Women in Business Wednesday: Katherine Corden Bellisario
Welcome to Women in Business Wednesday! This week, we’re thrilled to introduce Fine Artist, Katherine Corden Bellisario.
To say we love Katherine’s work is an understatement. From her Gather series (created for The Fresh Exchange) to her most recent body of work, “She & I”, her beautiful, gestural paintings just speak to us. She has the innate ability to “[capture] the imperfect beauty of nature, humans and social interaction in [her] work, to evoke nostalgia and comfort”. This sense of “nostalgia and comfort” is as apparent in her paintings as the influence of Northern Michigan upon them.
Talented, thoughtful, and intentional, we know you’ll love Katherine as much as we do!
Katherine Corden Bellisario, Fine Artist
Tell us a little bit about your work. What inspired you to start your business?
My mom is an art teacher and I’ve been painting since before I can remember. I primarily paint in acrylics, but I love incorporating mixed media into my work. The bones of my subject matter are realistic, but I counter that structure with playful abstraction. Each unexpectedly complements the other, creating a unique and interesting conversation.
I think the inspiration to start an art business has always been sitting in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t until I found female role models who were finding success in both life & business as working fine artists that I really felt empowered to go after my dreams!
Much of your work depicts scenes of gathering, set around a table. What about the act of coming together to share in a meal inspires you?
The series you are referring to was specifically created for my dear friend Megan Gilger of the lifestyle blog The Fresh Exchange. I’ve always been drawn to gatherings, whether that is people on the beach or around a table, and for Megan’s new store Shop Fresh Exchange she commissioned me to paint 16 pieces inspired by photos she has taken of her gatherings over the years.
I try to capture the imperfect beauty of nature, humans and social interaction in my work, to evoke nostalgia and comfort. I think gatherings are a beautiful medium to communicate that in a way that many people can connect to.
Explain a bit about your creative process. When does inspiration strike? Do you sketch? Where do you paint?
Although my subject matter frequently rotates, whatever I’m painting, you’ll always see the Lake show up in my work. Whether it be gatherings, figures, flowers, landscapes... She frequently informs my color palette and loose, organic marks. I owe Her for much of my inspiration, and so 5% of my proceeds support Great Lakes protection efforts.
I’ve often painted on birch wood panels, but lately I’ve loved creating works on paper. I start with a graphite sketch on heavy cotton cold pressed paper, and then slowly add layers with acrylic and gouache. I add final touches with wax pastels and more graphite to add definition and interest to the focal points. I find these mixed media works really come alive with texture and intuitive gestures, hopefully letting the viewer’s eye wander and discover something new each time they look at it.
I currently paint out of my home studio in Madison, Wisconsin but my husband and I are moving back to Michigan this July – we can’t wait!
We're "Up North" enthusiasts - maybe that's why you're aesthetic SO speaks to us. Tell us about your connection to Northern Michigan.
When I was 2 years old, my family started vacationing in Northern Michigan in a sleepy beachside town where my grandparents owned a cottage. My dad is one of four brothers, and each brother’s family would pack into that cottage every summer and some really special memories were made. Since then, the boys and their families have grown larger, and now there are four cottages within a 4-block radius of each other in that little town. It’s a pretty magical place to be anytime of year, but in the summer time when that town is bustling and coffee on Aunt Dolly’s front porch is only a five minute walk away, it’s like we are living in a story book.
In 2013, the summer after I graduated college, I lived and worked up there at Betsie Bay Furniture – a furniture and interior design business. This job allowed me to deepen my relationship with the community and explore the entire region in a way I hadn’t before. It also reignited my creative spirit and love for all things art and design.
Several years later, Betsie Bay invited me to showcase my art in one of their “Third Thursday” events where they feature local artists, musicians, and caterers to raise money for a local cause. That Thursday was supporting FLOW For Love of Water, the organization I now proudly give back 5% of my proceeds to. You’ll occasionally catch one of my original paintings hanging in their store, and I owe the Hessler family for helping me kick-start this dream of mine.
