What is the importance of mindfulness in creating art, and how can it affect our lives positively? Today, we have Kaitlyn Parker, the American Berlin-based travel illustrator to tell us about her own journey in finding herself, her art, and being mindful of the present as she creates every single day.
“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life.”
– The Art of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
R: Hi Kaitlyn! Thank you for granting us this interview for our ZenARTist Feature. For this particular series, we will be interviewing different artists from all over the world to feature them and their works. We are so happy to have you with us on board!
K: Thank you so much for having me at ZenART Supplies! I am thrilled and honoured to be a part of your ZenARTist Feature.
A: We are honoured to have you here! So, we love your distinctive style and your coloured cityscapes definitely draw an audience in. How long have you been painting, and how did you get into it?
K: Thank you. I’ve found a recent passion for cityscapes since moving to Berlin. I’ve been painting and drawing ever since I can remember! I was always doodling and coloring as a kid. I took every painting class I could get my hands on while growing up and had many amazing teachers along the way. At first, it was simply a hobby and a passion and it wasn’t until I moved to Berlin that I realized I could actually make a living from it.
Face-painted Kaitlyn Parker with her mother, 1990
A: Your beginnings in Berlin as an artist were not easy. Can you tell us about that, and how you found your own identity in the art scene?
K: My beginning weren’t easy, but most aren’t. I moved to Berlin in the spring of 2012 after working as an Au Pair in Germany for a year and a half. I lived and worked out of a one-room, run down, studio flat for my first few years in Berlin. When I arrived, all I had were 2 suitcases of clothing and necessities, and some basic art supplies. In Berlin, the flats aren’t furnished. They don’t even provide you with a refrigerator or lightbulbs! I had no bed, no fridge, no chairs, no desk, and at the beginning, no lights… and very little money. But you know what, I was ecstatic! I was on my own, living in Berlin, I had a visa, and for that moment — that felt like everything! For the first several months, I made a make-shift mattress out of a pile of my winter clothing and only ate what didn’t need to be refrigerated. I worked on the floor and my “desk” was an old wooden crate that I had found on the street. Bit by bit, I accumulated some furniture, a fridge, and even a bed. Every single thing that I managed to buy or find was a huge achievement and that much more cherished. I feel like working up from ground zero made me appreciate every little thing that much more.
The artist in her first studio apartment in Berlin, Germany, 2012
My identity as an artist is ever evolving. At the beginning, I worked a lot with cardboard and recycled materials because I couldn’t really afford anything else to be honest. I also had a lot of time to explore the city and my artistic style at the beginning since I didn’t have a lot of work. A lot of my most popular pieces were created in those first few months in Berlin. I was so open, curious, had nothing to lose, and had a constant need to create and experiment. Looking back, I think this has shaped the artist that I am now in several ways. Because of my beginnings, I am able to appreciate everything that I have and what I’ve built for myself. I now have my own little art studio with three desks and a chair – quite a long way from working on the floor! I have more brushes than I know what to do with (including some lovely ZenART supplies acrylic and oil brushes 😉 ), I have fun with paper, canvases, paints and all kinds of things that I never imagined I could afford back then. But I must say, I still live really simply and within my means. I don’t always buy the most expensive brands and I still use cardboard and up-cycled materials at times. But mostly, I love to explore and experiment with my style and work. I may not have as much free time as I used to when I was starting out, but I still have the same curiosity and constant need to create.
One of Kaitlyn’s illustrations in front of Schamil Gimajew’s work, East Side Gallery, Berlin Germany, 2019
A: Thank you so much for sharing your story. What an inspiration you are to all of us, especially to our readers who are starting to dabble in the arts and are doubting themselves in one way or another. You truly are a role model! Now, let’s talk about your techniques. You have such a colourful palette that can instantly brighten up anyone’s day. We’re curious – What do you think is the importance of a positive mindset for artists?
