A Look Through Erie's Creative Lens | Painter Katie Maciak

Monday Apr 1st, 2019

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Outdoor adventurer Katie Maciak (LeVan) takes the feeling of serenity that comes with immersing oneself in nature and transfers it onto the canvas to share with us. She encourages people to find their own meaning in art, stating, “I paint because it is my favorite thing to do and it channels my moments of peace.” Her love of nature doesn’t stop with paintings, as she also makes pressed flower jewelry.

Katie graduated from Mercyhurst University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art. She now works as a Gallery Director at Stonewall Gallery, where she seeks out artists for potential shows, organizes and curates art shows, handles and displays artwork, and delegates other behind the scenes work to her gallery assistant. She also organizes the artist receptions with the two main goals of getting patrons to come out to meet the artist(s), and to receive positive feedback from the patrons. “It’s very important to me,” she says, “to make sure our artists are happy, first and foremost.”

Katie has received some recognition for her artwork already, including a Purchase Award for two of her paintings from Mercyhurst University during her Senior Thesis Art Show. As a result, these paintings were added to the permanent collection that the University displays throughout its main building.

In addition, she received an Honorable Mention at Campbell Pottery’s annual In the Garden Art Show before she became Gallery Director. Katie was also featured in solo art shows at Mod Apothecary and Pointe Foure Vintage Boutique.

I had the privilege of interviewing Katie and learning about what makes her tick, or rather, paint. Let’s find out more about the woman behind the canvas:

Have you always enjoyed art? How did you get started with it?
Always! I actually began painting with my mom as she followed along to Bob Ross’ instructional videos when I was young. Throughout school, I took independent art studies that lead to my interest in getting an art degree. I started at Mercyhurst as an Art Education major. After a couple of years, I realized that I wanted more art than I was getting, so I decided to switch gears and focus solely on art with the idea that I could still someday teach. I have since lost interest in teaching and am so happy I made the decision to surround myself with creating!

You do a lot with nature. Do you spend a lot of time outdoors?
I do! Being outside brings me the most sense of calm and wonder that I have experienced in my life. My husband and I frequently camp and hike with our dog. There is so much inspiration that can be found in nature, and I hope to portray that beauty and wonder through my brushes and palette knives. I try to get outside every day, even if just to sit for a minute and listen to the calmness around me.

Do you base your paintings off places you like to go, or places you’ve seen in photographs?
I like to use my experiences with nature as inspiration. I very rarely use a reference photo solely as it exists. If I use a photo, whether it be one of my own or not, I usually only use one part of it (such as the sky), or I use it for color palette inspiration. I typically work in specific color palettes that I want to play around with. I might paint five paintings in one night with the same color palette and then move on to something completely different the next day. However, sometimes I do try to recreate a feeling or mood that I experienced through visiting a specific place.

I see that you also make pressed flower jewelry. What is the process behind that?
A lot of the flowers or leaves that I use I pick myself on walks with my dog. I press them between heavy book pages with wax paper for at least one month, or until the flower is dried out. Some flowers that don’t grow around here I source from other places and have shipped in. Once dried, I laminate them in a sturdy laminate that is essentially a UV protected plastic. Next, I prepare them for jewelry by cutting and sanding all of the sharp edges as close to the flower as possible, so that it will hopefully look close to how it would in nature. From here, the flowers are ready to be made into whatever jewelry I decide to make.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from your art classes?
To never stop exploring. I think it’s so important to continually find new ways of making things, as well as new ways of thinking about the world around us, and how we as artists fit into that world. And more academically, to repeat techniques that excite us over and over again until we feel one with them.

What advice would you give someone who wants to major in something art related?
To never compromise. A lot of people have a lot of views on artists and their ability to make a living or to succeed. I think that serving oneself and following the path your heart is drawn to is the key to living a happy and fulfilled life. And of course, explore everything! Be curious and be determined.

How has being around other peoples’ art influenced your own art, or even your views of what qualifies as art?
It can be incredibly overwhelming or incredibly inspiring. It’s so easy to get wrapped into the “Well, I’ll never be as good as so and so” way of thinking, but I try to always use art that I’m in awe of as drive to push myself. I love to get really close to artwork and try to figure out the techniques and methods the artist used to create their work, then explore how I can use those methods in my own way. I try to not be judgmental about what might qualify as art because when it comes down to it, art is whatever we want it to be. It’s such a vast and ever evolving subject that putting restrictions on what qualifies as art brings more negativity into my scope than I care to allow into my life.

What is your favorite art form to work with? What other art forms might you like to dabble in?
Painting, especially with oils, will always be my one true love. I’m currently very drawn to wood-working and looking into ways that I can incorporate it into my work. I love the use of mixed media in paintings and am focusing on using more materials in my upcoming work to add dimension and interest.

What would you like people to take away from your art?
Beauty and wonder can be found all around us. I want to portray that through my art, sort of like a love letter to nature. I hope that by viewing my work, people become captivated in what exists just outside our doors, just as I have.

What are some upcoming projects we can expect from you?
Definitely more mixed media work. I am planning on working larger and more focused this year. I am currently working on exploring how my palette knives and oils work on wood slices, as well as how pressed flowers work with the oils. I am also in the middle of trying to learn the ins and outs of soldering things for use on my canvas. More textures, more layers, more materials! I’m very excited to see how I can make all of these ideas come into fruition.

Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to answer my questions. Katie’s artwork can be purchased on etsy: www.katielevan.etsy.com 

For those of you who would like to keep up with her, you can check out her website www.katielevan.com, and follow her on Instagram @katielevan and Facebook @katielevanartwork.

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Flower Trees LRGolden Twilight LR








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Saturate LRKatie Maciak












Erin Maloney HeadshotErin Maloney recently obtained her Associate’s degree in Business Administration Marketing & Management from Fortis Institute. She is a poet and a writer who is passionate about art and helping it reach all who can be touched by it. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.