Los Ranchos-born Kat Kinnick grew up amid a menagerie of animals – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, goats, sheep and a horse.
The playfulness and sense of whimsy of that high desert childhood turned her into an artist. Add parents with backgrounds in craft and design, who restored Navajo rugs, and Kinnick put pen to paper and clay to wheel as a painter/illustrator, printmaker and ceramicist.
Now living outside of Santa Fe, Kinnick will show her work at Hecho Gallery through July 31.
“I didn’t have any siblings around, so they were like my siblings,” she said of her animal friends. “We had a barn, so I’d sit on the hay bales with my cat just daydreaming.”
She once placed her stuffed animals between the holes of a chain link fence, her boom box tuned to classical music as people walked by. She wanted to make them happy. At 10, she made dog biscuits and sold them at the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market.
“In my work, there’s still this sense of celebration,” she said. “I took every art class I could in high school and at the Harwood” Art Center.
She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in interdisciplinary sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore before returning to New Mexico.
“Baltimore is similar to Albuquerque,” Kinnick said. “It’s very gritty and real. But I missed the West.”
Her Hecho Gallery exhibition consists of gouache on paper. Gouache is a method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance.
“It is very accessible,” Kinnick said. “You can rewet it and get back into it and add a little wash.”
All dark blue washes and white space, “The Hunt,” with its bat, coyote and fox, grew from a collaborative piece with a friend.
“She gave me six poems and I gave her six illustrations,” Kinnick said, adding “I like thinking about the things that happen when we sleep.”
The avian splendor of “Ravens, Sunflowers and Barbed Wire” emerged from a Bonanza Creek sighting.
Kinnick’s process begins with a quick sketch. She sometimes researches her subjects, looking up videos for scale.
“If I haven’t seen an ocelot in person, I’ll see one at the Desert Museum,” she said.
“Great Horned Owls, Flowering Milkweed and Tarantula Hawk” originated from her home.
“We have two owls in our tree,” she said. “It’s a dying cottonwood. The birds love hanging out there and we hear them at night. One night it was hard to see if there were one or two because they were syncopated.”
In “Coachwhip & Barn Swallow” the pink snake coils beneath a bird’s nest.
“We have a bird that nests on our porch,” Kinnick said. “One night there was a coachwhip climbing up the wall after the bird. He just got scared and went away.”
Kinnick hangs photos of artists who inspire her on her walls.
The portraits include Carrizozo artist Paula Wilson, British textile designer and Arts and Crafts Movement icon William Morris and the Japanese book illustrator Miroco Machiko.
“I feel like they’re my allies,” she explained.