Kathy He


“What are you making?

How do you make it?

Why are you making it?”

My architecture art history professor always brought out those questions when we were looking at a building. To be able to answer those questions is crucial when it comes to designing a proposal. As an artist, those questions are also important to ask when I try to make something meaningful.

My art generally starts with the things that I like and enjoy being around. I like spending time with plants and animals, insects too. I like traveling. I like hiking on a sunny day. I like swimming with fishes in the ocean. I like reading mystery novels. I like baking, although I have forgotten to set the timer and my tray got burned. I like collecting postcards from all over the world. And I like delicious food.

I often draw nature, as I like to capture the beauty of it, and because I believe nature and humankind have an unconditional bond. I looked at my works from past to present to find clues of the common symbols in my painting, plants and animals are everywhere in my works: from a bright orange comma butterfly to the coral reefs that cover miles and miles of the ocean floor. I emphasize the beauty of the environment and speaking of the emotion and passion of nature. Nature is comforting, plants and animals matter to me. Rather than using verbal communication, plants and animals communicate nonverbally. For instance, trees express themselves by having red and yellow leaves in autumn.


Growing. 2019. Kathy He. 18 x 24in plate mark size; 22 1/2 x 29 11/16in sheet size Copper plate etching and aquatint on Somerset paper.
Self Portrait: the Deer. 2019. Kathy He. Watercolor. 9 x 12in.
Animals and Nature in Kathy He’s artworks


The Creating Process

I have always appreciated the small things in nature that touch my heart. I use symbols to represent them in life through digital painting; trying to communicate with people who do not speak my language. Whenever inspiration comes up, I slowly take my time to add to the page I’ve started. I continue to fill up the page slowly until it is completely full, then move on to a new page.



I have never been a morning person, for many reasons. There is too much going on in the morning, I need quiet and no distraction while I am working. Cell-phone notifications are distracting, I find cell-phones to be addictive: social media messaging, marketing emails, or any kind of random pop-up message — those notifications are tempting you to pick up the phone and easily spend a good amount of time on it. I find evenings and nighttime to be the most tranquil.

Are you thinking of making art? Do you know what you want to make? Awesome! Let’s get you started. Here is my pre-art-making ritual:

  • Organize my workspace and keep my material near me. It might turn into a mess eventually, it is okay, that is a part of the fun. At least I can find the stuff that I need at the beginning.
  • Silence your cell-phone, mute unnecessary messages.
  • Make yourself a cup of tea (or any drink).
  • Play any kind of music that fits the mood. Sometimes I will turn on TV shows for the background noise as it makes me feel like someone is keeping me company.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Enjoy the process of drawing what you like.


Fabric Study. 2018. Kathy He. Watercolor. 15 x 20 in.



“Your arts demonstrated your development artistically, intellectually, emotionally, bodily, socially, culturally, etc.”

— Timea Tihanyi, professor of Art Honors


Searching for my artwork brings back the memories that I once thought were lost. These memories lie in the deepest part of my brain, the artworks are the triggers to bring them back.

There are many artists who have inspired my work. Considering it may be hard to analyze and find all of my inspirations. I created a timeline briefly discussing some of the major influencers:



This timeline visualizes only a few of the many significant influencers in my journey of art-making, there is always more. I am still learning and UW provides great opportunities for young artists to explore the field of fine art. By always having an open mind in experiencing new things, it allows me to discover myself and find out what truly matters and valuable to me. I am glad to realize I enjoy printmaking and watercolor painting the most. I have had brief touches with some methods such as glass flameworking, 3D animation, and wood sculpting, I am not sure how far I will pursue these fields.



I failed countless times. Fear of failure holds me from moving forward.

Richard Beery, a psychologist (as quoted by Burka and Yuen 1982) has suggested that for people who have low self-esteem, there is a 3-part equation that they might have been using:

Self-worth = Ability = Performance1

I do not agree with this equation at all because a singular assessment is not the only way to judge one’s abilities.

I am a perfectionist for most of the time, I must admit. Perfectionism results in procrastination: I want myself to be fully prepared before I  start on a project. Sometimes overthink about my project. For me, the hardest part of making art is starting on it, I learned that you can never be fully prepared. At some point, you just need to start and that is the only way to make it perfect.


See No Evil, Talk No Evil, Hear No Evil. 2018. Kathy He. Pencil sketches. 3 1/2 x 4 1/4 in.[/


The four sketches showed above are quick drafts from observation. The final pieces are shown below. It reminds me of my childhood nightmare of a tree growing on my head due to accidentally swallowing a seed. I made this two years ago for a class assignment, although its facial emotion is not accurate.  You will see some improvements in the more recent postcard (further below).


Hear No Evils Transform. 2018. Kathy He. Watercolor on 15 x 20in watercolor paper.


Kikazaru and Watermelon. 2020. Kathy He. Mixed media. 4 1/2 x 6in.


It is good to criticize myself, but not too harshly. It is better than the last one, even though it is not perfect, it is good enough at this moment, I will make a better piece in the future.


In the very end…

This is my way of making art. As you have read other chapters, you have seen my classmates’ creative processes. There are many different ways to create art. Take your time finding what works for you.

Have confidence in your art, because it is great! The fact that you finished shows you’re brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and finally put it into action.

I will say most of my art looks a little unorganized. Hopefully, my work will make you feel more confident and more comfortable to express yourself.



Jast do it Jast do it Jast do it

Practive Practive Practive


Hmmm, this seems odd…

Whoops, I spelled it incorrectly. And here we go again! It is important to continue drawing, do not stop after a couple of lines that you think are “meh”, just keep practicing.





I am sure you have heard it thousands of times before, practice makes perfect. It is important to continue drawing and never stop, until you fill-up the whole page. Most importantly, unleash your creativity and feel the joy in the process of creating art.



Work Cited

1Burka, J., & Yuen, L. (1982) Mind games procrastinators play. Psychology Today, 32-44.

Media Attributions


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

Kathy He by Timea Tihanyi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book