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Subsign Spotlight #116: Katherine Quinn.

Subsign: First, can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Katherine: I live in Hawkes bay with my husband in the New Zealand countryside. I have two children, Hannah and Ben and two grandchildren, Albie and Isla. I grew up in Havelock North, also in Hawkes Bay.

I had lovely parents, my mum was an avid gardener, which I am now starting to enjoy myself too. I was influenced at an early age by my Dad, who worked at our local Marineland when he first arrived in New Zealand from Canada. He had lots of books and photos and I used to love looking through them with him. Recently I went to Rarotonga with my husband Jono on our honeymoon. The highlight was snorkelling in the amazing coral reef with all the wonderful fish… so so beautiful.

View from our place

Subsign: What was your childhood like? Do you think your childhood experiences have influenced your present creative endeavors?

Katherine: I was lucky to grow up with parents that said we could do whatever we wanted as long as we cleaned up when we finished! (within reason). This gave me free reign for lots of creative play! Although there were a few messes that couldn’t be cleaned up like holes drilled into the kitchen floor and a bunch of paint splatters around the house…

I had an imaginary friend when I was younger… ‘January’ who my Mother said disappeared when my brother {who was two years younger than me} got a bit more interesting and interactive…

This is an earlier piece of me flying (my prefered super power) with my husband in the box as he hates flying

Subsign: What did you want to be as a grown up?

Katherine: I always had a strong inclination towards creativity, and as I entered my teenage years the idea of becoming a graphic designer took root in my mind. I enrolled in the local art school, where I produced art works that found their way into galleries across New Zealand. Simultaneously, I was offered a part-time role as an art school technician, a position I was in for 21 years! However, my destiny took a turn when I stumbled upon the term “surface pattern designer”. It was a revelation and a passion I knew I would pursue for the rest of my life.

Subsign: What does your workstation look like?

Katherine: I have a desk in our kitchen dining room area at the moment, but I hope one day to have a whole studio room/building to myself! It is busy, I have all sorts of things around me, books, dinosaurs, characters, stones, flowers, plants, other people’s art work, beach combing finds, little vintage cabinets and a letter tray behind me filled with treasures…

Subsign: Do you have a work style? How would you describe it?

Katherine: I think of style as a fluid concept, one that shouldn’t reach a final destination but should constantly evolve. However in saying this, I’ve found that over time, I’ve cultivated a recognizable style of my own even as it evolves. I guess if I had to describe my work I would say it is maybe charming, sometimes witty and has a very distinctive colour palette…

This picture is from a photo shoot featuring one of my favourite whale patterns with rompers by LoveBee. Photographed by Maria Madison.

Subsign: Can you share with us how your creative process works?

Katherine: For a long time I used water colour pencils to draw elements and then scan them and clean them up in photoshop, arranging them into a pattern or illustration.

Recently I was getting a bit frustrated with this process as it was taking a long time and wasn’t giving me what I wanted. So this year I decided to incorporate Procreate into my toolkit and it has allowed me greater freedom in my drawing. I am enjoying experimenting with different brushes, and I’ve even ventured into creating a few custom ones of my own.

Subsign: What is your favorite work you have done so far?

Katherine: I think so far my favourite work would be the shop fronts I did for my agents recent ‘Out of the blue’ release of new work. I loved adding all the details and working with a large palette of green! My favourite colour!

Subsign: Who do you follow for inspiration?

Katherine: I always watch Wes Anderson’s latest movies, Oliver Jeffers, Jessie Hartland and a whole lot of other illustrators (too many to list), I enjoy watching Gardeners World with Monty Don – so relaxing and inspiring, I love Samanta Bryan’s fairies – which I am lucky enough to have two of and my Grandson Albie who lives life like a goldfish where every moment is new and exciting.

Subsign: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the creative field of work?

Katherine: Keep creating work and sharing it with the world. Strive to ensure that every component of your pattern or illustration reflects your best efforts in that moment. When each element shines brightly, your overall pattern or illustration will be something to be proud of.

Subsign: If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Katherine: To fly!

Subsign: Can you recommend a book, a song and a movie, for our readers?

Katherine: I really enjoyed reading ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ this year by Delia Owens.

One of my favourite songs at the moment is ‘Mykonos’ by Fleet Foxes.

I think one of my all time best movies is ‘Super 8’ a coming of age movie (my favourite genre)… along with ‘E.T.’, ‘The Goonies’.

Subsign: If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what special occasion would you choose?

Katherine: It would be a BBQ in a beautiful setting near the sea and it would be my birthday! There would be big bunches of flowers everywhere and tables with gorgeous place settings. Lots of yummy salads and BBQ meats, plenty of super flash porta loos and the perfect weather.

Subsign: What famous people would you invite to the party and why?

Katherine: I would invite Wes Anderson because I admire his aesthetic in films, Jason Bateman because he is one of my favourite actors and Monty Don to chat about gardening.

Thank you, Katherine, for being a part of our Spotlight!

If you know an artist that should be in the spotlight, contact us at

For more of  Katherine‘s work, you can follow her work on the links: Katherine on Instagram, Katherine on Pinterest.


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"Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard."

Guy Kawasaki