Insights and ideas from Katharine Gilbert
Discovering new paths
Katharine (Kat) Gilbert came from a family of farmers and musicians, but her views of the world and her deft hands took her in different directions. Always living near nature, Gilbert’s artwork—a blend of drawing and photography—puts a fresh twist on the familiar with elements of mystery and magic throughout. Her unique mixed media artwork pieces are created using the surprising items captured by her camera while on her daily walks. In this interview with Photoshop.com, Gilbert shares her perspectives on the murky line between the “real” world and the 3D environments envisioned in her mind and realized through paths of discovery hewn with the help of Adobe® Photoshop® Extended software.
Photoshop.com: Which piece of equipment couldn’t you live without and why?
Katharine Gilbert:I would be lost for a time without my computer, camera, and software—but, ultimately, I would still find a way to create with my eyes and hands. Without Photoshop, none of my creative work would be what it is. It would exist, but it would be very different.
Photoshop.com: What role does Photoshop play in your graphic design process?
Katharine Gilbert: I began working with Photoshop as soon as it became available. Right from the start, I knew it would always be a major part of my work. The thought process of each piece of artwork is tied to the ability for Photoshop to translate what I am seeking visually. The capabilities of Photoshop often lead me down paths I had not thought of. It is similar to what authors speak of when they say the characters take on lives of their own. I am there as the eyes and the hands that help propel the work forward.
Photoshop.com: How did you create the results in “Third Meadow?”
Katharine Gilbert: “Third Meadow” (image 1) started in pieces and parts that came together all with one thought: pictures hanging on a wall. I was driving to work past misty landscapes one morning and had to stop and capture them. I stitched together the four-shot landscape with the help of Photoshop. Using Puppet Warp, I straightened the hanging twine. Blends and adjustments helped me work on the leaves, and color adjustments altered the look of the antique frame that came from my grandmother. Whenever or however I create, it all comes from personal objects or experiences.
Photoshop.com: Describe a favorite piece of artwork and what grabs you about it.
Katharine Gilbert: "Colour of Penumbra" (image 3) was created by combining a series of photographs of interesting things that caught my eye while taking daily walks in woods. It is also one of the first examples of work where I used 3D in Photoshop Extended. The image has more than one light source, and that creates a lot of visual mystery, which I love. Blends, overlays, and adjustments were all thrown into the mix to create this image. Shadows are a very big part of my artistic vision and this piece encompasses that passion. The beauty that Photoshop Extended created for a simple shot of a blossom was amazing.
Photoshop.com: How did you know something you create is really good?
Katharine Gilbert: I am never satisfied. One piece leads to the next and the next, which is the way creating works. Often, I will put certain pieces back into my files with an "in process" note attached. When there is nothing more I can add, do, or envision with a piece, then I know it is done. But is it good? I leave that up to the viewer to decide. In seeing any artist’s work, if I leave with an image embedded in my thoughts, then I know what the artist was trying to say came through loud and clear. This is what I hope for in my work. I always strive for a surreal or mysterious element. If someone looks back again or has a question that seems unanswered, then I have succeeded.
Photoshop.com: What does Photoshop mean to you?
Katharine Gilbert: This could take volumes, but because I am normally a person of few words, I can simply say that this program has helped my work evolve. What I envisioned for many, many years in my mind's eye was only able to come to fruition with Photoshop. Photoshop is my creative partner, plain and simple.
Photoshop.com: What are the most important things to think about when designing for 3D?
Katharine Gilbert: For me, the first thing is space, which literally encompasses just about everything. Light is the second thing, because it provides depth and definition. Within light are shadows that create another level of visual depth. Being able to think “in the round” helps me to define this space or environment. Allowing this space to develop in a natural way is very important to me. There is magic in the 3D realm that stretches the imagination beyond the "known"—it is a whole new artistic universe to explore.
Photoshop.com: What are your favorite 3D features in the latest release of Photoshop Extended?
Katharine Gilbert: Of all the features, I would have to say 3D Objects. Many of my creations involve spheres and shadows. I can hardly even say how long creating these “real” inventions took me in the past. But today—awesomely fast!
Photoshop.com: What is it about working in 3D that inspires you?
Katharine Gilbert: My Master’s degree is in sculpture, so my vision has always been multi-dimensional. Even when I am presented with 2D artwork, I see it in my mind in 3D. My creations are mini-worlds that I personally visit and explore. Movement is the next arena that I wish to bring into this vision and I feel that 3D is starting to get me there. I am not a gamer, but enjoy 3D space, whether real or created—that is where I live in my mind.
Photoshop.com: You often combine drawing and mixed media in your images. Do you make a specific effort to do this, or is it a more natural process?
Katharine Gilbert: What starts off as a single image for me soon translates into a natural creation and combination process. The traditional artist part of me wants to ensure that the human hand is still involved in the creative process, hence the drawing. The beauty of photography is that it remains true to the person who held the camera. I do not equate the pictures I take as pure photography, but as visuals to incorporate into my work.
Photoshop.com: Describe your background and how you got to where you are today?
Katharine Gilbert: My first business was drawing pictures in first grade and selling them for a penny, until my mother found out and made me give the money back. There were no art classes in elementary or high school, so when I went to college, I dove into it with all that I could fit into my schedule. Four years and then two years for a Master’s degree opened many doors to my passion. I have taught in two colleges, worked as a designer for Taft Broadcasting, and as a designer for a cultural center in Saudi Arabia with various other occupations thrown into the mix. I started a graphic design business that did 2D and 3D design that grew through the years and kept me connected to the creative world of design with a touch of the fine arts. I learned computers on my own and the programs that are my mainstay for my prints today.
Photoshop.com: What gives your artwork a recognizable style?
Katharine Gilbert: Ultimately, I think my style comes from my upbringing in the country and what nature has to share. I still live in the country and it is a constant source of inspiration.
Photoshop.com: Tell us about any other creative mediums you work in; are there any other areas you wish to explore and have not yet?
Katharine Gilbert: I am also a metal sculptor and welder. I enjoy the physical part of heating and bending steel. Most of the pieces I create are large. I dream of creating mural-size prints and, one day, making some of my prints dimensional. To really feel like you could walk into the environment would be awesome. My next wish is to explore the art of sound and movement in my pieces: to be able to create a full 360-degree environment with sound and images of light. I am very excited how the 3D and video features in Photoshop have changed, and how these enhancements are helping me evolve as an artist.