Illustrating a journey to success

November 7, 2019 BY

The chaotic nature of life hits pause when Katharine Rattray is at her desk drawing whimsical characters.

Katharine, who operates her own art and design business Kat and Fox, oozes with as much personality and joy as the products of her creative intuitions.

But her journey to entrepreneurship wasn’t an easy ride. A relationship breakdown coupled with a bipolar diagnosis sent the Torquay-based illustrator, best known as Kat, into a sink hole of uncertainty.

“I made some really hairy mistakes during my journey. I didn’t understand business; I threw myself into one thing and drained a lot of money which you just don’t do,” she admitted.

“I had to totally rebuild my business. I lost my family home, my husband and I was diagnosed as bipolar.

“It’s the risk you take when you follow a dream. It’s a cliché but I can honestly say I’m so happy it did happen and how I’ve pivoted into a service. I never thought I’d make money out of what I do.”

Kat won the Life Instyle award (interior and furnishings) in 2017.

All of those challenges occurred in 2017. Two years later, Kat has successfully collaborated with Australian children’s writers.

Her most recent undertaking, Alfie’s Present – a 36-page personalised Christmas book – saw Kat work in partnership with author Lara Solomon. It also led to a mentoring opportunity with the storybook business that spearheaded the project (Story Antics) where she led a group of design interns.

“I think it (mentoring) was my favourite part. They (the students) were pushed,” she said.

“When I started out, I was doing these really odd figures that looked like they didn’t move. I was living in Wodonga and didn’t have a lot of access or time. I saw Sue DeGennaro’s work when I was doing readings at my daughter’s school.

“She became a mentor for me and helped me to develop my characters, teaching me how to make them move. My aim since then has been to make them (her characters) bend and stretch.

“I’ve gotten to the point where I see myself as a visual comedian. I love making people laugh. I’m pushing my illustrations further now into the ridiculous.”

The UK-born mother of three said she rediscovered her love for drawing when her father became terminally ill. She returned to her hometown in London to be by her parents’ side and comforted them by drawing the imagery that could be seen from his hospital window.

“My father loved me drawing when I was younger. We’d go on country walks and he’d bring a pad and paper and make me draw. He was incredibly encouraging; both my parents were.

“(He was) a man who could barely talk and I couldn’t believe he pointed to the window and said to draw. Without a lie, I have not stopped drawing since then.”

Kat intends to build on her drawing techniques and create fun, educational children’s books.

“I think illustrations can play a massive part in the learning journey; it’s the conduit from the word to the child.”
For more information about Kat, head to katandfox.com.au or facebook.com/Katandfox.

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