K: We all know that life isn’t easy, but a negative mindset isn’t going to make this journey any easier. A positive mindset is vital for all of us. I’m not saying it’s always easy to maintain, and I definitely have my own low moments of despair, but I try not to dwell on all the things going wrong. There are so many things that go well in our lives everyday, and they don’t even have to be big ones. We should acknowledge them and take joy in these things. As artists, we have to be our biggest fans and advocates, yet more often than not — we are our own enemies, tearing ourselves down. You won’t get very far if you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re creating. At some point, you have to put other people’s opinions aside and create for yourself. Make things that you feel like making. Feel good about yourself and the work you’re producing. The more happiness and confidence you have within, the more you’ll start noticing how contagious your positive vibe can be!
A: I completely agree with you, I am sure a lot of artists can relate to this. We have to champion ourselves everyday and try to work even on down days. In line with that, can you tell us a bit about your creative process, and what inspires you? I’m sure a lot of our readers would love to know about this too!
K: I like to think of my creative process like an ocean; there’s tons of waves, some storms, but also a fair amount of blue skies and good weather. No creative process is flawless, and mine differs depending on what project I’m working on. It often starts with brainstorming and sketching, before moving on to the final piece. In between, there are tons of ups and downs! I usually begin with excitement over a new project, then waves of doubt come and I ask myself, “What am I doing? I’m way in over my head! I’m not good enough for this”, among other thoughts. Then the waters calm again, I find my flow, and I am reminded that yes — I do know what I am doing. I’ve learned that this is my process. I’ve learned to deal with that murky phase of doubt, and trust that it is all a part of the process, and that it always turns out in the end…and if it doesn’t, it’s also not the end of the world.
A quick on-site sketch by Kaitlyn, Lyon, France, 2018
Travel and nature inspire me and this is greatly reflected in my work. Time off is also a great source of inspiration. As much as I love to paint and draw, I find it vital for my creativity to rest every now and then. I always find that I’m most inspired after coming back from a long, relaxed holiday. I normally have ideas bursting at the seams, and I feel refreshed and ready to work!
A: Aside from practicing your art, you are also one of the most active artists on Instagram. In addition to that, do you also teach children?
K: Yes! I wasn’t always so active on Instagram, though! I actually resisted having an account for quite some time. Some good friends of mine ended up signing me up for IG and insisting that I “NEED” one in this day and age as an artist! BIG shoutout to them 🙂
I indeed teach art to both children and adults. I love teaching children because they’re still open, uninhibited, and can dream big! They are actually a big source of inspiration for me. On the other hand, I also love teaching adults because it’s a chance to bring out the child in them again. It’s an opportunity for them to drop their “adult” life and stressors for an hour or two, while immersing themselves in the magical world of art and painting.
Drawing Meditations workshop by Kaitlyn Parker at Praxis Familienleben, Berlin Germany, 2018
A: We see that you offered a Drawing Meditations class for children last year. That is so interesting! Do you think meditating is an important practice for both adults and children alike? And do you think there is a connection between mindfulness and art?
K: Yes, I did! And it was absolutely fantastic! I will definitely be offering more.
I think meditation is a fantastic tool and one which I would love to get better at. I try to practice traditional meditation daily, but this doesn’t always happen. However, I truly believe that art, drawing, and painting are forms of meditation, and are vital activities for both adults and children. For me, meditation means a time for inner reflection and focus, and I achieve this through my art. Our art reflect so much of ourselves – our feelings, our thoughts, and dreams. It also gives us a moment of intense focus on the present. I encourage everyone to give themselves time for this every day, even if it’s only for ten minutes!
You can check out more about my Drawing Meditations concept here.
A: That is a beautiful approach to mindfulness, and it proves that this practice can be observed by people of all ages! It leads us to our next question. You also recently completed The Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James. Can you tell us a few things about your journey?
K: I completed the St. James way with my husband this past spring! It was an unforgettable journey, one that I’m sure to repeat. For me, it was the epitome of relaxation and one of my favourite ways to spend a holiday. For one, you can’t bring much with you along the way because you have to carry everything on your back. Life on the Camino is simple, and there’s no need for planning. Each day is the same and different at once. You get up before the sun rises, walk, stop for a snack or coffee, walk some more, stop for lunch, walk again, and at some point – you start thinking about finding a hostel to stop at along the way. And this is what we did, day after day. There’s very little strategic thinking involved and this is what I love. The walking is very meditative and healing to the soul. It gave me lots of time to sort my thoughts out and just be with myself.
