Kat Cadena is an artist born, raised, and working in San Antonio, Texas. Cadena explores the hidden conditions of the mind struggling in battle with itself and external forces through stylized figurative artwork in a multitude of media. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree with Highest Honors and International Distinction from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2016. When she isn’t creating, she is the Gallery Manager at Ruiz-Healy Art with galleries in San Antonio and New York City.
If your dog could talk, how would they describe you?
How anyone would describe the immediate person that takes care of you in life: you love them a lot, but you also think they are crazy and annoying. He probably thinks I’m overly emotional because I never filter my emotions around him as I do with people.
Do you ever throw out an artwork halfway through?
No, I don’t usually throw anything away. I’ve accumulated a lot of sh*t over the years, especially sketchbooks, and once a few years ago, I decided to recycle a bunch of them. That’s the only time I’ve purged any artwork. I’ve never worked on something for hours, and then I’m like, nevermind! If I don’t like it, it’s a lesson, and I keep it. I think of it more like a sketch for the “real” thing.
How would you describe your practice?
I like to think of my art practice as just my everyday life. I love drawing so much, so when I wake up in the morning or whenever I have extra time, I draw. I fall asleep drawing almost every night, ha. A lot of it is stuff I wouldn’t show anybody or post; it’s just for fun. My practice is anchored in my daily observation, absorption, and appreciation of all the interesting-looking things and people around me.
I am working on some paintings right now that are these fun cut-up and restructured collage versions of San Antonio houses that I have grown up in or around. I pass by old houses in my neighborhood, and I bring up my voice memos and record oral notes or take photos. I don’t always have time to make large paintings and drawings, so I try to make art part of daily life, driving, thinking about ideas, doodling, and recording.
When I finally get to work on a painting or drawing for an exhibition or commission, I work in spurts. I sit anywhere for several hours, my studio, my porch, my bathroom, and I don’t eat or drink or talk to anybody. I listen to my favorite music, sometimes a favorite album of mine on repeat, and sing and dance and pet my dog as he checks on me every now and then. Song lyrics and moods help my work a lot by really sticking in my mind and interpreting them while I work. Overall, it’s a bit spontaneous and erratic, but I think that makes it more enjoyable.
What part of being an artist did you not expect?
The community. I was a teenager in high school when I first thought of myself as an artist. We were competitive in our AP art classes, probably because we competed in art events and because everyone was told they were so special their whole lives, and that sticks in people’s heads. When I first started imagining life as an artist, I thought it would be competitive and cold, like I would have to be in total competition with other artists. But it’s the complete opposite–mostly everyone is super loving and supportive of each other. I didn’t expect to have such a sweet second family of artists and art-enthusiasts in San Antonio.
What is something you look for in a mentor?
The thing I value most in a mentor is for them to be genuine and down to earth–people who are just like ‘well this is my life, this is me, and I’m not going to pretend to be better than other people.’ I admire people who are grateful, humble, and kind, no matter how much success they have, and who are willing to have honest conversations without frills and listen with an open mind.
What is a piece of advice for people wanting to start collecting but don’t know where to begin?
If you’re an artist, offer an art trade. You could also try offering art for services, like trading artwork for photography services if you feel it’s a good trade.
For people looking to buy art but have a tight budget, consider payment plans. Personally, if I know who I’m selling to, I am very comfortable working out payment plans. Talk to the artist or gallery you’re buying from about different financial options available to you.
Some people buy art from artists due to the artist’s increased recognition, but I’d much rather have something in my house that I can stare at and admire for the rest of my life. Collect something you genuinely love.
Who is a voice in the art industry that people should be listening to?
Katie Pell. Angela Martinez has compiled a book of all these fantastic quotes by Katie sourced from her interviews and elsewhere. Katie was a seriously special human and was so well-loved for who and how she was–brutally honest but still super loving, consistently and unapologetically herself, and a force in the lives of everyone lucky enough to spend some time with her. When this book comes out, I think everyone should buy a copy and cherish it.
Who is a female artist you look up to, and why?
Ethel Shipton! For more than just her artistic practice, though. She is so loving, capable, and a total badass. She’s always working on a ton of projects at once and gets so much work done every year, and she’s still in a good mood and treats everyone with kindness. I don’t know how she does it, but I totally admire her and hope I can be like that one day, too. She lives and loves fiercely, and I noticed how much heart she puts into her work, and I can’t help but be inspired to get to work and also give big hugs to all my friends and family.