Making it in the art world was her dream. And with her self-driven obsession, a hobby became a lifestyle — it’s no wonder joy permeates her work.
Successful Melbourne-based artist and gallery owner Katrina McKeon was passionate about art from a young age. “I was a very creative child and loved getting my hands dirty. I would make and create every day; it was my interest and my obsession, and I always imagined it would be part of my life,” she says.
Although Katrina studied art at a few different colleges, most of what she does today is self-taught by trial and error. “I love playing around with mediums, and I’ve learnt a lot by working with various mediums in nature,” she explains. “I particularly love exploring art through nature, architecture and interior design and bringing it back to basics with texture inspired by the bold colours found in nature.”
Being a very tactile person, Katrina loves texture and colour. She creates expansive artworks using acrylic and oil, and loves the sensation and effect of working with her hands. “I would describe my style as abstract expressionist, very textured and earthy, with bold colours,” says Katrina. “It’s diverse and contemporary, and it’s about creating a sense of freedom and joy. I feel like I’m very lucky to do what I love every day and call it a job, and I think this translates into and imbues the art that I create.”
This notion connects beautifully with Katrina’s own sense of self and philosophy on art and life. “I do think there is a lot of joy to be found in life and in nature. Grounding yourself and connecting with the earth, and being free and able to express yourself in time and space, is something I’m passionate about sharing through my art.”
But it wasn’t just whimsical ideals that created this successful artist. Katrina says that in order to build the life she wanted, she had to dream big, become singularly focused, draw from her instinctive self-driven nature and take risks. “I began simply by doing. In addition to artworks, I would make clothes, jewellery and bags, and found that people started to have a positive response to my work, which gave me more inspiration and determination to forge a career as an artist,” she says.
Now a painter for over 30 years, Katrina initially taught adult art classes at her studio in the evenings, and during the day worked with children at government primary schools while building her career. Over the past two decades she has opened numerous galleries in Melbourne, with her business going from strength to strength. She opened the Katrina Manton Gallery in Albert Park 18 years ago, then started Plume Gallery in Williamstown 12 years ago, and almost four years ago expanded into regional Victoria with a gallery in the beautiful seaside town of Lorne. This was followed by Plume Gallery in Armadale and then, at the start of 2022, another one in South Melbourne, which is where she also has her own studio.
Currently, Katrina is working on a Tropicana Freedom series, exploring the bright colours and textures within her tropical garden, but drawing it back and simplifying it to create her signature sense of freedom. “I love evoking feelings of joy, grounding with the earth and letting go of ego through my art. In the Tropicana Freedom series, I enjoy exposing the contrast between the black and white shades, combined with bright pinks, reds and oranges, like when a garden is in full bloom. Nature is full of surprises and my pieces, inspired by nature, remind us to reconnect with it,” says Katrina.
Life for her is one big adventure, filled with joy that was earned through years of determination and hard work while continually being true to herself. “Mark Twain said choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I’m living the dream; that’s certainly how I feel.”
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