Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Fashion icon Iris Apfel once said that color can raise the dead. In the North Dakota landscape of farm fields and snowy expanses, we need color and the passion of art to survive.
“I’ve never been happier.”
27-year-old artist Kate Baldock quit the monotony of her 8-to-5 to create lively and colorful art full-time. Her work varies from large pieces fraught with vibrant colors to abstract portraits capturing the beauty of women. She claims that she hasn’t completely nailed down a certain style yet, but all her work exudes the same energy and her understanding of color lets the viewer feel a connection between all the pieces.
Her work is mostly abstract. She enjoys the room this leaves open for interpretation. “I think it’s fun to give people the opportunity to see what they want to see,” she said. A large part of her work as an artist is that human connection and being able to see the reactions she gets from her pieces. From changing someone’s mood to seeing a new interpretation, this happiness is what it’s all about for her.
“I’ve had a few different jobs over the last five years and I’ve done a variety of different things. It was just in the last year or two that I really dug into what really makes me happy,” said Baldock. “[Before,] I would take these jobs and try these new things and I was never fulfilled. I just couldn’t ignore that anymore.” At her desk jobs, she couldn’t quit thinking about art and creative ventures, which wasn’t a benefit to her art or her full-time job. It was time she took the plunge.
Before going full-time into art, Baldock was creating and selling small ink wash commissions of subjects like people’s pets (she is a huge animal lover herself). She would do these small jobs here and there and not really showcase her work publically or show many people. As she continued and grew, she got more confident, bit by bit. “I feel like the more confident I got, the bigger my work got. I experimented with more color and then I was really throwing color on canvas and I was buying bigger canvases. For me, that was the moment where I finally felt comfortable really showing people what I can do,” she said. Soon enough, her desk days and small pet portraits were behind her and she was a large-scale artist.
It has taken some time for Baldock to see herself as a gifted artist. “I never dreamt that people would buy my paintings. I didn’t really have that great of confidence. It took a long time to develop that and I’m still working on that, too. It’s not something that you just get overnight,” she said. “Especially as an artist and a human in general, we’re always critical of ourselves. And we don’t give ourselves enough credit sometimes. I’m learning to deal with that in a new way, that people do like my stuff and I can be proud of that and be confident in that.”
Her family and her faith have been integral pillars in this growth as an artist and a person. She claims that she wouldn’t be where she is now without her faith in God and her family’s support. She is incredibly thankful to be backed by her husband and parents.
One way her parents have shown support is by opening up to her a spare room in their basement to serve as her studio. Working near family has provided her both tangible and immaterial support. Her father helps her by framing all her work, but he has also been her cheerleader along the way. “He never once said he doesn’t like something, everything I do he loves. And that’s a good message. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it can’t be changed or that somebody else might enjoy it,” said Baldock.
Baldock doesn’t have an official website or portfolio of her work, partially by design. To showcase her work she relies on Instagram and word of mouth. She enjoys that Instagram pushes people to engage with her and to message her directly, rather than then finding her by browsing a webpage or art gallery. Baldock is a social creature and enjoys meeting new people, making these connections and meeting one-on-one. She grows energized by her interactions with others and thrives off trading inspirations. “I need my social time. I like my alone time and I get that when I’m painting, but I love the social aspect of life,” she shared. With her effervescent personality, this social and word of mouth method works quite well.
While creating all types of pieces, Baldock particularly enjoys commission pieces and being able to enter someone’s home and craft what she sees will complete the space. Baldock takes what a client says they want and is able to create something that the homeowner might not have even dared to request. Rather than muted skies, she throws in a pop of red and vibrancy. “I like painting with color because it makes me happy and I think it’s inspiring to people when things are bright and cheery. I think it creates a happy environment,” she said.
In the future, Baldock has plans to continue sharing her happiness by being a creative entrepreneur and expanding her business. She hopes to grow more established in the local art community and to be able to learn and grow from other area artists. She is self-taught, so she embraces the idea of taking more classes and honing her craft further.
Baldock shared that if her art can bring joy or peace to somebody’s life or home, that is the true meaning behind it. From bringing color into people’s homes or triggering a smile onto someone’s face, Baldock is fulfilling this mission…and she’s just getting started.
To see more from Baldock, her work is currently on display and for sale from now until January at McCulley Optix Gallery in Fargo (2553 Kirsten Ln S)