A Bluethumb Success Story: Kate Rogers

Somewhere between a sweet reverie, high spirits and a deep appreciation of what’s human and feminine, Kate Rogers lies the foundations of her work. In less than six months, Kate has found herself with a diverse following of collectors and has fast become one of the most popular artists on Bluethumb, all the while maintaining the playful, inquisitive nature her art is increasingly so well-known for. This week we caught up with Kate to celebrate her success and talk influences, the ‘big picture’ and the Bluethumb community.

An excited Kate Rogers with her first large painting sold!

How has your journey as an artist developed over time? Have there been any key milestones or influences along the way?
In some ways the journey has stayed the same over time – with colour, irreverence and spontaneity consistent features… but it has also evolved a fair bit too. The key milestones and influences that come to mind are:

1. My Mum. From the moment I could hold a brush, Mum encouraged and championed my spontaneous, colourful, irreverent (and yes, Mum, exceptionally messy) creations. Her support for unconventionality and imagination was pivotal.

2. A Trip to Italy at 15. I grew up in rural Victoria, and while we had a great local gallery in Hamilton, my eyes wanted more. My Italian teacher, Mrs Varrenti, organised a trip to Italy, and thanks to picking up some extra shifts at Maccas, I could go. The trip was a revelation for me – I was able to glimpse the central, organic and joyful role art played in the day-to-day walks, conversations and basically, lives, of Italians. I saw art could be a vessel for joy, politics, passion and also, importantly, everyday experiences. I learnt art could surround you and you were in conversation with it… whenever you wanted. This felt extremely liberating and empowering… and suddenly art was everywhere. Italy was big for me.

3. The Victorian lockdown. Lockdown obviously gave me a lot more time at home and, like so many of us, I was looking for some more joy and meaning in my life. Art had always been this for me- and now I had time and energy to really embrace it again. One day I started painting – a lot – and I didn’t stop. I like to think of it as my Forrest Gump moment; the one where he starts running.
I do remember thinking my new paintings seemed different to previous work. They were unstructured, and fell out of me. In some ways I had returned to how I first began painting, but now with the aesthetic experiences and heavier influences of my adult life. I gave my easel to my next door neighbour (Covid approved, contact-free, of course) and began painting again like I did when I was little – on the floor. It felt good.

4. Bluethumb. I discovered and started collecting from Bluethumb during the first Victorian lockdown. I was really missing being able to browse op shops – my ethical, environmentally friendly version of Gold mines. I’m not sure how I came across Bluethumb, but I felt an instant connection with it. One of the first artworks I purchased was by Geoff Lugg. I loved the canny way he captures quintessentially Australian shapes and colour, always with a touch of humour. His work is both dry and warm; he’s immensely clever. Geoff popped a lovely note in with that first piece and I thought “these artists are real-life people who love art, and I’m a real life person who loves art… why don’t I give it a go?” By September 2020 I felt brave enough to, and that’s when this chapter in my art journey began. To be honest, to say it has been a milestone is a bit of an understatement.

Pera de Monaco: A dialogue with Pere Manach depicts Kate’s 21st Century conversation with a 20th Century subject of Pablo Picasso’s work.

Your work and artwork titles pull on an impressive amount of cultural references from within the art scene as well as literature, history and music. Could you talk us through your process before and through painting?
Thank you! So, the answer to this question begins in some advice from one of the many brilliant colleagues I’ve had the chance to learn from. At the time we’d just found out our entire project was getting shelved and she philosophically pointed out that anything you do in work – or life – will always end up being of value in your journey. For my art, her words are so true – and pivotal to my process.

When I paint, it is spontaneously and from my mind, however I’m drawing on flashes or glimpses of things I’ve experienced: books, studies, art, stories, news, experiences. They just come out. I find humanity fascinating, and the unique paths women take, despite (or often because of) the structural, systemic and cultural challenges they continue to face, breathtaking. These are the ideas I’m bringing to the canvas and this is what is driving my process. Aesthetically speaking, my pieces are hardly realist portraits, but they are attempting to capture some of the essence and certainly colours of a compelling or inspirational human I’ve learnt about or ‘known’. Their impact on me hovers there in my mind as inspiration as I paint. Sometimes I’ll just remember a first name or surname, or something I associate with the ‘muse’.

“I was thinking of Nora (the central character from the book A Doll’s House) the whole time I was painting Henrika Ibsen. Flown the Coop, but I could only remember the author’s name (Henrik Ibsen) and my overwhelming reaction from reading the book – ‘Nora, fly the coop!!!’”

Your series of feminine portraits has been likened to Expressionist painters, such as Egon Schiele, and the Cubist movement. What inspires you here?
What a huge compliment- thank you. Egon Schiele and early Cubists, particularly Cezanne, have been artistic inspirations throughout my life. So, I could give a technical answer but my authentic, felt answer is that for me, these artists provide a particular prism through which we can see and experience the world – and it is one which resonates strongly with me. I know it isn’t the prism for everyone, but for me it is raw, gritty, scratchy, tactile and, at times with Schiele in particular, dirty [in a grungy sense, rather than sexual]. There is something so real, unfiltered and of the essence to their work. It holds me. If I capture a drop of what their art is about I’ll be a very, very happy human.

