Interview with Cathy Chin

Cathy Chin is another talented friend from my years with the New Hampshire Art Association. She is now living in Rhode Island and discovering ever new scapes and vistas.  What amazes me is her present output both in quantity and quality and her continued willingness to experiment.


The following is her brief biography:

I am a 10th generation NewYorker, descended from Dutch immigrants to New Amsterdam. (Don’t know why I’m telling you this but I think it’s kind of cool.) My earliest ancestor in this country was Resolved Waldron. He was a farmer and part time sheriff.

I was born in Syracuse where my father worked for the University. Later we moved to New Paltz and then to Rochester where I attended high school. I was encouraged by a wonderful high school art teacher, and I went on to study painting at RISD in Providence, RI and then Illustration and printmaking at RIT in Rochester.

After graduation and graduate school at RIT, I married Ken Chin and we lived in quite a few different states as he changed jobs. I continued painting and searching out galleries and other artists in Dallas, TX, Orange County, CA, Minneapolis, MN, Mont Vernon, NH, Westford, MA, Rochester, NY and now, Providence, RI.  In California I worked for an advertising company. My two daughters were born when we lived in Minnesota.

I taught watercolor in New Hampshire and was active in the NH Art Association. When we arrived back in NY I painted with a plein air group, which I enjoyed and I sought out a similar group here in RI as a way to meet people and to explore my new surroundings.

PAT:  Because you are so prolific, I’m curious about your working schedule. Do you have one and how rigid is it?

CATHY:  My working schedule varies depending on the project. If the project generates energy and excitement I tend to work whenever – if the light is good. I am a morning person and I mostly work in the studio early in the day.

PAT:  Cities, neighborhoods, botanical gardens, interiors – just by following your frequent posts on Facebook, I feel as if I have tagged along on some of your trips. What supplies etc. do you carry with you?

Complimentary Colors

CATHY:  Sometimes these are paintings from a photo so I’m not actually out there. For plein air I take as little equipment as possible. I have separate light weight set ups for watercolor and for oil. I prepare ahead of time so I can carry just what I need and I am able to walk from the car to wherever I want to paint

PAT:  Do you also work in a studio setting and have you had to downsize that space in any way.

CATHY:  I work in a studio setting at home. I have a sunroom, as a dedicated studio space. It is bathed in light, morning and afternoon, which is both good and bad because it’s sometimes too much. And it’s all windows, not much wall space. But I make do. I have an old library table, which is my work space. Here I paint, cut mats and let my granddaughter color with markers.

PAT: Do you have as much energy for the on-sight excursions as you’ve had in the past?

CATHY:  I get energy from going out painting with others. Exploring my new home state, meeting people. But sometimes the drive is too far and the light is bad so I make my excuses and stay home.

PAT:  Do you seek the advice or input of any one?

CATHY:  My husband has a good eye for my work.

PAT: Have you had to change your process in any way because of the health of yourself or others or had periods when you couldn’t work for other reasons?

CATHY:  My process has been interrupted by our recent and frequent moves. I usually find new ways to work. During the move here three years ago I found an outlet painting small watercolors of houses on Google Streetview. It seemed to fit since I was looking at houses for sale anyway and I could do it anywhere.


PAT:  I see that you’ve recently been admitted to the Art League of Rhode Island. How important to you is membership in artists’ organizations?

CATHY:  Art League of RI and the New England Watercolor Society. I am happy to be a member of both and to have people see my work at their exhibitions.

PAT:  There has been a distinct turn toward abstraction in some of your latest work. Do you feel more and more drawn to this form?

CATHY:  I attended art school (RISD and RIT) in the mid sixties. Abstract Expressionism was the rage at first and then Pop Art. So, I was influenced by these. When I am looking at things with my “painter’s eye” I see shapes, colors, edges, lines. I love looking at big bold abstract paintings.

Auto Junkyard 2   18”x 24″

PAT: Watercolor appears to be your primary medium, though I remember a beautiful figure drawing (in pastel, I believe). You also sketch in ink and create some very sophisticated cartoons. Are you tempted to work in any other medium?

CATHY:  I focused on watercolor for years but I have felt drawn back to oils lately. The chemistry of solvents has changed and there is less toxic smell. I love making a solid 3D object…a painting on wood or canvas with no need to cut a mat and handle glass. I am discovering the effect of changing light on an oil painting. I shift between perceived subject matter and pure abstraction. My cartoons have focused my perceptions I think. My experience with watercolors and keeping them fresh has focused my technique in oils. Everything I do in different mediums informs what I do going forward.


PAT:  Would you say you are goal or process oriented or both?

CATHY:  Process is important yes. I like leaving evidence of myself in the brushstrokes and the layering. The end product is important as well because I would like to be clear in communicating my idea.

PAT:  So far you are the youngest of the “aging” artists I’ve interviewed. Do you find your ambition waning in any way?

CATHY:  I am probably less eager to get my stuff out there… and forget marketing.   I mostly like to paint and I worry a lot less about showing and selling

PAT: Are you ever concerned that there won’t be time enough? What does that phrase mean to you?

CATHY:  There will never be enough time. I am still trying to find myself by going down different roads and hoping they connect. Sometimes I think I am making progress.


white lion
White Lion