Katie Argyle - Self-Portrait With Door Q & A with
Katie Argyle

Interview by Ren Tomovcik

Ottawa artist Katie Argyle works in a variety of media including clay and plastics.
She paints, draws, and loves photography and printmaking. 

(Left: Self Portrait with Door, woodcut bleedprint on Somerset paper)

Since moving to Ottawa from Sudbury in 1981, Katie Argyle has blossomed artistically and has become closely involved with Ottawa's visual arts community.  In 2009, she co-organized the 4th annual Urban Art in Minto Park show and graduated from the Fine Arts program at the Ottawa School of Art (OSA).  Absorbing and spreading creativity wherever she goes, Katie's dreams for the future are big ones. But no matter where the world takes her, her artistic roots are firmly planted in Ottawa.

Katie, have you always known that you wanted to be an artist?As a kid I thought I would be a writer. I was always writing stories and I can remember taking great joy in making my own books: writing the story and drawing the pictures. I never thought I'd be a visual artist.

What sparked your passion for visual arts?I had a desire to be self-employed in something I loved. I was searching for what that would be and I tried many things looking for "it" - the feeling, the passion for something that would sustain me over time. I found it in a craft material called Friendly Plastic. I bought a few sticks of this modelling plastic from a craft store and made something I wanted for myself and I had a physical reaction to the process; I was overcome by goosebumps and shivers and I was surprised to discover that Friendly Plastic would be my medium of choice. I started making things with it in 1990 and have not stopped yet.
  Did the people around you support your decision to pursue art as a career?They were kind of baffled, I think. I just started doing it on my own. No one in the family had ever done what I was doing, though everyone is extremely creative. I found most of my support when I started selling my work at the ByWard Market as a full time outdoor vendor in 1991. It was really the reaction from the public that sustained me and moved me forward. My friends almost expected me to have an unconventional life so they were not surprised.

Katie Argyle    Katie Argyle
Left: Mayor Larry, relief print on rice paper.  Right: Mr. Happy, acrylic on canvas.

How would you describe Ottawa's artistic community?Ottawa's art community is very diverse. It's actually starting to become lively. There is a lot of good work being produced at all levels of the arts, from the seasonal art and crafts shows, street vendors, church basements and community centres to Lansdowne Park and the Nepean Sportsplex, from the really good summer arts-in-the-park venues all the way to our city galleries, private galleries and public ones. It seems like there is quite a lot of opportunity to show your work, however you choose to do that.

What was your experience like at OSA?OSA was like a great big playground for me. After having made things to make a living and finding my ideas no longer matching to my skill levels I decided I needed to really learn a few things I'd tried to avoid, like perspective for one, and drawing. At OSA I tried every medium they had, and found I mostly like them all which was what I suspected I'd find out. OSA then helped focus me and helped me develop ideas further than I was used to.  It also gave me the confidence to present my work to galleries and to understand what is truly involved in gallery shows. I got exactly what I wanted from my time at OSA.

Katie Argyle What drew you toward printmaking?I love the visual impact of a black and white print. I love its simplicity and its immediacy and the challenge of creating images like that. You don't have an array of colours to rely on for emotional impact or to move the eye around the image. You have line and pattern. The technique of carving into wood or linoleum is very physical and as you attack the surface your energy shows in your line and your carving. I find it very powerful in its directness.

So, now that you've graduated, where do you see yourself going next?I would like to continue exploring a few themes I started while at school and seeing where they go. This way of life has supported me for almost 20 years and I just have faith that it will continue to serve me going forward. It'd be nice to be in big galleries in major cities all over the world, to be an international artist. I'd love to do some residencies in other provinces or countries, but in the end, all I really want is to be able to keep doing what I love to do for the majority of my time. If I can do that, I consider myself very fortunate.

Where in the city do you go to find inspiration? I love the ByWard Market for the sheer variety of people and the activity level. My favorite spot in the city is Britannia Park. I have a long-time favorite rock I like to visit there to watch the sun go down.

Which other artists are currently inspiring you locally?  What about globally?Locally I am a big fan of Chandler Swain and her ceramic work. I also love the work of Mark Marsters and Michael Harrington and the poems of Karen Massey. Globally I am completely taken with the work of former astronaut Alan Bean, the website never fails to inspire me, Irish ceramic artist Christy Keeney, Byzantine mosaics and medieval manuscipts in general, as well as science news, old romance comics, bad TV and movies.

   Katie Argyle
Homage to the Worker, Friendly Plastic.

You often share your work and your own perspectives on your art blog. Who do you hope to reach with your blog, and what do you want to tell them about the arts in Ottawa? The original purpose of my blog (Plastic Masters Of The World Unite) was to find other people who made things with Friendly Plastic. It took a few years but I have found a few in the past year. It's ended up becoming a sort of historical record of my life and my pursuits, which is interesting to me in and of itself. I think that I just add to the pool of cultural stuff floating around out there to be found who knows when or where. It's like an electronic message in a bottle.  I write, add pictures, press send, and maybe I'll know someone finds it, maybe not. Indirectly I am telling them about my life in Ottawa and they can infer what they like about that. I follow the golden rule: write what you know - well, mostly I do!


Katie Argyle will be teaching some continuing education courses at the Nepean Creative Arts Centre this fall, and she hopes to be back at the farmers' markets in September. She has an upcoming solo painting exhibit in the Primecorp Display Windows (corner of Bank and Somerset) in November, entitled "Sickly Sweet."  

Katie also runs a small business, Out of My Mind - Purveyors of Fine Plastic.
Add your LinkBox today!