By Brittany Maroney
Photos by Miachelle DePiano
There is never a blank canvas or a dull moment for Katie Kral. A local artist whose star is on the rise, she describes her work as an artful blend of bold colorsand textures with a twist.
An appreciative audience can see the mix of materials in her work – acrylic paint, oil pastels, marker, paper, fabric, upholstery nails, string, and other household items such as envelopes. There is pain, joy, struggle and life in each piece she displays. If personality is said to be transposed on a canvas, Kral’s could be described as captivating.
Kral wasn’t raised as an artist, nor did she hear the calling immediately. At four years old, she began by drawing cartoons in the margins of her books and on scraps of paper. It wasn’t until high school that she was inspired to think of her doodles as anything other than an outlet for boredom.
A mural artist, Tina Gianatassio-Dia, happened to be doing some work in her mother’s home during Kral’s junior year. Over the next couple of years, Gianatassio-Dia encouraged Kral to pursue a career in the arts and even hired her for her first mural job as a senior in high school.
“Her encouragement and confidence in my abilities made me believe I had a shot at it,” says Kral, who is now commissioned to do portraits for celebrities and custom pieces for collectors. “I was struggling in other ways in my life, and I needed something to transport me from the pain.”
The same year that Kral found her artistic talents was also the year that she began experiencing excruciating lower abdominal pain. Frequent visits to the doctor came back with varying diagnoses, but she later discovered she had endometriosis, an autoimmune disease where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus is found elsewhere in the body.
Kral’s experiences with endometriosis can only be described as often debilitating. She found that pain was not only a difficult thing to experience but also share with others. Empathy was sometimes in short supply.
“If someone doesn’t understand endometriosis or has no desire to, then they simply will not ‘get it’ and the relationship starts to fail,” she says. “In addition to having empathetic people around, I have found that strong anti-nausea meds, strong painkillers, good doctors, eating very low-sugar diets, heating pads, lots of baths, taking care of my health, and acceptance are the ways I deal with the pain.”
The Upside of Pain
At 28, Kral made the difficult decision to have a hysterectomy. This meant giving up her dream of biological children but also came with the hope that it would help the pain. Sadly, it did not. What it did do is inspire her work both on the canvas and in the community.
“The pain of my disease meant I needed to choose my own schedule,” she says. “I found with painting that I could work during the ‘good’ times and let the tough times inspire my work.
“For some women, their career or relationships run their life. In my case, after God, endometriosis and art run my life, and everything else has to fall into place after that. In a morbid way, I am lucky that the two work well together.”
Kral is a passionate advocate of the Endometriosis Association, and a percentage of all proceeds from her paintings go back to the foundation to further research, awareness and support groups.
“I am open about my experiences because it is who I am,” she says. “If I don’t talk about it, awareness will not increase, and there may never be a cure. Even if there is no cure in my lifetime, I hope that I can help make an impact in finding a cure for future endometriosis sufferers.”
Despite her health struggles, Kral has become an acclaimed artist, growing fast in popularity both locally and nationally. Her work can be found in the gift shop at the Musical Instrument Museum, and she has been contracted for paintings at Google, Pulte and Del Webb. Kral also facilitated the restoration of the 1926 Historic Civic Plaza in Downtown Phoenix and was the featured artist for the 2013 Festival of the West at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
Beyond creating custom pieces and exhibiting her artwork, every year Kral hosts shows at a number of charity events where a portion of proceeds are donated. The most recent was held last month at Blue Martini, where she showcased her speed-painting abilities alongside local speed painter Randall Hedden to benefit the local charity notMykid.
Find out more and be inspired by Kral’s incredible work at www.artbykvk.com.