Kathleen Murtagh's artist statement

I have a clear memory of when I was very young, before even kindergarten, staring intently at one of my drawings trying to figure out why what I was drawing was not what I was seeing. With my undeveloped 4 year-old mind, I hadn't yet acquired an accurate sense to identify what I was seeing. I was only drawing what I was noticing, and my three or four year old sense of perception wasn't noticing a lot.

I was drawing smiles, and hair. Hands that waved at me, and the feet that walked a person to me were all present in my drawings, but something was certainly missing. There was something I wasn't noticing.

Then, it was like a revelation - such a revelation that it has stuck with me several decades later - people have bodies.

Yes yes, my drawings from when I was four years old were solely of heads, legs, feet, arms and hands. No bodies. The arms and legs stuck directly out of heads, and it honestly took my young mind a very long time to figure out what was wrong.

It sounds silly and irrelevant, but I think it is quite relevant. It was that searching to enhance my perception that has created the artist that I am today.

To be able to draw, paint and photograph well, one must have perception. In order to draw the shadow fall across a shoulder, one must first see it. At four years old, I did not have a developed sense of perception, but I did have just enough of a nagging feeling to tell me to look closer, because I was missing something.

That nagging feeling has stuck with me ever since, and has helped improve my perception and drive me as an artist. After that revelation I started getting in trouble at school for not paying attention in class because I was paying way too much attention to the veins and transparency of a leaf.

In fact, I was eventually forced to leave the public school system after second grade because they required I take Ritalin in order to stay. Luckily, my mother refused to drug me up and transferred me to another school where I continued to have the uninhibited cognizance to continue my quest to perceive all that was around me.

And my quest has yet to cease.

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