Kate Bradley cannot remember a time when she was not creating art. Born to a couple of writers (we love her mother Barbara Bradley’s style column in the Commercial Appeal), this native Memphian comes by her creativity naturally. She’s also a super savvy businesswoman who has found a way to turn her passion into profit and has settled into a nice little niche. At only 28, she’s using her talent to create timeless heirlooms, and in less than three years as a professional artist, she has built a dedicated, vast and enthusiastic following as a portrait painter.
Refined, charismatic and gracious, Kate seems to embody the old saying: “choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Welcome today’s FACE of Memphis, Kate Bradley!
Tell us about your education and training as an artist and what you did before you decided to make painting your career?
I’ve been an artist all my life. I’ve studied painting at Auburn and The Florence Academy of Art. Before I was a full-time portrait artist, I worked as a gallery assistant, a model and an office assistant at a financial firm right up until 2010, when I was laid off. That was a turning point for me. I realized couldn’t afford to waste any more time not devoting myself to sharing my unique gifts with the world. Life is meant to be lived, and for me that meant being a successful artist. One week later I hopped on a plane to Florence for an art sabbatical, drank some wine, and then came home to Memphis to become a professional portrait painter. I’ve never looked back. Thanks to the mentorship of my business coach, my business has taken off and I am currently maintaing a year-long waiting list.
When did you first know that you could turn your passion for art into a career?
When I realized it’s not about me and my portraits. It’s about something much bigger and more important. It’s my mission to help people honor and celebrate their family relationships through my artistic talent, and I’m very passionate about it. Forget career. This something I can build a movement around.
How did you find your niche as a portrait artist?
What is your favorite thing about painting and drawing children?
Do you paint from a photograph or do you have your subjects sit for you? Can kids sit still that long?
Typically both. If I am painting a small child I just work from my reference photos. For some reason, moms don’t like it when I try to tie their kids to chairs. Strange.
What inspires you?
What are your hobbies and special indulgences?
Reading, movies, yoga, the occasional massage and shopping for clothes. It’s thrilling.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
What is your favorite thing about living and working in Memphis?
Being close to my friends and family, my church, the laid-back atmosphere and the inspiring people.
Where do you take your out of town friends/family when they come to visit you in Memphis?
Grizz game, Alchemy, Silky’s, the Madison Rooftop, BB King’s.
What one word best describes you?
What are some of your spring fashion must-haves?
Anything black-and-white or 60’s inspired, a tailored trench, printed shorts, and nautical stripes
What books can be found by your bedside or on your tablet?
Currently I’m reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin. Fabulous.
What are three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God):
My studio, my MacBook, and my J. Crew Pixie Pants i.e. thick yoga pants.
Thanks, Kate! To learn more about Kate and her work, please visit her website katebradleyfineart.com.
And as always, our lovely photos of today’s Face of Memphis are compliments of Christen Jones Photography.