Artist Story

Paint Nite Seattle artist Katana Leigh
Artist Katana Leigh at Paint Nite Seattle teaching a painting onstage.

I’m Katana, and I’m a Cree-Canadian (First Nations) artist who is now married to a wonderful American, Jeremy DuFour, and we live in the Seattle area with our cat Phoebe. I’m a Master Painter with Paint Nite Seattle.

My Artist’s Journey

My mother is an artist and my earliest memories are watching her draw and wanting to know how so I could create the way that she did, the way it looked easy and also magical at the same time.

My mother’s painting style shows up in the way that I draw trees and let the paint blend; the way I’m not afraid of color (As she cautioned her students), and the way that I’m captivated by nature and the cosmos.

Today I watch my art students, as young as three, discover that magic for themselves: that little rows of short lines can be called grass. That a blade of grass can itself be a paintbrush. “The grass is a brush! The grass is a brush!”

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happy painters at paint nite artist katana
Happy painters at Paint Nite.

I see it in adults, too, who think that they can only do stick figures, but at the end of a two hour Paint Nite with me, are amazed that they painted their own painting, and that it actually looks good in a photo.  I love to experience those Eureka moments all over again with my students.

Surrounded by art history books, The Artist’s Magazine, American Artist, and mom’s prolific collection of acrylic and watercolor paintings which she exhibited across Canada, I knew I wanted to be an artist. My brother would borrow my sketchbooks to show off at school. I did pet portraits and family portraits in pencil on paper in high school. An English teacher had me paint a mural on the painted cement block walls in his classroom; it was the art from Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  

Being an artist seemed like an easy and obvious path for me. I was wrong that it would be easy.

I went to university in Vancouver, BC at Emily Carr University of Art & Design. The professors are amazing and introduced me to many influential First Nations artists and techniques. Surrounded by amazing talent and skill, I felt like a small fish, though I was showing my work at Emily Carr Concourse Gallery and at the Yaletown Gallery where I volunteered.

But I fell into the starving artist blackhole. I was pacing outside my apartment one night with an empty fridge when a neighbour came outside and handed me $20 for returning his keys a few days earlier. I went immediately to the grocery store to buy food. Another time, walking (bus tickets were hoarded); I looked down to find another $20 bill. Even then the universe was providing for me, though I couldn’t see it.

I eventually succumbed to pressure and illness, and became quite sick, dropping out halfway through my final year at Emily Carr University because I couldn’t get out of bed and make it to classes, never mind tuition when I wasn’t sure if I could pay rent each month.

Artist gets sick
A photo from one of the times I got sick and ended up in the hospital. IV administration shown here.

This was the dark night.

I was still working as an artist, and it was at this point I found Mary Malinski, the Prosperity Priestess, and she led me to discover that what I needed was a clear path.

My intuition told me to go to California. I had a few friends who said I could stay with them, enough money for a bus ticket, and a strong feeling that I needed to leave Vancouver. As I was crossing the border into the US, I saw a double rainbow. A clear sign.

This crazy journey into California took six months. I did sweatlodges and desert festivals, a ten day Vipassana retreat in Joshua tree, long walks at night through Los Angeles, a huge amount of metaphysical reading in a pranic healer’s library, and ended up WOOFing at a farm near the Mexican border, where I met Jeremy. While I had to go back to Canada, I couldn’t seem to forget about him even though we had thousands of miles between us.

I took a month of Reiki Master training with Elizabeth Davidson-Dyer and then returned to British Columbia.

CANA VINES
CANA VINES

While I was in Canada I painted murals for Cana Vines Winery and Top Shelf Winery. I even named a few of Cana Vines’ wines- Water to White and  The First Sign. Coincidentally, my cousins, who live hundreds of miles away, were travelling through the Okanagan and were surprised to find themselves standing in front of one of my murals at Top Shelf Winery!

My cousins visiting my mural - serendipity!
My cousins visiting my mural – serendipity!

Then, my friends at Cana Vines surprised me during a shopping trip in the US with plane tickets to visit Jeremy.  We impulsively decided to elope, and that August we had a more formal wedding party with family and friends.

Jeremy’s daughter lives in Washington with her mother, and so just last year we were finally able to move closer to her. I took a job teaching children’s art classes in a Montessori school which was great experience for creating children’s nomenclature cards with Diamond Montessori.

Diamond Montessori Nomenclature cards
Diamond Montessori’s Etsy storefront as illustrated by artist Katana Leigh.

When I discovered Paint Nite Seattle, I was hooked, and instead of having two jobs, I chose to focus exclusively on Paint Nite Seattle. Now I spend my week painting with 100+ people and am starting to see people come back and paint again.

Back in 2008, I had gone to a series of seminars in California, and at one, I was referred to talk to a woman who I haven’t been able to contact since. I don’t even know her real name. She told me that if my life felt like a dark basement, I needed to find the stairs. And at the top of the stairs, the door is open, and there are butterflies that will lead the way out.

To the light art love light monarchs
Butterflies float out of ashes like Phoenix and float toward the gate of light.

It was a truly mystical experience where I felt my inner orientation pivot from darkness to alignment and now that is what I create with art: gates of light for viewers to see the possibility of miracles.

tarot aces walks within art love light
Some of the preliminary artwork for our Art Love Light and Walks Within tarot deck.

A significant part of this is are illustrations I create for Mary Malinski’s Guided Meditations. We are also working on a Tarot deck. And each week, I teach 4-5 Paint Nite events in the greater Seattle area. 

Creativity brings joy!

Art Shows

Show with Danielle Lusk   Dec 2015- 2016 Dreamscapes & Landscapes at the Hub Event Space in Tacoma, WA

Group Show March 28, 2014, Skies & Constellations at the Serenity Day Salon & Spa in Grover Beach.

Group Show 2008 curated by Katana Leigh entitled Structure & Curio at Yaletown Gallery in Vancouver BC, featuring artists from Vancouver and Emily Carr University alumni.

Solo Art Show 2008 entitled A Curious Night at Yaletown art gallery, Vancouver BC.

Solo Show artist Katana Leigh
A Curious Night

Showed at the  Aboriginal Student Exhibition group shows in The Concourse Gallery. 

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