Artist Spotlight: Kat Charnley loves the process

Category:  The Arts
Tuesday, December 15th, 2020 at 1:23 PM
Artist Spotlight: Kat Charnley loves the process by Hazel Modlin
Contributed Photo: Kathleen Charnley

Kat Charnley's artwork often blurs the boundaries between human and animal.

More specifically, she believes in the importance of discussing both human and animal rights alike, and she does this by giving animal body parts to her designed people. You can see this exemplified in her piece, “Take Care.” In this print, Charnley depicts a human body with the head of a dog, carrying a plant. The being has casual clothes on and appears to be looking directly into the viewer’s eyes, as they’re surrounded by plants in an ordinary room. This portrayal demonstrates her interest in “animal rights and how animals are viewed in society, as well as parallels between humans and animals.”

Along with earning her bachelor’s degree in drawing (and a minor in graphic design), Charnley is currently working her way toward an Edinboro Master of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in printmaking. Charnley discovered printmaking in her junior year of undergrad, and while she “really loved it,” she didn’t have time to change her major. When she decided on continuing her education by attending grad school, she knew she'd be able to make up for lost time. 

With printmaking, Charnley loves “just all the process, and [thinks] the science behind it is really interesting.” 

She continued talking about her love for the medium. “I really like the prospect of making multiples. I think it makes the work more affordable and more accessible to a larger audience."

Going back to her thematic goals, she again mixes animal and human rights in her print, “Draize: Blinded for Beauty.” This piece — titled after an ocular toxicity test that is run on animals in order to determine that products coming near the human eye will not harm them — depicts three characters: a male dressed in scrubs, a bound and gagged female crying, and a dead bunny missing its eyes. The position and details given to these characters comments on the cruelty the Draize test subjects animals to, all for the sake of beauty.

Charnley finds inspiration in a variety of things. She likes providing commentary on society, social norms, and of course human and animal activity. She also finds inspiration with other artists, including Tom Huck (a relief artist who focuses on satirical woodcuts), Albrecht Dürer (well-known for his woodcuts and etchings) and Todd Herzberg (a contemporary printmaker).

Previously, Charnley has been interested in relief and intaglio printing, but recently she’s been focused on lithography. “It’s magical,” she said. “The process is so interesting.” 

In lithography, Charnley explained, you are able to print images off of a big flat stone. She further described the process: “You basically draw on your stone, and then you process it with acid, which makes a memory in the stone of the image you’ve drawn. Then you’re able to roll ink onto the stone and put it through a printing press and print your images off of the stone.” The process can vary in length; it can take anywhere from a day to three weeks. It all depends on the artist’s style and technique.

Lithography involves a lot of steps, and unfortunately, if you forget one, your image will not turn out well. Charnley explained how one of her more recent prints was only able to yield a proof (a test image that gives the printer an insight as to what the final product will look like) because she missed a step. “It was sad, but it upped my respect for lithography.”

Once she’s graduated, Charnley would like to teach printmaking. “I want to help people achieve their artistic potential, and I’m just so enthusiastic about the process that I want to share that knowledge with anybody who wants to learn,” she explained. Charnley would prefer to teach at a university, but she’s open to workshops or community locations. She has previous experience from teaching at the Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media last year, and she plans to return once again this spring to teach a collagraph printmaking class online.

Nonetheless, Charnley believes she’ll be happy with whatever she ends up doing, as long as it’s artistic. “As long as I’m in the art world and I’m making art, I’m going to be happy.”

Hazel Modlin is the Arts Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

Additional Photos:

Contributed Photo: Kathleen CharnleyContributed Photo: Kathleen Charnley

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