As a recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, Katie Rellinger, 24, was working as a security guard but still trying to keep her artistic skills sharp. At her desk, she often found herself drawing portraits with the only supplies she had: ink pens and Post-It notes.
“I love doing portraiture,” Rellinger stated in an email to The Collegiate, “but I didn’t want to be creepy and draw anyone there, staring at them for a prolonged time.” The solution: “I just ended up always drawing myself.”
It was her supervisor who encouraged her to continue the portraits daily, and soon after also suggested that her drawings should be displayed somewhere. “That was when I thought about ArtPrize,” she stated.
Rellinger’s ArtPrize submission, “365 Days of Katie,” features daily artwork drawn on Post-It notes, spanning 12 months of her life post-graduation as she took on new jobs, moved across the country and then returned to take care of her family.
This is Rellinger’s second foray into ArtPrize. In 2015 she submitted a work titled “Story Time,” which featured three charcoal drawings of her grandmother, Dawn Najorka. The portraits were of Najorka as a young girl, as an adult in her 30s and at her then-current age in her 80s. Rellinger’s grandmother was unaware of the project until it was unveiled to her at ArtPrize 7, where WOOD-TV8 captured her surprise.
“Most of my work pertains to memory,” Rellinger stated, noting that she didn’t make the connection between the two pieces until she began assembling her completed project for this year.
The year was not free of challenges. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2017, Rellinger moved from Grand Rapids to her parents’ home in Livonia, Michigan. Soon after, she left to spend a week in North Carolina and then moved again to Florida for eight months to work as an intern at Disney World. When she returned home this past August, she learned that her father had been diagnosed with skin cancer and his muscles had been deteriorating at a rapid rate. To complicate matters, he had been the primary caretaker for her mother, who has multiple sclerosis and has difficulty walking. Rellinger now helps take care of both of them.
“It was really overwhelming at first, and at times, it still is,” she stated, calling her family her “first priority.”
Many of Rellinger’s drawings are fully fleshed out, with plenty of detail and splashes of color. Some are simpler: a quick sketch with little shading. According to the artist, “365 Days of Katie” is primarily a “self-reflection/identity project,” but one can quickly see that it is not limited to self-portraits. Some squares feature sketches of her surroundings or activities for the day (the Epcot Center, a bowling alley) and a handful contain inspirational or personal quotes.
Given her tumultuous year, it’s no surprise that some of her daily Post-Its are blank. Some are just a few words. Her square for August 23 of this year has no self-portrait, no drawings, and just two sentences: “My mom’s multiple sclerosis is getting worse. My dad has to have surgery for cancer.”
Rellinger is facing her challenges by staying positive, finding faith in God and staying away from “toxic people.” She’s also learned a lot from working on “365 Days of Katie.”
“It’s okay to not create every day, and it’s okay to have bad days,” she stated. “I’ve learned to love myself on my best days and my worst days.”
Rellinger also offers advice for future ArtPrize participants and artists.
“Just create,” she stated. “Start something. Do it because you love art, not because you want to win. Be genuine.”
She quotes Steven Pressfield from his book, “The War of Art:” “‘We must do our work for its own sake, not for fortune or attention or applause.’’’
“365 Days of Katie” is on display through Sun., Oct. 7 in the front window of Swift Printing & Communications, Inc., located at 404 Bridge St. NW.