“What I find really interesting is how much women feature. Strong, brave, tenacious, unique, gutsy – and undoubtedly because of these qualities, beautiful – women.” Inset: Mathilde by Kate Rogers.

What message do you hope a viewer takes away from your work?
The answer to this one is a bit trickier. There are different layers to this for me. I would like the viewer to have the agency to create their own message with my work, so I hope they’re working, or in dialogue, with me to create the message. I genuinely try to listen and respond to what Bluethumbers communicate to me – and what I am hearing, or interpreting, is that we’re building a conversation about bright, colourful humans (a lot of them women) on both an aesthetic and also psychological level. I hope I’m on the right track here with this part of the message.

“Be glad you’re not my carpet,” Kate comments during her time in the studio.

In addition, I feel this message is part of a bigger conversation that I think Bluethumb has started in Australia – one we are all partaking in, and one I am immensely proud to be a part of. When I started browsing Bluethumb, something seriously exciting struck me. There were no consistent demographic features across the artists I was favouriting, following or investing in. The artists weren’t one particular gender, they were from regional, rural and urban locations, they had diverse cultural, social and economic journeys and upbringings, they were at various life stages, and they included First Nations Australians and those that came to this vast land in recent centuries.

It struck me that Bluethumb was very organically and genuinely ‘living’ equity and diversity – and literally everyone involved was getting to enjoy the inevitable artistic benefits of this. The extremely exciting ‘big picture’ part of the message I hope my work is taking part in is that you no longer require the privilege, connections, luck or insane sacrifices and decades it has often taken artists to get exposure. Equally, as an art lover, regardless of your journey, on Bluethumb you have the agency and power to access and enjoy art that speaks to you, and if it really, really speaks to you, you can even choose to hang it on the walls of your own gallery – your home.  So, while it is not for me to speak for people who see or purchase my work, I hope part of the message is also about viewers feeling pride though knowing they are part of a movement which is opening up access (to artist, viewer and investor), diversifying and growing the Australian art industry, and judging from the growing number of international purchases on Bluethumb, opening up our particular aesthetic to the world. That is honestly the message I hope the viewer may want to partake in and enjoy with my work.

You’ve been with Bluethumb since September last year. In that time, you’ve sold almost 200 paintings! What has this experience been like for you?
Although very tempting, I don’t want to use the word surreal – because it has been a very real, and tactile, experience – just ask my hands and paintbrushes! You know, the word I associate the most with this experience is actually ‘community’. In addition to the ‘big picture’ sense of community I touched on above, I have experienced a great sense of connection with so many people in this big Blue solar system.

There is also a support group for Bluethumb artists which is filled with inspiration, venting and friendship. It’s the best staff room I’ve ever experienced. The BT staff are also incredibly real, responsive and (frankly) incredibly lovely. I’ve also got to know and become friends with Bluethumb artists and industry peeps whose work I’ve invested in and have been lucky enough to meet. So, in relation to my Bluethumb experience, the word ‘community’ is definitely the big one, and If I got to pick three words, I’d add ‘real’ and ‘happy’. And yeah, ok, it is pretty surreal getting to do what I love most in the world every day.

“At the forefront of my community are my work’s viewers and investors – I really try to listen to and ‘read’ what viewers like, both through responses to works and direct conversations with investors.” Featured: Valerie Magdalena on Magenta and Vermillion

Looking forward, do you have any future intentions or goals for where your artistic process is going?
I honestly don’t. Until lockdown I was a compulsive forward planner. Then the world as we lived it cut sideways, and sliced off some of my rusted-on habits with it. So, based on the last year, I’ve developed an instinct that spontaneity suits my art, and with it a suspicion that if I try to get ‘planny’, it may disappear. And I don’t want that…. so I’ll happily wait and see what falls out onto the canvas next.  In terms of my art journey, the only goal I’m consciously aiming for is having a Netta Loogatha piece up on one of my walls before the year is out….. I think I have just enough room left!

Meet the characters within Kate’s work, or connect with Kate yourself on her Bluethumb profile.

Ellen McKenna’s Feeling Colours This Melbourne Design Week

4 Comments

  1. Neil Trapp says:

    Very entertaining artist. Colour has produced definition where there was none. Interested to see more from this artist.

  2. Geoff Lugg says:

    Kate, Fantastic interview . what an amazing artist and person you are. I love that you donate some of your sales to indigenous communities. Thank you for mentioning me and my work in your Bluethumb interview . Your art friend Geoff Lugg.

  3. Lisa Collis says:

    An inspirational story for any aspiring artist to read!

  4. Toni Lucas says:

    It was so interesting to read the interview with Kate Rogers, and inspirational, and admirable, and I even felt a little bit jealous…..! Reading about her trip to Italy at 15 was what did it! I did go to Italy eventually, at the age of 40…..not long after I had started my “adult painting life”……but wondered if I had been there at 15 how it could have changed my career path! I love the freedom shown in her work, which intrigued me from the first painting I saw of Kate’s, and reading her interview it explains a lot of the thinking behind her works. Good on her, and good luck to her in the future, I feel we are looking at a modern master in the making here….! Congratulations on your success Kate!

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