Artist and designer Oh Katy Long and her natural sense of wonder
With the February page of the TGN Gratitude Calendar illustrated by the wonderful Katy Long, it’s time now to find out a bit more about Katy, her work and inspiration. She explains how her enchanting paper collages have come about, how a daily creative practice is part of her self care routine (in fact, she brings creativity into all parts of her life) and how her children have inspired her to see life with a natural sense of wonder again.
Hi Katy, first of all thank you for taking part in the TGN Gratitude Calendar – and thank you so much for finding the time for this interview. Please tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Hi Krissie! I am so happy to chat with you today. Thank you for having me. I am a visual artist and freelance designer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live with my two small children, my lovely husband, 4 chickens, a lop eared bunny and a little dog named Tiny. I love hobbies, new experiences and romps through nature. I’m a Gemini sun, Aquarius rising and a 9 on the Enneagram (if you’re into that stuff which I very much am).
I really love your Matisse-like paintings / collages and the message you always so beautifully connect with it. Where do you take your inspiration from and how has your style developed?
My style changes quite frequently. I get bored easily and like to shift to follow what feels fun and brings joy and excitement. I tend toward whimsy no matter the style or technique. The cut paper collages started when I was teaching my youngest about shapes. We moved quickly from circles and squares to abnormal shapes. She would color a page and I would cut as many shapes as I could and we would piece them together. I started adding love notes to her on the page, then poems from our favorite poets and it evolved from there.
The act of creating / being creative is one of the strong elements that really seem to bring us into the present moment and flow. How do you feel when you’re being creative? And is it a difference being creative for a client and your own work?
Creativity is my life! It is a way of life. I can’t help but bring it with me into each part of my day whether it be cooking or hanging with my kids or painting. I feel most at home in myself when I let my creativity lead.
The beautiful part of working for myself is that I get to choose clients based on similar values and aesthetics. I’ve learned the hard way to listen to my gut when taking a project. When it’s right, the creativity flows and the project feels just as ease-filled as if I was doing my own work.
As a one-woman business, where do you look for a sense of community and collaboration?
I came from a corporate design job and I’m only 4 years into going it alone. I’ll be honest and say that working for myself is much harder than I ever dreamed. Community is essential but sometimes hard to find. I have a tight group of friends that I stay in daily contact with. My dream one day would be to create a shared studio workspace for artists where they can spread out and be messy but also be able to be a part of a daily community like you get when working in an office or at a coffee shop.
I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at the sense of community and collaboration that happens on social media platforms. They can be a gift when used mindfully.
When do you feel most fulfilled?
Fulfillment comes in different forms for me now that I’m a mother. I feel the most incredible satisfaction after an afternoon spent really connecting with my kids. Looking at their faces, listening carefully as they express themselves and responding in a generous way.
I feel this too after time spent away with my husband, something that doesn’t happen very often anymore. We have been lucky enough to take a few backwoods camping trips (out of cell range!) and the combination of nature and conversation with him leaves me feeling full in ways that work/career accomplishments can’t touch.
With two kids, work etc, life must be very busy. How do you take time for yourself? Do you have any self care rituals?
I love this question because self care is such a hard thing to balance in real life! I have a sticky note on the window by my desk that says “Take care of yourself”. I look at it a hundred times a day but struggle to listen.
The best way I can fill my cup is a few quiet minutes in the morning to read and journal. I practice morning pages and like to read a poem or two. This helps me center and gives me something to carry through the day. I also have a daily creative practice of 1 small art piece per day in a tiny notebook. If I can fit in yoga and a short meditation then I feel like a rockstar!
Mostly, I’ve come to view self care as a deep breath when I’m feeling scattered, a cup of tea when I’m cold and a quick nap when I’m tired. I try to mother myself as I would my children.
What values are important for you to teach your children? Do you think it’s tricky to instill a sense of gratitude in our young ones?
Our family values are based around love, kindness and gratitude. I think the tricky part about raising children is that they follow our lead. I firmly believe that our children watch and model us and how we engage with life. This can feel daunting!
That said, children are beautiful, magical creatures. They are born with a natural sense of wonder that is contagious and when I allow myself to follow their lead I can’t help but live in a place of gratitude. They are the best teachers.
I just love how kids open our eyes again to the magic of life and to being free in our creativity again. You’ve created some wonderful art and tools for your kids and others, too…
A side business that I’m trying to find time for is creating learning tools for parents to use with their preschoolers and young school aged children. As I’ve been teaching my own preschooler, I’ve created things like alphabet cards and number games to help make the process more fun. I had trouble finding anything out there that was aesthetically pleasing so I made them myself. They are currently available as printables on my Etsy shop. I’d love to grow this one day when the time is right.
I love following the moon phases each month! In 2018 I participated in a moon circle with a group of women where we met monthly on the new moon, expressed our intentions, supported and affirmed each other. It was beautiful. I created a worksheet that I use personally to help chart the phases and move through each lunar cycle with clear intentions. I have it now as a free download on my website if you’d like to start using it!
My hope one day is to make it into a journal to chart intentions for a year at a time. It’s a lovely way of capturing your journey.
How does a normal day of yours look like?
What I love about my life now is that each day is different. This suits me so much better than my past life of 9–5 at the office.
My oldest is in third grade so mornings are busy feeding little mouths and packing lunch. My husband usually takes both kids with him to drop my son at school and this gives me about 45 minutes to clean up breakfast and have a few quiet moments to myself where I journal and fit in my daily art practice. When my four year old gets home I try to get through 20 minutes of yoga. She is usually eager to start the day which means meeting friends or playing outside. My day is spent with her until her nap time where I have 1–2 hours to answer emails or take a little nap myself.
Dinner is always together around the table. This is very important to me. Each night before dinner we offer a prayer of thanks for our lives, our food, each other. After the kids go to bed is when I work. I’m a night owl and nighttime seems to be the only uninterrupted time I can find in this season of life. I always read for a bit and try to write a few words about the day before bed.
Days can be long and tedious with small children at home. Especially when you have a to-do list running in your mind. This is where I find the practice of gratitude to be incredibly helpful. It pulls you into the present moment and reminds you… they won’t be little forever.
As you often illustrate with a certain quote in mind – what is currently your favourite quote / mantra?
That’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite!
I have a million favorite quotes, here is one I wrote down this morning: “This is the present, at last. This is the now, this flickering broken light, this air that the wind of the future presses down my throat, pumping me buoyant and giddy with praise” – Annie Dillard
My mantra for this year is “Believe your purpose is whatever you put your hands to”. This came through when I was journaling my intentions for 2019. It’s been incredible for shifting my perspective on daily life.
And last but never least… What are you grateful for in this very moment?
A quiet moment, misty morning skies, tiny winter birds outside my window.
Thank you so much, Katy! I’m very grateful we have connected and am looking forward to seeing more of your beautiful work coming to life!
Thank you for all the good work you do! I’m so happy to have been a little part of it.
A beautiful and big part xxx
Copyright all images: Katy Long