Graphite Beauties: Anna Kathleen’s Portraits

In 1564 a large deposit of mineral was found in Borrowdale, England transforming the way people could communicate. This large deposit of graphite changed not only how we write but also how we capture images. 

Anna Kathleen has further transformed this soft yet brittle element with her fine lines and attention to detail.

Anna Kathleen is a New Zealand based illustrator who sits outside the boundaries of traditionally taught illustration. With no formal training she has developed a strong style of her own that captures surreal moments and combines them with captivating female expressions. We spoke with Anna Kathleen ahead of her upcoming exhibition 'Chrysalis'.



Anna Kathleen Original Drawing Emperor

Interview with Anna Kathleen

Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background? Did you start creating early in life?

My name is Anna Kathleen, a self-taught artist who works predominantly in graphite. I’ve always naturally gravitated toward art, even as a child, but I grew up in an environment that valued practicality over creativity.

I shied away from the idea of studying fine art and instead, after leaving high school, I worked various retail and customer service jobs which were never very fulfilling.

I would always draw or sketch as an outlet/hobby, but it still hadn’t occurred to me that art was a career I could pursue.



Can you explain to us a little about your creative process? How do you go from an idea to a fully realised piece? What is your favourite part of the creative process?

Creativity can be an odd, fleeting thing. Most of my creative ideas spring to mind when I’m away from my studio and I’ll have to jot them down quickly before they’re forgotten.

Once I’ve visualised an idea that I feel genuinely excited about, I sketch up very quick concept drawings. Drawing concepts is my favourite part of the creative process as there’s no pressure and I can let my ideas and imagination flow freely.



Anna Kathleen Venus

The females in your works always seem to have a sense of curiosity, a playfulness based on wisdom rather than naivety. Where does the inspiration for their strength and curiosity come from?

Their faces reflect my own personal relationship with art. My artistic journey has been a process, which I’m still learning and adapting through.

I’ve found a real strength in pursuing what I love and I believe it’s reflected back at me through my portraiture.



You work primarily in graphite, contrasting the shades of grey and black with an almost vanilla paper. What drew you towards graphite?

There’s a versatility in graphite that allows me to capture sharp details but also a delicate softness too. I sometimes find myself contemplating other mediums but always seem to return to graphite for its beautiful simplicity.



Do you have a favourite source of inspiration or artist that inspires you?

My partner and I relocated to North Canterbury at the beginning of the year and have spent a lot of time discovering new forest walks and tracks that lead to waterfalls. Nature is an endless source of inspiration for my work, and moving away from the main city has been a real breath of fresh air.

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