We had the good fortune of connecting with Kat “Katsnaxxx” Janis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kat “Katsnaxxx”, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I will do my best to answer my thoughts on risk by summarizing its relevance in my life for the past 5 years as a professional artist. My goal is to be as authentic as possible in hopes to relate to a beginning artist, freelancer, small business owner, or anyone in the midst of pursuing a dream or goal. I am not going to provide any advice or claim to have “the answers”, but I do hope that by sharing my experience some readers will find relief in the challenges the journey brings. In 2014 I made a decision to commit myself entirely to pursuing my dream of becoming a professional fine artist. I was 24 at the time, so the idea of “risking it all” was very exciting. My mindset was very bent on attitudes like, “hard work works” and if you just work really hard eventually life will reward your effort. It had worked for others, why not me? Perhaps this is true in theory, but I also subconsciously expected this to happen on a certain timeline. From 2014-2018 I worked my ass off painting 3-6 hours every day, networking, packing up my car for a night to do an art show, curating art walks, making cold calls, taking on a lot of commissions and odd jobs. It was great. I learned a lot of new skills & met good people, but with all the work I was putting in, I had made very little progress in selling my own art. Now it was 2019 and at 29 years old I began to encounter real life questions I didn’t have at 24 like, how do I provide in a relationship? How can I financially plan for the future? If anything happened to my family would I be counted as a liability or someone they could count on? In short- risk was increasing with age and my once idealistic perspective began to meet reality. This was really hard. I began to question everything I had done over the past 4 years. I felt like I had wasted all this time on childish things and that everyone was waiting for me to “grow up and get a real job”. And so I did. I worked in marketing for some time learning graphic design and went back to school to finish a degree in business writing. Everyone was really proud of me and that was gratifying. It felt good to fit in like that. But after a while I realized my trade came at a cost. Oppositely then before, I began to risk everything that felt intrinsically true to me in order to fit in, and that became a spiritual suicide. I would wake up to work emails, drive to work drained, leave school exhausted, and eventually I had hit a bottom. I had no idea what to do or who to be anymore. I had really lost a sense of self. I reached out to a seasoned artist who I had done some work for in the past. He bought me lunch and I told him how I was feeling. He listened and was very kind and patient with me. When I finished my rant, he strongly reminded me of three important things: 1) That I’m not alone. 2) That he had been where I had been with the same thoughts, feelings, & challenges. 3) That there is plenty of time to try again and failure is part of the process. Since that day I returned back to my goal of working as a freelance artist but with a new perspective. Instead of looking at my dreams as fixed and absolute, I began to find balance between striving and accepting where I am now. Everything in the past 5 years had its purpose to be where/who I am today. I’m not a famous artist. Most of my income is commission base. I work as a part time assistant for the artist who met me for lunch that one day, and I’m okay with that. I have also showcased in a major international art show, curated a number of successful art walks in my community, and made some amazing relationships along the way – experiences I would never trade. So yes, I believe in risk and working your ass off for what you want in life. Over the years I have allowed the idea of success to change without feeling like I’ve settled. I have no regrets and even though I have fallen on my face (plenty of times) it has pushed me to be a better version of myself. My Dad used to say, “risk is about timing and careful assessment of outside variables”. I hated hearing that in my twenties, but now I hear its truth & wisdom. So maybe not the most exciting success story but hopefully one person can relate and make use of my experiences thus far. If you made it to the end- thanks for reading. =) I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes on risk: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -JK Rowling. Dream big, risk often, and if a door closes open a new one.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a self taught artist mostly specializing in graphic design and illustration. I started off by drawing pictures in a cubicle where I answered phones all day. I had just made a hard move from Chicago to Florida (2013) and all I could fathom at the time was building a simple and steady life. In the beginning I didn’t see art as a career. It was just a way to express myself and communicate with others. From 2014-present I have built and continue to build a freelance career. I have worked in marketing, branding, videography, and currently am an assistant muralist for Craig McInnis Studios. In terms of community, I had the opportunity to team up with other local artists and host art walks in Boynton Beach. I have always felt passionate about creating a kickass space where subversive or beginning artists can showcase their work. Those art walks had to be some of the best times in my journey so far. Hmmm important lessons I have learned: Always find a way to credit others for your success and take a step back every now and then- ambition can become very self consuming. Take time for those around you and be good to the people who matter most (friends and family). Never feel entitled to anything- not people’s money, time, support, or for them to believe in you… it’s your dream, own it. In terms of business- The easiest way I have come to understand good business is the way I understand a good relationship. It is about honesty, building trust, and looking to be of service. Most importantly, I have had to learn to be gentle with myself and not take everything so seriously. I don’t have to be an expert at everything I set out to do!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Easy. I would take them to South Beach and spoil them with food, coffee, and good conversation.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A lot of success I credit to certain art mentors in my life. Namely artists, Craig McInnis , Sara Lurie, and Brian Cattelle. These artists have been with me from the beginning and within their own career/hussle they have always made time for me. Biggest shout out goes to my mom and dad. My mom is an incredible artist who lives and breathes creativity and making use of what you have. And my dad who has coached me in business literacy, life advice, and always supported me in my art career. I am very grateful for both my parents and they deserve to be recognized for any good that has come out of my life. Lastly- coffee and gummy worms, because those are the shit.
Ethan Dangerwing Photography and Continuum WPB Arts