It was fun chatting with Calgary-based artist Kathy Lycka recently. So much of what she does is incredibly strategic and it is rooted in a strong work ethic and desire to create.
She very clearly enjoys creating her art, creating her jewelry, creating content for her social media channels, and generating income from her passion.
I can’t say enough positive things about my chat with Kathy. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
[Featured Artwork: “Primavera Allure” by Kathy Lycka.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
I pick rock. I like a lot of crystals and rock reminds me of crystals.
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I started out as a graphic designer. I went straight from high school into what is now known as Alberta University of the Arts. I did that for about 15 years and worked for companies like Westjet, Encana, and Transalta. I was in a car accident in 2008 that left me with really bad whiplash. It really slowed me down. I had to re-learn how to walk around the block and I couldn’t hold my head up well. So I started painting again as part of my rehab. A year later, I started exhibiting professionally. It’s gone from there.
B. I lived in London, England, for a year in my 20s. That really spurred my love of art and my love of painting. Their larger museums are all free. They believe that art should be available to the masses. You walk in there and you can see all the painting masters. The ones I grew up learning about in art college. It just blew my mind.
C. I’m obsessed with my two cats; unhealthily obsessed. Savi and Tango, they’re just the cutest.
03. What is the main medium you use in your art?
I work with acrylic paint and I also work with clear glass for my jewelry.
04. What inspires your art?
My style right now is heavily inspired by Tiffany stained glass lamps. I initially created paintings in watercolor. It took me about 10 hours to do the black outlines and 40 hours total to do one painting. That was a ridiculous amount of time for one piece, and it was a small piece, not a large piece whatsoever.
I want to mimic the look and feel of stained glass. So, I ended up pouring on the black lines and then now I let them dry for 24-48 hours, depending on their thickness. I’m able to get the look and feel of stained glass but create it with acrylic paint in a much faster way.
05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
I’m definitely more productive in the morning. I get up and I’m very energetic and focused and productive. But because there were so many years where I worked a full-time job and did art on the side, I had basically trained myself to paint at night.
Sometimes, when I’m painting, the hours will get away from me. My cat, Savi, will come downstairs and tell me it’s bedtime. She’ll howl at me until I go upstairs. She actually herds me like a sheepdog until I go to bed and then we sleep together. She’s upset if I’m not there.
06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Calgary, AB)
You don’t realize how much sunlight there is here. When I lived in England, I got used to the overcast clouds so much that when I came back, it was so bright that if I wasn’t wearing sunglasses my eyes would actually water uncontrollably.
So, one of the things that’s great about that, is that the colors of the sky, especially at night, are quite brilliant.
07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
It’s a full time career for me. A lot of the artist friends I know create paintings and then just exhibit in galleries. One thing I’m trying to do differently is that I’m seeing a lot of opportunity right now with social media.
So, I have an Etsy Shop, an Amazon Shop, and a Shopify Shop. I’m a really slow painter and I’m not able to pump out high numbers of original pieces so, I take images of my paintings and I create products out of those.
I’ve been posting on social media on a regular basis for the first time this year. It’s been really interesting, the responsiveness, and being able to talk to people on a daily basis about my art and answer questions easily and quickly. I find that it’s so much easier than doing markets. I only do one or two markets a year now. Social Media has really opened up a whole new world for me.
08. What kind of training do you have?
I’ve been painting and drawing since I was little. I won a coloring contest at seven years old and I was in the paper in High River (AB). I won some awards when I was in junior high and I won some more awards when I was in high school.
I went to the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) for four years. They make you do a foundation year where you have to try several mediums before you focus in on what you want to do for your degree. So I tried a whole bunch of different things, but my heart was set on graphic design before I even started. At ACAD they combine illustration and graphic design together. So, I was able to do quite a lot of drawing and painting and I had courses in watercolor, but I had never done a lot of canvas painting. I had to learn that all on my own.
And then jewelry making: That was kind of an accident. I had an ex-boyfriend that bought me a pendant that looked like Tiffany stained glass. I was so deeply in love with it and wore it so much that it fell apart. This gave me the idea to start creating jewelry with my images inside.
09. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?
That’s a really tough one because with social media if you just post about your work, nobody cares. You can’t be too salesly and you have to really open up on a regular basis and be vulnerable, which is hard for me.
10. Where did your passion for art start?
It started so young that I can’t even pinpoint it. I remember when I was little that I was just obsessed with coloring and drawing. Whenever we would go on long trips, I had markers and I would let the bumps of the road create abstract painting squiggles. I’d call it my car art.
My favourite Aunt Linda used to create a lot of paintings and ceramics. Perhaps I inherited my passion for art from her.
I find now if I don’t paint or draw enough, it actually comes out in my dreams. I will get these creative but sometimes really creepy dreams. And then I’ll say to myself, “Ok, time to get back into the studio.”
11. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?
I eat all the cookies and cake in the house. It drives my boyfriend crazy. I try never to have treats in the house because I have no will power and I’ll just eat them. He calls me out every time I do this. *laughs*
12. What is your go-to band or singer?
I really like Imagine Dragons.
13. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?
There’s two things: One is art related and one is social media related.
The art-related is stained glass. It’s a very intensive process and I hear it’s very, very difficult. I really wanted to take a course but then the pandemic hit. I’ll be looking into that sometime soon now that things are opening up again.
And, then, the dreaded “live” (on social media). I have never done a “live” on any kind of social media. You’re supposed to do them on Facebook. Tik Tok recommends them all the time. I don’t understand how I can make it entertaining enough for random strangers to want to spend an hour with me. *laughs*
14. What household chore do you actually enjoy?
I’d have to say dusting. It might be a weird answer but you get to clean everything, re-organize it, and make everything look really nice. So there’s that satisfaction element at the end.
15. What app do you use most often?
I am on social media all the time but I probably go into my Etsy app the most because I have a lot of orders during the week. I just started doing ads with them. So, I’m always checking my ad-conversion rates and optimizing them so they perform better.
16. What is one common misconception about being an artist?
Probably the disorganization, and the flightiness of being an artist. My studio is a natural disaster at all times. It looks like a hurricane. But in my office upstairs, I have all my receipts and my income tax documents filed away properly, and my computer is quite organized.
17. What is your favorite drink?
18. What do you hope people get out of your art?
I have two series. I have my nature flower series. And I have a nursery series. The nursery animals are fun and whimsical and they make people laugh. They’re super cute and that’s their purpose.
But for the nature-inspired paintings I’m very aware of the energy and intention I put into it. I want them to inspire a peaceful, calming feeling in the space where they are displayed.