Artist Profile: Kathryn Silvera

Kathryn Silvera is a mixed-media artist who is always challenging her artistic abilities to create interesting pieces.

Chico artist Kathryn Silvera. 

Chico artist Kathryn Silvera. 

Her intricate imagery blends the artist's love of literature with her own artistic storytelling. She works primarily with resin, watercolor and encaustics (bees wax).

Mythology and literature are eloquently married in her latest work.

There is something so haunting to each piece. After spending some time with her artwork, an appreciation of the thematic elements and layers adds to the love of her creativeness.

Kathryn sat down with us to share her creative process and opens up why book pages are a staple to her style.

What is the inspiration for your new body of work?

I was hanging out with my friends and somebody was talking about Lenny from the novel “Of Mice and Men.”

I was all “Lenny, who strangled that poor bunny?” -- it was a mouse but it made me think of a bunny -- I don’t know why. That book also makes me think of “Watership Down” -- Again a bunny, not sure why. But then I made the bunny and gave him wings, which later seemed inappropriate so I made a cat with wings.

I don’t set out to create with anything specific, it’s just kind of a chain of events that inspire my artwork.

Your imagery lately has been featuring a lot of skulls (human or animal), what is the appeal?

It connects us to our history. There are a lot of threads to our past that will interconnect us to our present and lead us to our future as well.

What challenges do you face with working with resin?

Not getting resin on me.


How do you know when a painting is done?

It just feels right. You know, it’s talking to you as you’re working.

Do you have any pre-painting rituals?

Yes. Usually, I’ll put on music, but just for one minute, I’ll take a moment to close my eyes and zen. I probably sound like a weirdo, but I’ll just take a moment to find the center -- just like everybody, everybody has so much going on, and you’ll be stirring just from your day, and I want to slow that pot. Whatever is going into my art, that’s my heart, and I don’t want anything else going on. I’ll take the moment to blank out. It’s just a second though, and then it’s over.

Where do you draw inspiration when you select color palettes?

From the subject of my painting itself. What makes sense to me and also whatever is tickling my pickle that day. It doesn’t always have to be the correct color of a bunny -- if I want to make it blue, i’ll just make it blue -- it all comes from my weird brain. It would be multiple avenues, nothing particular. Often it’s nature but barring that, it has become the stranger/danger place that is my imagination.

You often use a lot of book pages and literature in you work. How important are those words with your imagery or how much do you consider the words when approaching a painting?

I always like to match it up. I do my piece, and then I match it up.

When I read a book, I include that book -- especially if I’ve had it for years and if I’ve read it several times -- each time I read it, at different points in my life, it’ll have a different meaning to me.

Like when I read a piece of literature at 16 it meant something different when I was 21 and it meant something completely different at 31. Then I take that book I had when I was 16 and I rip out the pages, it’s like a piece of me that I’m including in that particular art piece, and I’m doing it for a specific reason because it’s thematic to that piece. Whomever is viewing it is also reading snippets from those pages, if they read that book then they’re remembering how they felt when they read it. They might have had some of the same feelings I had. It’s like being pulled back into that piece both with the literature and the artwork. It’s like a chain of events for me, like I’m sharing my favorite book in an nontraditional way.

Kathryn Silvera coats a piece of artwork with resin during Open Studio Tours last year.

Kathryn Silvera coats a piece of artwork with resin during Open Studio Tours last year.

Do you ever have a sense of guilt when you rip into your favorite book?

No, not at all. I have this Thesaurus -- reference books are my serious jam -- and whenever my husband and I travel, we’ll go into used bookstores, I’ll hit up the reference section.

One in particular I got from a family friend, and that one is about halfway thin because I’ve been yanking pages out for art for years now. Every time I take a page out of that one, it’s super special and I get a little bit like eeeeek, this is a special page right here. I loved that person who gave me that book and that person is no longer here anymore. It’s not guilt, it’s more like, this is a golden feather right here -- it’s more that feeling.

What's next?

I'll listen to wildly different music while painting. Like last night I had on classical and the previous night I was listening to Skrillix. I was thinking of putting playlists on the back of each painting.