I grew up as an only child who really just needed to find ways to keep myself occupied. When I look back at photos of me at 2-3 years old I’m always alongside my dad as he’s painting, building, or doing some sort of house project. I imagine this had an influence on me always needing to find ways to keep my hands busy. My earliest memories are of me on the floor in front of the tv with my parents drawing my dream house or copying the illustrations from my favorite children’s books. I would copy DVD covers (funny, as I ended up creating the covers as a career!) or I’d copy the cartoons in the morning paper. Something interesting I’ve noticed looking back is that I wasn’t particularly imaginative when it came to drawing; I just wanted to copy pictures as best  I could and develop the skill. I was more imaginative when it came to designing my American Girl doll’s bedroom or having to “design a product” for a 2nd grade show & tell. No doodling or sketching, for me. 

I loved writing, drawing, building, sewing, and dressing my cousins AND their dolls. I hated playing pretend. I wanted to design the world that these dolls lived in. I wanted to design my world. That makes a lot of sense to me as I’ve gotten older. I’m a pretty analytical person which at times gets in the way of my creativity as an artist, I’ve had to work really hard to bypass that. Not so much when I’m designing… but creating art? Absolutely.



At some point, probably in middle school, I got a little too cool for my artistic ways and was more interested in my friends. This followed me through high school until my junior year when I took my first art class. We had to draw self-portraits from a photo and that was the first time my interest in drawing came back to me. I was really good at it, which I know sounds however it sounds and artists aren’t supposed to say that, but it’s the truth. It was a skill I hadn’t used since I was a kid and somehow I still had this intuitive ability. So I took it and ran with it. I will never forget the feeling of my mom driving me to the Blick in Uptown, Minneapolis to buy me my first paper pad, easel, and pencils.

From there I began drawing all of my favorite musicians at the time; Keith Urban, Steven Tyler, Led Zeppelin, Lil Wayne, The Beatles, and created commissions for friends for $75. I became obsessed with making each drawing a little better than the last. It also operated as a form of therapy, which at 18 years old I didn’t have the language to explain. Drawing helped me through the drama and heartbreak of being young. I put absolutely everything I had into it; staying up until 6am drinking 4 diet cokes and listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. (A shame I never drew her, but I really hate drawing hair.)



I started my first semester at the University of Minnesota as an Art major with a minor in American Sign Language. Two months into my freshman year I was in an accident on the bus; breaking both bones and tearing 2 tendons in my right wrist. My dominant hand. My drawing hand. My painting hand. And LOL that I was also minoring in sign language at the time, too. This was devastating and painful and forced me to learn to paint left-handed.

I spent nights and weekends in the school art studio because what took other students 10 hours to paint was taking me 30. I had to carry canvases across campus with one arm in an L cast and I’ll never forget how no one offered help. I have no memories of anyone even helping me in class, only taking the time to focus on their own work. It was a space that really lacked collaboration and bred an air of arrogance, in my opinion. Which is hilarious as we all were first year students and no one knew what they were doing. Maybe arrogance isn’t what it was, it probably was insecurity and competition wrapped in one. After all, we’re all introverted, private people; us artists. And painting with other classmates around is really uncomfortable.

So, I applied for the School of Architecture after I left a big critique crying to my mom LOL. (What a sensitive baby!) I honestly thought my painting was really good but the entire class totally annihilated it to the point that the professor had to remind them all that I painted it with my left hand. I was mortified and, at that moment, totally and completely turned off to the world of fine art.

Switching to architecture was the best decision I ever made. I met my best friends there and the school fostered true creativity, ideation, and critical thinking. My whole life revolved around theorizing, experimentation, constructing, and all-nighters. The first day of class the dean gave a speech and said, "These will be the hardest 4 years of your life. Most of you won’t make it through this class, let alone the program. But after this, anything else you do in life will be a piece of cake.” *Cue Grey’s Anatomy theme music,* because that’s how it felt. And boy was he right! 

I could count on 2 hands the college parties I went to and I never made it to a single homecoming. School was rigorous and during my off hours (2am’s & weekends) I taught myself to paint… with my right hand! Through my 4 years of college I never gave up on becoming a better artist. By the end of college I was still focussed on developing the skill set, but after learning I had Synesthesia during a Toy Design class, I finally had a north star to develop a style around. (More on that in my upcoming Synesthesia & Art blog post.)

Not to cut this off so abruptly, but the next chapter of KATE.jjj resides in California, and I’ll go into that in a follow-up post. The point of all of this is to give my collectors a better understanding of what brought me to art, but also for other artists to read and understand that it’s a winding road with many exits and on-ramps. When I look at the other artists I admire, I have this idealized version of them where they just always knew what they were doing from the very beginning. Of course that is not the case, maybe for some, but definitely not for most.

I plan on writing more of these stories so that maybe others can find connection in them and see the purpose and evolution behind my work. My plan isn’t to turn this into a “How-To” blog, rather to share experiences, insights, and tools I’ve learned along the way.

Please feel free to leave comments and any suggestions for future posts! This is my very first time creating a blog so I’ll be learning as I go! :) 


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.