Kathleen Rietz: Artist

I never thought about making the transition from realism to abstraction. It just happened, born out of a need to create in a way that was uncontrolled, intuitive, and free.

Kathleen Rietz

Today we get an inside look into the life of artist Kathleen Rietz. Kathleen is an abstract floral artist whose work provides a sense of calm and serenity. Follow along as we get to know Kathleen and learn about her newest collection titled “Emerging”.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz.

EotB: Please tell us your story and how you began as an artist?

KR: My creative journey began ever since I was able to hold a crayon. I’ve long been obsessive about creating. It was a special bond I had with my mother, because she was also very artistic and recognized my talent. She made sure to nurture and encourage my need to experiment and create. There were always boxes of crayons, watercolor sets, construction paper, clay and paper machè in our house. I even recall spending a snowy winter afternoon making an elaborate Christmas ornament out of a box of toothpicks. My mom saved it forever, along with countless drawings and paintings I made from around the age of two on up. I now have that folder in my flat files in my art studio. 

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Paintings by Kathleen Rietz.

EotB: What was the first piece of art that you ever created?

KR: I don’t recall the first piece I ever created, but I’ll guess that it was probably a crayon drawing of a robin.

EotB: What is your greatest challenge as an abstract painter?


KR: My biggest challenge is probably coming up with color palettes and the application of the media to accurately convey my message and emotions I want others to feel. And when I’ve been able to accomplish that, it feels victorious.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz.

EotB: In our research, we learned that you rarely paint without listening to something in the background. What are you listening to now and how does it compel your paintings? 


KR: Actually, the funny thing is that I either paint for 10 hours straight and suddenly realize I’ve been painting in complete silence, or I turn on some music right away and dance around my studio the entire time I’m creating. It really sort of depends on what my soul seems to need to create. Sometimes that means opening the windows to listen to the birds and the traffic and let my free flow of thought entertain my mind, or I’ll pick something from my music library and dance. For my “Emerging” collection, I recall listening through my early R.E.M. library several times. I was in art school from 1986-1989, so their music taps into memories of those magical days of fundamental exploration and learning in school. Happy, meaningful times.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz.


EotB: Where do you draw inspiration from?

KR: Nature is probably the best place. I notice the way the changing light throughout the day changes the color and texture of the landscape. But I also enjoy getting to the city to walk along Chicago’s lakefront or visit the Art Institute to study their collection of amazing art. And in the summer, flowers are a huge source of inspiration. So, my inspiration comes from many sources

EotB: Talk to us about your style of painting and how it has evolved into what it is now.

KR: In my day job, I was micromanaged and felt suffocated. Exhausted, I had given up making art for several years. When I finally decided to try painting again, my entire approach had changed. I think a common misconception about abstract art is that it’s easy and requires little talent. But I find that having a background solidly rooted in art fundamentals and design is crucial. In my many years of drawing and painting from life in a realistic style, I taught myself about composition, balance, color, value, etc. I apply those same principles to my art as an abstract painter. I never thought about making the transition from realism to abstraction. It just happened, born out of a need to create in a way that was uncontrolled, intuitive, and free.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz.

EotB: Are any of your pieces currently on exhibit and if so where?


KR: Due to the coronavirus lockdown, all of the events I had scheduled for 2020 were either canceled or put on hold. Now it looks like I may be exhibiting several of my paintings this fall at a retirement community outside of Chicago, called Friendship Village. But that remains to be seen as the number of cases changes constantly.

EotB: While doing our research we discovered that you rarely use paintbrushes to create your art. Please explain to us how you came to this technique of using your hands to paint?


KR: Wow, yes, that is true! Brushes have their place in my box of tools, but there is something so fun about using my hands. It’s a tactile experience, and part of the dance that I do with my paintings, so to speak. One day I discovered a box of latex gloves I had in my linen closet, put them on, and literally began applying paint to canvas with my hands.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz.

EotB: Please tell us about your most recent collection titled ‘Emerging’.


KR: The inspiration for “Emerging” came during the pandemic. As winter turned to spring, life began to feel hopeful again. I wanted to create a collection that represents our endurance as a people to bear hard times and emerge stronger. The color palette I chose represents the waves of the sea, stormy skies, a soft meadow. Nature. Cleansing. It’s a very important body of work for me as an artist.

EotB: What is next for you as an artist? 

KR: I am currently working to release my first online art course. For several years, aspiring artists have been asking me if I‘d create online content, and since I am no longer able to tutor in person due to the pandemic, I feel that this is finally the best time for me to begin a new venture into creating courses. I want to create a sense of community and fun for students to take their minds off of the difficulties of the current situations going on in the world. Art is therapeutic, and so is discovering one’s hidden talents. I plan to release the course at the end of summer.

Photo provided by Kathleen Rietz. Painting by Kathleen Rietz. Pictured above, the artist with her work.

EotB: Please tell our readers where they can purchase your work?


KR: My art is available for purchase directly from my website. People can also follow me on Instagram.

Be sure to visit Kathleen’s website to see her full collection of work and get information on her upcoming collections as well. We have enjoyed getting to know Kathleen and hope that you have also. Be sure to follow her on Instagram to see more behind the scenes work.

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