The artist on one of her stops in the El Camino de Santiago Journey, Spain, 2019
A: September is a health and wellness month for us over at ZenART. Mindfulness is one of the pillars that our brand lives by, and has been the greatest factor in the creation of all our products. We carry the most essential and practical art materials, with our popular brush sets containing every multi-functional shape you will need, and our oil paints, packed in beautiful, minimal yet sturdy sets that can be easily carry around. The idea is for the artist to experience a relaxed and mindful state of creating, whether it is in the studio, when travelling, or during plen-air painting. What can you say about our brushes that you have been using to create some of your beautiful works?
K: Your brushes are great! I love using them for my acrylic landscape and abstract pieces. In addition to your products, I adore your brand and what you stand for! You provide artists with high-quality, affordable products, but you also provide us with a community. You care about your customers and artists and provide us with valuable connections, great content, and care via your brand. I feel this is what sets you apart from other art suppliers and am very impressed with all of you.
The artist’s Berlin illustration with ZenART’s No. 6 Filbert Brush (Badger Mix) from the Renoir Collection
A: Thank you so much for your kind words and for appreciating what we stand for, Kaitlyn! We surely do our best everyday to provide our artist friends with the experience and inspiration they need to create more, albeit the challenges of everyday life. Speaking of that, do you think there are creative ways in which artists can manage the different stressors in their lives?
K: I think art in itself is a great way to manage stress. This was the original purpose of my “Drawing Meditations” concept – it literally started as my form of meditation and a way for me to let go of my day. But outside of art, I think it’s important that we have fellow artists with whom we can speak to regarding our struggles and stresses. Like I’ve mentioned several times above, the path of an artist or creative is not the easiest one. It’s vital to be able to speak with someone who can relate with your struggles and who can also help brainstorm creative ways to deal with the obstacles we face every day. It’s important to know that it’s okay if you feel frustrated, stressed, defeated, or scared – almost everyone I know felt this way at one (or several) points in their lives. The more open we are about these things, the less taboo it becomes, and the more help we can give and receive.
A: Thank you for granting us this interview, Kaitlyn! And thank you for being a source of inspiration to all of us. Please provide any additional information about you (any upcoming exhibitions, Youtube channel, etc.) you would like our readers to look out for. 🙂
K: Thank you so much! It was truly an honour for me. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know you all this past year. Keep up the wonderful work and thank you for including me in your community.
The artist Kaitlyn Parker (@kparkerdesign) working with details on a painting, Denise van Deesen
If you all are interested in hearing more from me please check me out and follow me through the links below:
Please don’t hesitate to reach out, say hi, or ask any questions! I have several years of experience and mistakes under my belt and am always happy to share and help when and where I can. Have a lovely day and thank you, ZenART Supplies and all you dear readers.
Did you like this article? Would you be interested in reading more artist interviews – or would you like to be featured as the next ZenARTist of the month? Let us know in the comments section below! As always, we are looking forward to reading your comments and suggestions :))
— MEET THE AUTHOR —
Ardak Kassenova is mother, artist and ZenART Supplies co-founder. “My heart and soul were always with Art, and since my childhood as long as I remember myself, I was dreaming to be an artist. I was painting after work, when I had time, and teaching myself through the books, videos, visiting art galleries and museums. I’ve been very curious about different techniques and styles, and therefore accumulated knowledge and experience on a variety of mediums”.
After 20 years of a successful corporate career and with becoming a mother to two wonderful girls, she decided that it’s time to make drastic changes and link her life with Art. She started to paint again and decided to create her own art supplies brand that would help artists to fulfil their creative dreams and achieve their best results since the beginning using high-quality art materials without wasting their precious time and money. Say hello to @ardak_zenart on Instagram!