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Friends of Raven + Lily: Meet Kathy Phan

Friends of Raven + Lily: Meet Kathy Phan

Inspired by ‘travel, seeing other art, and history’, the Austin-based artist Kathy Phan favors bright colors and broad strokes in her beautiful watercolor illustrations. Elegant and whimsical, you might recognize her expressive paintings from the pages of our journal. We have been collaborating with Kathy for a while now, and are huge fans of her work and her creative inspirations. Driven by ‘people who care and want to make a change for the better’, Kathy is a freelance illustrator and the owner of kathyphantastic. A fun line of stationery and home goods featuring her watercolor illustrations, her eponymous brand celebrates her love of ‘food, the great state of Texas, and animals.’

Keen to find out more about Kathy’s creative path, we asked her to share her process to inspire and motivate us.

‘I’ve always been creative and I enjoyed drawing and coloring as a child but I was never encouraged to be an artist. Culturally, Asian Americans are discouraged from creative careers and pushed towards engineering and healthcare. In college, much to my parents’ dismay, I studied creative advertising and Asian American studies. I worked in e-commerce, visual merchandising, and higher education communications before I started illustrating. I led a team of graphic designers, copywriters, and photographers, but didn’t personally develop anything creative. I definitely felt a void...’

‘I would describe my work as colorful watercolor illustrations representing those who aren't always seen. Most of my paintings are of food, specifically food brought to the US by immigrants. These subjects are painted for use as stickers and magnets, which makes the art an accessible price point. I find it really interesting to see which illustrations people identify with.’
‘I currently work from a small home studio. Although I chose the room based on the beautiful natural light that comes in during the morning, the view is unfortunately of a ditch and a fence! I do most of my painting next to the window during the late morning and early afternoon when the light is best. I hope to have a space that is separate from my home one day but right now I’m grateful to be able to safely work from home.’
‘I listen to a mix of music, business and creativity podcasts when I work. I usually brainstorm and write down ideas on paper first. Then I move on to researching images online or taking photos of the subjects, if possible. Afterwards I move onto sketching a potential color palette and finally the actual painting begins. I’ve started a mini ritual before painting where I light a candle from local maker Burlap Bag that smells like cupcakes. There was a time that I would do some computer work from a bakery that is no longer in business and it reminds me of those times.’
‘Although I describe my art as colorful, my favorite Raven and Lily collaboration is the illustrations I did for Books for the Mind, Body, and Soul. I really enjoyed working with Kristen Caron, Raven and Lily’s creative director, because we were intentional about representing women with diverse features for each illustration. This project pushed me to limit myself to only using black and white for the people and yellow tones for the upcycled brass jewelry.’

Kathy Phan’s Raven+Lily Edit:

Addis Backpack in Cuoio
‘This would be great for working from a coffee shop when that becomes safe again and would fit my laptop, travel watercolor palette, and a small Arches watercolor block.’  

Ellsworth Wide Ring
‘This looks like it would go with almost everything. I love how simple it is.’

Tuulia Cotton Throw in Pale Pink
‘This would be so cute for a socially distanced picnic (and dog watching!) at Austin's Zilker Park.’

Aida Small Orbit Bangle
‘I love the touch of color added by the green jasper. This would look nice alone or stacked with other Aida bangles from the collection.’ 

Addis CC Case
‘This is a great size! It could go into a yoga bag, tote, or even a fanny pack.’

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