Spotlight On! Katie Costa

Katie Costa is an Art Practices major in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Program at Portland State University. With a focus in painting, Katie leans towards exploring the mysteries of emotions and memories in order to deepen the dialogue about spirituality. Her paintings have been featured in exhibitions around the Pacific Northwest such as the Sugar Cube Gallery in Portland, and the Union Hair Lounge in Vancouver. Katie loves traveling, hiking with friends, and being a bonafide dog mom.


Far Away Places and the Telecyclops Face.Oil on canvas.

Q: How would you describe your identity?

A: My identity is always evolving based on new experiences and challenges that I am faced with. I don’t feel like I need to identify myself in any specific way other than being one human within a massive universe. I feel like the term “identity” is used by other people to describe characteristics about you, and those descriptions depend on their own perspective. In other words, describing my own identity is a useless pursuit.

The Law of Attraction.Oil on canvas


Q: What inspires you to create?

A: I’m inspired by the cycles of nature and of human life. Death, destruction, love, healing, and human connection are always providing me with the fuel that I need to continue creating. Everyday I am surrounded by a symphony of visual, auditory, and tactile sensations that require the right state of mind and attention to observe and react to.


Sunbathers. Oil on canvas.

Q: What does your process look like when you are taking the seed of an idea and turning it into a finished product?

A: My process always starts with writing and doodling. I prefer to free write with complete stream of consciousness. I don’t put the pressure of writing complete sentences on myself. I just write words, phrases, sounds, or colors. Capturing my emotional state helps me harness the direction of a painting. Once a direction and undertone are set, I create a color palette based off of my writing and find printed imagery and other artwork that I find interesting. I draw or doodle in my sketchbook before picking up a paint brush, but when I do begin painting, I am creating shape and forms with color, rotating the canvas around until I find the perfect composition. After that, it becomes a battle of nailing down distance, perspective, lighting, value, and color until I feel like it is complete. I like to work for a full day, it helps me get into a meditative state where I can shut out the external world and focus on my inner thoughts.


Crescent Moon Commute. Acrylic on canvas.

Q: What does it mean for you to be vulnerable in your work?

A: Vulnerability is art making’s most important function. Without vulnerability you risk making artwork that others can’t connect with on a deeper level. My process is centered around showing up for myself and addressing my inner worries, insecurities, sadness, and absurd thoughts. For me, artwork is self-work, and to others, my art will probably mean something totally different and that’s okay.

The Frogs Are Singing. Oil on canvas.

Q: How do you think your art communicates with you? How do you think it communicates with an audience? Is this communication important to the process of your art?

A: Since I work mostly intuitively after I “warm up” my brain and my hands, I find that a narrative or symbolic meaning appears out of the marks and that gets me motivated to continue working on it. I think that my art communicates to other people through color, gesture, and visual movement. Those basic principles set the tone and emotion of the paintings. Yes, communication is an important part of the process.

Seaside Trip. Oil on canvas.

Q: What is your next project?

A: I’ve been working on so many paintings in the last 6 months that I need to finish quite a few. As soon as the weather gets warmer, I plan on starting a resin painting series.

Soul Rider. Oil on canvas.

Q: As an artist, how would you define this phase of your life?

A: The last 4 years have been a major growth period. It’s been messy, unplanned, and somehow structured during a time where all of my stability has been held together by band aids and chewing gum. I have made a ton of mistakes that I am so grateful for.


Tales of a Lost Lizard Man. Mixed media on canvas.

Q: How do you deal with “artist block”?

A: Artist block is usually just a symptom of fear, burn out, boredom, or lack of inspiration. I do several things and I try to keep a regular habit of doing all of them on a regular basis. Researching new artists and printing out artwork is important. I keep a wall free so that I can cover it with interesting photos that I’ve taken, other artist’s work, and color palette ideas. I find it hard to draw as much as I used to, so I just make doodles and scribbles in my sketchbook until I feel warmed up. When I’m completely frustrated, getting away from the art that I’m working on is always really fruitful. I like to take road trips by myself to clear my mind and to absorb new visual stimulation. The beach, mountains, rivers, and museums are my favorite go tos. When I get back to my studio, I usually don’t have trouble getting started or finishing paintings.

Q: What makes you happy?

A: Road trips, spicy food, making art, spending time outdoors, and dogs. Other than that, the simple things and quiet time bring it home for me.

Studio Shot photographed Ben Sellon

You can check out more of Katie’s paintings by visiting her art website, or following her on her artist instagram @katie_costa_studio.