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Meet Trailblazer Kate Woodliff O’Donnell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kate Woodliff O’Donnell.

Kate, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always been motivated to create art; it’s how I see and view the world. My studio work, drawing has always been important to me and my overall career; it’s how I breathe and clearly see the world.

Teaching, mentoring and inspiring others goes hand in hand with my studio work. I started teaching in graduate school and taught as an instructor in the Virginia/DC area after graduate school. I Moved directly to the Colorado mountains in 2007 near Nederland, CO and taught for Metro State for five years. I found solitude, running and mountain biking on the trails in the high country. Living and teaching in a big city for so long I never knew life could be so quiet. I now share time living in Denver and Nederland, CO.

I love the Community College system and am now serving as full-time faculty for the community College of Aurora’s art department. My teaching goes beyond the classroom and allows my students to see what making art and being a part of the art world in a “real-life” is like. Also, as someone who has always struggled with dyslexia, I’ve found that it also gives me insight into creative and effective ways to connect and make that “light bulb” moment happen for my students, who come from such varied backgrounds.

Though my teaching I’ve gained three teaching awards in the last three years: A 40 under 40 awards from the American Association for Women in Community Colleges, 2018; the Linda and Roger Bowman Award for Teaching Excellence in 2018; and the 2019 Faculty of the Year for the Community College of Aurora.

In this timeframe I’ve also joined the Sandra Phillips Gallery in Denver, CO. My most recent show at Sandra Philips was called “In Search of Why We Draw” which just closed in July 2019. This show has sparked my interest in even bigger and brighter drawings.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Smooth road! No….

Oh geez….Rejection. Be ok with it, but most importantly be who you are and don’t forget that. It will pay off if you keep true to what you believe and be true to the work that you create.

Rejection hurts bad! It can cause you to question everything – even your abilities. If there are constructive things to learn from it, learn them, and when it’s just negativity, ignore it! But hear me when I say, YOU GOT THIS! Really, show the world who you are. When you are let down, that’s the best time to step up.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Community College of Aurora, Sandra Phillips Gallery – what should we know?
As for my studio work and being represented by Sandra Phillips- I draw ultra-realistic candy, food, and jewelry using prismacolor pencils. My goal in every drawing is to truly engage the viewer, to bring forth in the strong emotions of love, nostalgia, desire and beauty. The most important thing I think about in my studio is how I can create compositions, lighting a perspective that makes something even more beautiful, more engaging than the actual object is. I look forward to building my studio work more in 2019/20. I can’t wait to see how my drawings grow and change.

The community College of Aurora-I feel honored to know and work with each one of my students every day. The life stories they each bring to my classroom and want for learning teaches me and informs how I walk this earth. Rather it be life struggles, culture, religion we all come together as one in a classroom, give, learn and help each other, struggles and biases aside. The value of being a part of this is priceless. My students truly do inform my studio work and how I as an artist show up in the world.

I also run competitively, training with a group in Boulder, RunBoulder. Kathy Butler-two-time Olympic athlete, her credentials go on.. coaches the team, she is amazing, truly an outstanding coach and teacher. Running is a huge part of my life; it always has been. I feel honored to pair working with Kathy this year while growing my studio work as well continue to engage and inspire my students.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
I think about this experience all the time… almost every week. I remember being about three years old, walking into our neighbor’s workshop next door to our house. All the kids on the cove called him Grampa Granger. We lived on a lake so the cove was tightknit, the scent of the water was all around, the way of life was magical. Dark skies at night with stars, fireflies, playing in the water for hours. Walking into this man’s workshop at such a young age I clearly remember the wood chips on the floor, the smell of the damp rock basement where he worked, and the man sitting at his workbench creating exact replicas of each of the house that he knew, on this little Cove on the lake. At this young age, I thought, how beautiful! And I recall being clearly struck by the desire and inspiration to create for myself. I believe his attention to detail for every window, shingle, doorway of each home was passed on to me at that moment. This memory never leaves me. I can clearly see his inspiration in my drawings to this day.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Anthony Camera

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  1. Robbin Rose

    September 9, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    Kate O’Donnell you inspire me to create art and keep living the Dream with my own sight of how I see the world. I was right there with you in Grandpa Grangers workshop. Lovely article about a lovely talented artist. Can’t wait to see what Kate draws next.

  2. Jane Woodliff

    September 10, 2019 at 2:15 am

    Honey, I am speechless!! I’m so impressed by all your many accomplishments! You persevered and are accomplishing all your goals, just as I knew you would! Just as I’ve said before, I’m prouder than proud!! Your loving mom.

  3. Kristin Smith

    September 10, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    What an amazing article for an amazing woman! You have certainly be the driving influence in my pursuit of a career in the arts. I value your knowledge, strength, perseverance and friendship. Cheers to you, Kate. Congrats! I can’t wait to see what else you create.

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