The last time we spoke, Kate Dehler announced that she was about to go full-time as an illustrator. Catching up with her a year later, we are delighted to find her in high spirits, fizzing with the excitement of new projects and inspirations. Her work, always so irresistible for its subtle textures and sunny colour palettes, has been buoyantly invested with the new “freedom” which comes with the extra time to work creatively. She explains how the “joy of drawing” is not only enriching her practice but also the way she lives: “thinking visually can be meditative and awe-inspiring, and I think it has been helping me be more present, observant, and measured in my daily life.”
Kate loves being outside at the moment. “Nature is probably the most energising thing to me right now,” she explains. She has recently moved with her wife to Austin, Texas, and has become fascinated by the landscape, “the extensive variety of shrubbery and flora,” and “the sky colours at different times of day.” We are loving the way Kate is intertwining these natural influences into the concepts for her illustrations. In her piece accompanying a Bloomberg article on how The Covid Trauma Has Changed Economics, Kate imagines old, entrenched ideas on how to manage economics, in the form of six crumbling classical columns. The flourishing of new ideas which has been sparked by the economic trauma of the Covid-19 pandemic is represented as a vivacious, and irrepressible tangle of wildlife that is quickly engulfing the crumbling tenets of pre-Covid economic theory. Another work that is buzzing with Kate’s new fascination with the natural world is her piece for The New York Times, Going For A Walk. Here, a colourful menagerie of large insects peers at a pair of walking feet. The illustration imaginatively centres a perspective on the human world that we rarely consider – that of the teeming minibeast culture at ground level.
Another thing Kate has been getting excited about this year is collaborating with musicians. Her newest collaborations have been with the Texan musical trio, Khruangbin, and the experimental bassist, MonoNeon. Kate finds it particularly satisfying when she gets to work on projects which combine multiple senses, “where the artwork and music reverberate and (hopefully) enhance each other,” she explains humbly. One of the largest projects she did this year was with the designers and manufacturers of sound synthesizers at Moog. Kate developed a whole range of characters, posters, and interactive objects to accompany the release of Moog’s most recent Sound Studio. The project includes inventive designs for what Moog describes as “an original sound experimentation card game designed to encourage and embrace interconnectivity”. Kate jumped at the challenge of creating “a continuous world around the product within which users could get fully immersed”. The trick for pulling off this project, Kate explains, was to dream up a “coherent atmosphere”, carefully constructed of smaller details – key elements which come together to make the work “effective and joyful”.
It’s wonderful to see how Kate’s work has been developing within the past year, re-energised by the new freedoms of her practice and her new life in Austin with her wife – who is another great inspiration of hers. Kate begins to wax philosophical as she finishes the interview – she discusses her delight in having the time to think carefully about “how things look, why they look the way they do, and what if they were otherwise”. Moving forward, Kate will continue to foster the endless possibilities of an “experimental mindset”. She wants to make larger pieces, explore making more physical work and experiment further with the “happy or strange accidents that evolve from working in analog formats”.
Kate Dehler: Joy of Vax for the Morning Brew (Copyright © Kate Dehler, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.