Ever since middle school, Kate Padilla ’23 has enjoyed creating visual art. Padilla recently began sharing this long-time passion by creating an Instagram page and Etsy shop. On these platforms, she shares and sells watercolor and gouache paintings—her current favorite media.
“I really love oil paint, but I’ve been doing a lot of watercolor and gouache painting lately,” Padilla said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “Gouache is like this opaque watercolor…so it can look transparent and really soft, but then it can also be layered to be thicker, which you can’t do with watercolor.”
Like many artists, Padilla sought a creative outlet at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led her to create her Instagram account. While the page allows Padilla to share her work with others, she primarily uses the account to reflect on her own progress as an artist.
“I think I needed something to do during quarantine, so I just started posting some of my older art, and then what I was working on in my painting class last year,” Padilla said. “I…wanted to have an archive of everything that I’ve been working on, so I can go back and look at it and see how I’m growing as an artist.”
After several Bowdoin alumni expressed interest in buying some of the artwork on her Instagram, Padilla launched an Etsy shop in the 2020-21 academic year.
“I’d been thinking about it before, but I just never took the time to do it—I was like, ‘No one is going to want to buy my art,’” Padilla said. “But then I did, and people bought it, so it’s really cool to see that people want to look at my art.”
Before creating her Etsy page, Padilla occasionally did commissions for her family and friends, ranging from dog portraits to posters of album covers. She is currently creating paintings of sea creatures and Bowdoin’s campus for her Etsy page in response to interest from alumni.
Although she enjoys creating art for her Etsy page, Padilla feels that it adds more pressure than when she is painting for herself because she wants to ensure that her customers are happy with their purchases.
“It’s really hard, because you feel like it has to be perfect when you’re doing something like that for someone else,” Padilla said. “If I’m doing it for somebody other than myself, I’m making sure that I think it’s good enough to give to somebody.”
While Padilla continues to be mindful of technique and skill during her artmaking process, her main focus is on the narrative and meaning behind her work.
“In high school, I was getting a lot of guidance of learning how to do certain techniques and learning that all for the first time…how to actually create something really technically,” Padilla said. “I feel like, as I’ve gone into college, it is still about the technical, formal aspects of creating art, but it’s a lot more about making it personal and making it have a story.”
Due to the pandemic, Padilla has experienced a shift in the way that she creates art. The College’s transition to remote learning encouraged Padilla to create art independently—as opposed to in a classroom setting—for the first time.
“Having the last two-and-a-half semesters of my art classes being on Zoom has had a really big impact on how I make art,” Padilla said. “I’m not in the studio and I don’t have somebody walking around, helping me as I’m doing my art…it’s mostly on my own.”
Not only did Padilla encounter challenges with virtual classes, but she also had to move her artmaking space several times over the past year.
“It’s definitely been really unique, since I’ve been in so many different places just because of quarantine,” Padilla said. “We suddenly had to go home, so I had to set up in my sister’s bedroom…and then my family moved, so then I had to set up another place in my new house. Then I lived in Colorado for the semester, and so I had to bring everything there…now I’m in my dorm room.”
While she had previously created most of her art for class assignments, starting her own art business has allowed Padilla to view art as more than a mere interest.
“I’ve thought about it as a career, kind of, but I never really thought I could do that because nobody had ever really bought my art before,” Padilla said. “But it definitely made me be like, ‘Oh, maybe I can do this if I work hard enough.’”
Outside of art, Padilla also studies biology. Regardless of where art takes her after her time at Bowdoin, Padilla looks forward to seeing how she will combine her passions for art and science in the future.
“I’m interested in scientific illustration, so for medical textbooks or different textbooks for biology classes and that kind of thing, so that’s kind of what I’m going for right now, just kind of the most scientific type and style of drawing and painting,” Padilla said. “It makes so much sense since I’m a biology and visual arts major, so it’s really exciting.”