and loved going to the opera with my grandma on Sunday afternoons. I feel like you need to learn the techniques of the classics before you can start breaking the rules and that has been the same process with my art work. I work on paintings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays music on Thursdays and Fridays and then both on the weekends. We have some songs and a music video on our YouTube channel here.

We've admittedly been lurking the Queen Of The Cats Etsy shop for the latest paintings and you should feel free to join us! For new updates and to browse more of Kristina's work and amazing talent you can also visit her Facebook page - we LOVE when her painting pop up in our newsfeed. Like she said, she's not doing custom portraits currently, but connect with her online for updates on her work and maybe you'll be able to have your own custom pieces done of your favorite critter in the future. Oh, and don't forget to check out Yeti Snow on YouTube!

And for our latest updates, give us a like!

  *All photos courtesy of Kristina McLean


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