This past August my husband and I got married in this same beach town, and it was even better than we could have ever imagined. Having the opportunity to show off our favorite place to all of our favorite people was a dream and we can’t wait to live closer this summer.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
As a creative entrepreneur with no interns or employees (yet!) I wear all the hats, so every day looks a little different depending on the goals for the week!
However, my ideal/dream days go something like this:
6:30 am: Wake up and enjoy breakfast and coffee with my husband.
7:30 am: Respond to emails and take care of action items done on the computer.
9:00 am: Workout (hot yoga, barre, and running are my favorite options!)
10:30 am: Run errands (either deliver orders at the post office, visit the art store, or make online orders for the biz if needed!)
Noon: Lunch! I’ll either take a short break to read a current book or call a friend or family member.
1:00 pm: Hit the studio! I’ll paint all afternoon.
5:00 pm: Respond to any emails that came in during the day, then wrap up and set my top three goals to achieve the following day.
Who are some of your favorite painters?
Where to begin?! My favorite masters are probably Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Degas. My favorite modern day artists are Brynn Casey, Emily Jeffords (my mastermind leader!), Rebekka Seale, Dorothy Shain, Greg Sobran and Carla Sutton.
What's the best career advice you've ever received?
You have to be willing to use elements that are not necessarily popular. Maybe you’ve seen “this” and “that” before, but you haven’t seen them fused together in that way.
This is something I picked up from watching a Youtube video where Pharrel Williams is talking to Maggie Rogers when she is still a music student, and I remind myself of this almost daily, especially when I am creating my work.
How has your career and style evolved over time? What are some of your favorite pieces you've painted? What are you working on now?
Every series I release I like a little more than the last. Each time I paint I notice not just my technical painting skills improving, but I find a little more clarity in how I am expressing my work and my voice.
I released a new series titled “She & I” on May 16th and I’m really proud of it. It is a series featuring pairs of figures and flowers, they are mixed media on paper that have been mounted to wood panels and floated in minimalist maple frames. I started the series with the intention to explore the intersection of feminine energy and Mother Nature.
I taped and tacked the pages to my studio wall and painted each subject in tandem. My brush and paint spanned the left of one page to the right of the other, sharing marks and a color palette. The compositions are arranged so that the two paintings communicate with each other, inviting the viewer to witness their dialogue.
To further develop this study, I invited my talented friends to give a voice to each pair of paintings. Each woman has some connection to Michigan and/or the Great Lakes. They either practice a creative profession or pursue creative expression in their free time, something I respect and resonate with on a deeply personal level. I’m proud to know each of them and I’ve loved sharing their words and unique stories.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Home & Lifestyle
Name a trend that will never go out of style: Ethical & eco-conscious fashion/brands. I think consumers are now demanding this from brands they love and I couldn’t be more excited about it.
Name a trend you hope never comes back: Pin straight hair and thin eyebrows! As a wavy haired girl with thick eyebrows, I hope low maintenance style is here to stay.
Design advice to live by: I like referring to this quote by Kate Arends: “Start with what you cherish about your life that money can’t buy. Then build your home around it.”
What's on your coffee table?: We don’t have one currently, but as soon as we do I’m purchasing Pacific Natural by Jenni Kayne!
Most beloved thing in your closet: My Christy Dawn dresses.
Ideal vacation: My husband and I are taking a late honeymoon this July to Italy, so that’s all I can think about right now! Amalfi Coast here we come.
Describe your favorite pair of shoes: My Nisolo Ecuador huarache sandals in almond!
Who do you love to follow on Instagram: I’m currently loving Jenni Kayne. I’ve always admired the California lifestyle and I consider my own style a fusion of California and northern Michigan, they are both coastal states after all!
Odds & Ends
Go-to drink order: Pour over coffee with nut milk, doesn’t matter which!
Best restaurant in Detroit (or the area): I’m a University of Michigan grad, so I think Zingerman’s will always hold a special place in my heart - #73 is my favorite!
Favorite way to spend a day off: Doing something active and outside.
If you could have brunch with anyone who would it be?: My friend just asked me this over the weekend! I think it changes all the time, but currently Emilia Clarke. I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and I’m really inspired by her story. Plus, I’m always drawn to female role models who are petite like me!