Sometimes I wish I could just post a recording of an interview I do so you could hear first-hand the enthusiasm in the person’s voice. My written words will never be able to capture the pure excitement Lake Forest’s Katie Powell Brickman has for the art she’s making. She was like interviewing sunshine.
I’ve been lucky enough to call Katie a friend and neighbor for a long time. Our children (Katie has two–Louise and Powell) have been close friends since they were babies and Katie’s sister actually bought the house I grew up in when my parents decided it was time to downsize. In those years, I’ve seen Katie’s entrepreneurial energies channeled in the worlds of wellness and interior design. But somehow, as I now watch Katie making art, it’s like she’s found what she was always meant to be doing.
“It all feels very right and easy,” says Katie of her life as a working artist. “I guess I’m a little bummed that I didn’t start doing this sooner, but maybe this is how this was all supposed to manifest.”
Katie has been a creative self-starter for as a long as she can remember, selling leaves from her wagon when she was a toddler growing up in Winnetka.
“I’ve always loved projects,” she says. “I used to go into the garage and paint everything I could find…golf balls, tees,” Katie says laughing. “Then my mom would take me Michelle’s Bakery—the Gerhard’s of Winnetka at the time–with a card table and chair, and I would sell my garage art. I was five years old and still can’t believe my mom let me do that.”
Katie began to really immerse herself in art when she attended high school at Cranbrook Kingswood in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. “Cranbrook’s expansive grounds designed by Eliel Saarinen is where my appreciation for art and design started,” she says. “Painting, drawing, weaving, design, and ceramics were a part of the curriculum but just as impactful was living amongst Saarinen’s design that was everywhere–the gates, the light fixtures, and even the rugs and dorm room furniture. Art and design literally surrounded me.”
Katie’s parents also lived for a number of years at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. “No doubt Dorothy Draper’s vibrant contrasting colors and oversized everything made a huge impression on me,” she adds.
But it was in New York after college, where Katie worked for a young Kate and Andy Spade in the infancy of their entrepreneurship that she began to form ideas of what really appealed to her from an art and design standpoint.
“I’ve only ever worked for entrepreneurs, people who weren’t afraid to give things a try,” Katie explains. “So putting myself out there with my artwork feels pretty normal to me. Every time I go into my studio, I think of it as an experiment. It really takes the pressure off and allows me to be brave and enjoy it.”
Katie knew it was time to share her work when it caught the eye of friend and former employer, interior designer Alessandra Branca. “She was looking for artwork that mixes old and new, refined and spontaneous,” Katie says. “With Alessandra’s support, I became more confident and began to develop my own style, playing with bright colors and everyday materials.”
Katie’s art truly celebrates uncomplicated beauty. Her technique is simple and her colors are bright and saturated. Everyday materials like wood, paper, and nails are combined with an unpretentious technique. She finds inspiration in children’s games and wooden toys. Katie’s go-to colors are Kelly green, sky blue, poppy, and bright yellow. The result–charming paintings that are both naive and bold.
“I tell people that my favorite place to source my materials is at the hardware store,” she says. “It feels too precious and sophisticated to me to shop at an art store–I love the accessibility and hardiness of Ace [True Value Hardware].”
This weekend–October 9, 10, and 11 from 12 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Katie’s work will appear in her first show being held at the Arbor 3 Arts Gallery in Three Oaks, Michigan. This gallery was recently opened by Chicagoan Lisa Gregg, a former creative director with Tommy Hilfiger who has a storied career in curating art. During the early months of the pandemic, Lisa and her husband moved out of the city with their four children to their summer home in Three Oaks to wait out the quarantine. While there, Lisa took a career pivot and opened an art gallery of her very own. A mutual friend introduced Katie and Lisa and the two are collaborating on Katie’s first show.
“I still can’t believe this is all happening,” says Katie. “I feel so lucky that Lisa is taking a chance on me. And I’m happy that my family is seeing me doing something I love and putting it out there in the world. Anyone can find what they love–I really believe that. You just have to go do it!”
Katie Brickman’s art will be showing at the Arbor 3 Arts Gallery in Three Oaks, Michigan on October 9, 10, 11 from 12-5 p.m. Eastern Time. Arbor 3 Arts Gallery is located at 15 Elm Street in Three Oaks.
To learn more about Katie or to see more of her work, visit her website.