Austin’s Catie Lewis Grows Her Art Career With Community
Born in the Philippines before being adopted and raised in Connecticut, Austin based, self-taught artist Catie Lewis, made a point to travel before settling in Texas. Catie came from a large family that didn’t heavily engage with the arts, growing up she was always creative, but the closest thing to creativity she experienced was helping her teacher mother with projects for her class. She did have a maternal aunt who was artistic and greatly influenced her creativity and gave her opportunities to work with more involved and expensive materials that she wouldn't normally have access to through the school system. But, art remained in the backseat for Catie, merely a hobby through high school and into college.
Catie took a three year art hiatus before finishing her associates degree, but something was still missing. She traveled to south-east Asia to do some “soul searching” and through this journey reconnected with art.
But she still hadn’t realized the full potential of her creative power, and art remained her side passion.
Once she settled in Texas, Catie started to post her art on Instagram, and after some encouragement from her coworkers who are also local artisans, Catie had her artistic debut at a local arts market called Frida Friday ATX that highlights women of color. The help she received from the other artists and positive response from the patrons motivated her to continue pursuing and developing her passion. From her scrappy set up at her first market to the more polished image she has now, her art ‘side hustle’ has become significantly larger in scale over the past year and a half and Catie has embraced the challenges of running her own small business. From the conceptual design, to creating merchandise, to packaging and shipping, to keeping up with social media and self marketing, to commissions, to bookkeeping and logistics, she doesn't just wear many
hats-she wears all the hats.
Being self taught, it was a process of trial and error. Catie says in a way she's still trying to find her style but she's fond of several mediums and is always trying her hand at different types of art to find what she most enjoys. She’s also heavily motivated by the city’s thriving art scene and the support for small businesses. Recently she has collaborated with eleMINT Skin, had an artist residency with Deeds Not Words, participated in the East Austin Studio Tour 2019, and has been featured by craftHER Market and Almost Real Things.
Catie isn’t running the business full time yet, but she is making steady moves to transition to a career artist. Her work consists of abstract line drawings, portraits, murals, and more. When asked about her advice for starting off in this field she emphasized the power of community and networking. She cites the biggest challenge of this experience as the rigorous self discipline it takes to accomplish all of this. While she attributes her early inspiration to her aunt, she also gives tremendous credit to other artists she's met and the overwhelming encouragement she's received from the local art community here in Austin.
She says she faced a lot of self doubt in the beginning, but was especially inspired by seeing women of color in the arts scene. She didn't see this kind of representation and inspiration in Connecticut, and took on a ‘if they can do it, then I can do it’ mentality.
When asked what her advice to other women who want to do something similar or start their own business would be, she recommends they just start, don't worry about being perfect, and that failing is part of the process.
“If you have that instinct to do something you should just try and start...just trying is better than having it be perfect the first time...that's part of the process. You try it and you figure out what works and what doesn't and you just keep refining it,” she says.
Catie also emphasizes the power of community and talked about how much easier the process is when you have a network of peers to support you, “when you do start definitely connect with people...find that community”, and says that networking has connected her with several other jobs. The most rewarding part of her journey in business has been seeing how much she can push herself and what she’s capable of.
So what’s next for Catie Lewis? In her future she sees participating in more markets as spring approaches, though most have been postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but she also wants to move into muralism and commission rather than vending in order to take her art to the next level and keep pushing her ability.