Embracing the Process with Tasha Cathey

Embracing the Process with Tasha Cathey

Hi Tasha, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us about your love for natural pigments! Could you please tell us a little bit more about your personal history that led you on your artistic journey? How did you first learn about painting and natural pigments?

My journey into painting has been a recent endeavor. My husband and I moved to a new city for his medical program a couple years ago and my photography business took a minor hiatus during the transition. My interest in painting stemmed from this season of stillness. I was looking for an outlet that I could do in my own time, at my own pace and I didn't want to necessarily wait for someone to "hire" me to do what I wanted to creatively. Photography felt like that in aspects. I bought acrylic paint in January of 2019. I had no inkling as to what pigment even was at this time. Switching mediums was overwhelming as it was and I spent six months wrestling through my perfectionism, learning to embrace making mistakes, and ultimately just enjoy sitting down and creating. It was incredibly difficult at first. I was also pregnant during this time so it kept my hands busy while my feet were becoming increasingly swollen. It was the perfect time to start something new considering I was about to be home full time for a significant season. My first exposure to earth pigments happened pretty organically. I found artists online that I admired and saw several using this "powder". It genuinely confused me at first so I plunged into researching pretty quickly as I did with anything in the painting world at that time. Everything was new. I stumbled across articles from Natural Earth Paint's website and decided to buy a few in the late summer to mix them into my acrylics. This would be where the rabbit hole began for me.

What art training did you receive, if any?

I do not have formal art training via university or college programs. I do have artists in my family who fostered my interest in art at an early age and I've experimented with many different mediums throughout my life. Returning to drawing and painting was a major resurgence of skills I learned nearly ten years ago in high school so it's been interesting and inspiring year for me as I familiarize myself again with tools, techniques and materials. I've also been taking online courses to help refine my skill sets. There are so many resources online now to utilize it can easily become overwhelming but I've worked hard to remind myself that creativity isn't a competition, it's an individual journey, and a muscle that just needs to be exercised. Start slow and be consistent.

When did you first decide to switch to natural pigments, and why? Was the decision driven by health worries, ethical concerns, or an interest in being more eco-conscious?

Health worries were my primary reason for switching. My studio space was a desk that sat in the corner of my daughters nursery. When I first started painting I knew I wanted to start with oils but quickly realized this wouldn't be ideal. I simply couldn't have the chemicals and fumes in a bedroom that my daughter shared. Our home also has vintage single pane windows that were painted shut. Ventilation for that bedroom was simply not possible so I just settled for acrylics. As time went on and I did more research on how earth pigments are used it dawned on me that I could use natural oil paint and watercolors and bypass using hard chemicals/paint thinners. I was thrilled to know I could potentially use oils like I originally had hoped I would. As if that wasn't good news already it was also simple enough that I could make it myself. I just needed a few tools but after that I was ultimately in control of the color, consistency and quantity that I wanted and that was enough to convince me to retire all my tubed paint. In addition to this being a smarter decision for the health of myself and my family I also loved that this was safe for our environment as well. Being faithful stewards of the earth we've been given is incredibly important to my husband and I. It was through hiking that we met and we continue to fit time outdoors into our schedules as best we can. In my early 20's I spent time volunteering for the Grand Canyon & Great Smoky Mountains National Parks where environmental conservation was largely imprinted into how I experience and appreciate our lands and natural world as a whole. Without those years I would likely be pretty apathetic to what materials I use and how they affect others. I believe I can conclude that much of my journey and reasoning behind using ethically sourced earth pigments can be attributed to my time spent outdoors and with the NPS.

What art supplies do you now use in your practice? How has using natural pigments changed your practice?

All of my initial supplies and the ones I still use I obtained through you guys! I'm using the glass muller and glass palette for mulling. For binders I'm using walnut oil for oil paint and I've been loving your natural paint thinner, Eco Solve. The recipes are simple enough that I've been able to create pastels, watercolors and oil paint with some minor finessing of the recipes due to personal preference. Using earth pigments as my primary source of paint has changed my practice pretty significantly. I mix only as much paint as I believe I'll need for that day's painting so when I approach painting I'm not painting right away. I now have about 30 minutes beforehand that I'm thinking about color palettes, consistency and then physically mulling (which is really therapeutic for me) enabling me to be more thoughtful and in a calmer state of mind before approaching my canvas. Mixing and mulling quiets the nerves behind the performance driven jitters I typically get when facing a blank canvas. Just by following a recipe I'm creating something full, rich and colorful and I haven't even started painting yet. It acts as this buffer between my busy daily routine and creating something intentional and beautiful. It gifts me with a more poised sense of direction in my creative practice and a deeper respect for my environment.

Do you have any tips for artists who want to start using natural pigments to create beautiful work like yours, but aren’t quite sure how? What were the challenges you faced when you started, and what made the process easier for you?

My first recommendation would be to find artists and resources that can help inspire you. Having background knowledge on how they're used, why they're used and how they've been used throughout history gave me a connection and inspiration that wasn't rooted in my performance or what I could bring to the table. I wanted to be a part of an ancient technique that many others before me have used and enjoyed. I would also recommend just trying it out and purchasing one pigment you find intriguing. The pigments through Natural Earth Paint are so refined that you can mix them with a palette knife with nearly any binder you prefer. First you may need to settle on what kind of paint you want to make. From here you purchase the binder necessary and then the pigment (color) that you want. When I first started using pigments I incorporated them straight into the acrylic paint I was already using to become acquainted with how they respond and handled. There is no pressure to make your own line of watercolors right away or perfect the recipes for them to work correctly. Just get started. This process will be full of trial and error so allow yourself room to make mistakes and learn what you prefer/ want out of the paint you're creating. Try starting with one bag of pigment and see how it goes. I think the biggest stumbling block I've heard from new beginners is being overwhelmed by how many materials you need to purchase up front. I started with just a palette knife, a few bags of pigment and walnut oil. With these basic tools I created an entire collection of paintings. I created a few tutorials on my Instagram & website that help walkthrough making Natural Oil Paint, Pastels and Processing Foraged Rocks into Paint. I've been very open to assisting whoever I can that has questions. You can find my work and tutorials here (Instagram: @tashacathey_ and Website: www.tashacathey.com) Your team and resources have been instrumental in guiding me through this process and it's been my pleasure to pass on the favor to do this for others.

What artists inspire you the most? What is your main inspiration for your work?

Heidi Gustafson, Jodi Gear & Emily Jeffords were instrumental in inspiring me to get my hands dirty and adopt pigments into my practice. Their wisdom and helpful guidance has been priceless to me. Our outdoor world and my walk with Christ are primary inspirations for me. Lately, western desert landscapes seem to be showing up in most of my paintings and it’s been wild seeing compositions emerge just from memories I’ve had in those wide open spaces.

Where can our audience view and purchase your work?

Most of my focus lately has been on refining my skills with foraging pigments from my property. I document that journey through Instagram! I am currently working on a watercolor landscape series made from natural watercolors I made myself from Natural Earth Paint’s pigments and I anticipate being finished with them in the fall sometime.

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